Shifting Social Problems in South Australia
29 January 2015 at 9:09 am
Collective Impact initiative, Together SA, is fast building a reputation for bringing the best minds and practitioners, people with lived experience and local leaders together to shift social problems, writes social worker Moira Deslandes.
Together SA is leading collective impact initiatives in South Australia. Formed from a collaboration of peak bodies, Not for Profits, two State Government departments and a philanthropic foundation, Together SA is fast building a reputation for bringing the best minds and practitioners, people with lived experience and local leaders together to shift social problems
To kick-start 2015 Dr Michael McAfee from Promise Neighborhoods (USA) will be listening, joining and challenging the work that has begun. He will be visiting South Australia as part of his role as a board member of Together SA. Dr McAfee is part of a worldwide Collective Impact movement and his call is for all in this work to consider “leading with the courage to (1) call families to step into their greatness, (2) create the most effective programmatic supports for families, and (3) enact policies and systems reforms that build families up instead of tearing them down.”
One of the first three communities that Together SA is working with is in the Mid-Murray region, centered on the riverside town of Mannum. This picturesque region camouflages the fact that children here are the second most developmentally vulnerable in the State (Australian Early Development Census, 2014). Meeting the Collective Impact preconditions (influential champions, urgency of issue and adequate resources) the local leadership group is actively gathering and analysing data, building local leadership capacity and vigorously identifying resources that can be deployed, unleashed and generated to shift the dial on this problem.
Collective Impact treats the challenge as requiring systemic and cultural change and Dr McAfee’s visit will provide an opportunity to learn from the lessons of Promise Neighborhoods especially around being informed by the best available data combined with common sense and on-the-ground learning. Measurement tools such as Results Based Accounting are central to this process and in South Australia, leaders in the field Community Centres SA are partners in the work of Together SA in this aspect.
Data driven decision-making that assists communities to identify objectives and priorities and to co-design strategies for the best outcomes for children in the region is beginning to take shape. Starting just over a year ago, a group of educators, service providers, elected officials, council staff and church leaders came together. Their first community planning day to draft a community plan took place in Swan Reach on a hot 38 degree day in November 2014. In February they will be sharing their work to date with Dr McAfee and are expecting to be taken to the next level before they finalise their community plan.
Mid Murray Council Community Development Officer Amy Loechel said the collective MMFC network believed that if they could gather strong data, involve local families, and put rigour around the way they executed targeted actions, then real change could be made to leave a legacy for the wider community to carry on in to the future.
Kate Simpson of Together SA has also said that having a leader such as Dr McAfee involved in the work as a peer helps build knowledge, capability and deeply connects the project to the international Collective Impact movement. Simpson believes it is vital to remain ambitious, grounded in the lives of families and for South Australians to aspire together to shift complex and intransigent social problems.
Dr McAfee, she said, could push beyond comfort zones and provide the support to go to the next Collective Impact level.
Related articles previously published by ProBono News
Previous articles by Moira Deslandes published by ProBono News
About the Author: Moira Deslandes has worked from the kitchen table to the cabinet table as a direct service social worker, to Chief of Staff to a minister in Government. She is an associate of Together SA.