Community Infrastructure That Delivers Social Outcomes
27 March 2018 at 8:34 am
Brimbank City Council’s new infrastructure project in St Albans, in Melbourne’s West, will use the development of a leisure and community centre as a way to deliver population-level social and health improvements.
In Victoria alone, local governments manage $84 billion in community infrastructure and assets. With growing populations and increasing community expectations, local governments are constantly investing in new community assets: libraries, parks, community centres, sports and aquatic centres, stadiums and community health centres.
The challenge – and the missed opportunity – is that infrastructure is largely planned and built without a central focus on long-term outcomes.
Buildings are built to house services, yet their contributions to community outcomes are seldom measured. Measuring success may extend only to cost and usage: for example, how many people use a sports field, or a gym, or borrow books from a library. While usage of a facility is important, it doesn’t capture how users benefited from the facility, or how it improved their lives. This makes it hard to manage to those outcomes. Meanwhile, the social and health fields are moving quickly toward more intensive measurement of outcomes, not just outputs – to understand the contribution of a program or service to people’s lives.
To be active contributors to social and health outcomes infrastructure projects will increasingly need to incorporate more up-front thinking and integrated measurement of long-term community outcomes.
An innovative project points to a new direction for community infrastructure
Brimbank City Council, in Melbourne’s west, is taking a lead on this by putting a set of social and health “outcomes goals” at the core of a major new aquatic leisure and community centre planned for the suburb of St Albans. This innovative project builds on the ways Brimbank already measures and drives many aspects of social need.
Brimbank Mayor Cr Margaret Giudice said: “This means that the infrastructure will be planned, built and operated in a way that tries to shift key health and social indicators for the community.”
Critically, it involves creation of a broad collaboration with social and health organisations and residents based on collective impact principles. The building therefore becomes a leverage point to drive coordinated projects with a common vision. This increases the activation of the building and makes sustained action more likely.
Leisure centre developments tend to measure outputs – such as number of visits, gym memberships, pool usage and swim school market penetration. Some flagship centres also act as destinations for “wellbeing” and allied health. Along with these activity measures financial indicators are also critical.
“All these goals continue to be important to the St Albans project. But Brimbank wants a set of indicators that will also change outcomes not just outputs,” Cr Giudice said.
Key elements of the project include:
- identifying cohorts of people that the centre can serve based on social and health needs;
- agreeing social and health outcome goals – closing gaps in outcomes in areas such as obesity, physical activity and early childhood development;
- attracting tenants for co-location and co-design of the centre, based on their capability to deliver social and health impact;
- setting up a long-term collaboration based on collective impact principles;
- leveraging a long-term data collaboration with the Australian Health Policy Collaboration at Victoria University to identify population-level gaps and community needs and project outcomes; and
- development of an architectural design brief reflecting the desired outcomes for users of the centre.
The project involves a careful balancing of financial, community and social and health needs.
Experts in infrastructure development, major projects, social and health research and outcomes-based project design all need to work together to ensure success. This is a complex process to get right, and each council and each project will need to work out the right balance for the community and need that it serves.
In the case of the St Albans Leisure Centre development, council’s role is to drive the project to reflect community needs but also to catalyse community organisations to engage with the broader social and health goals.
Brimbank City Council wants its infrastructure to provide not just great user experience but to achieve long-term, ongoing, positive outcomes that matter to its community. The St Albans Leisure Centre development is an early example of a trend that, we hope, will shift the way we think about community infrastructure investments.
We invite interested parties to apply for co-location with the project now
Parties interested in co-location opportunities at the site should find out more from https://www.brimbank.vic.gov.au/council/about-brimbank-council-and-community/developments/st-albans-leisure-centre-redevelopment
Applications are available on the eprocure website: https://www.eprocure.com.au/brimbank/tenders-list.asp
Note that applications for co-location tenancies close on 23 April 2018
For further general information on the project, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
About the authors: Dale Renner and Russ Wood (www.latitude.network) are supporting Brimbank City Council to bring together the social and health outcomes with the infrastructure planning and design for the St Albans Leisure Centre project.
Kath Brackett is the Director of Community Wellbeing for Brimbank City Council.