Social infrastructure: A key ingredient for community success
“The child care centre changed us…the community leaders really pulled together and gave the community what it wanted”
A key ingredient to the long-term success of communities is the provision of ‘social infrastructure’, an observation the Queensland town of Blackall, located 500km west of Rockhampton, can relate to all too well.
The community had been waiting 20 years for a long day care and early education centre, which has now recently opened. This development has enabled mothers to go back to work and has provided much needed early childhood education for the community. For the small town of Blackall (population approximately 1,500 people) the centre created jobs in construction, delivered ongoing child care and long day care education for 22 children, and fostered collaborative processes in the local community with local, state and federal government support.
As the Blackall example demonstrates, social infrastructure is more than just the physical infrastructure that delivers social services like education, child care, aged services, justice, medical care, and policing. It also involves the social processes and values that make this happen, including collaboration, facilitation and ownership shared amongst all the players and the local community.
A national survey of people engaged in Social Infrastructure from local government, Regional Development Australia (RDA) committees, state government and consultancies has found that the benefits are clear and include: jobs, community wellbeing, individual wellness, aged support, training, capital projects, sporting facilities, tourism infrastructure, and more. The survey also highlighted that almost everyone is involved in the successful delivery of social infrastructure including:
A further insight identified that most survey respondents have been involved in developing proposals for social infrastructure projects, which had needed state and federal government funding for success. But many have struggled to make the grants successful.
The February 2016 Australian Infrastructure Plan states “The capacity of each city’s social infrastructure, such as schools, universities and hospitals, will need to increase to meet the demands of a larger population.” This means that for all regional cities and the majority of regions that are growing in population, the future is requiring more social infrastructure to meet growing demand, not even considering the need to meet latent demand or maintain old stock.
While the government predicts a greater demand for social infrastructure funding, our survey results indicate that not all councils and RDA’s have the capacity to design grants for state and federal government funding. Results also identified a number of challenges when it comes to getting a successful project up and running such as; poor project design, low community trust, lack of data, limited skills in project management and dysfunctional governance.
The RAI is sharing survey results and insights on social infrastructure in Australia, along with practitioner success stories, at a forum on Thursday 28 April 2016 in Canberra. The forum, Catalysing Social Infrastructure for Regional Development, offers an opportunity for practitioners to come together, share insights and learn from each other.
Be part of the conversation, register for this free event via Eventbrite by Friday 22 April. Video recordings and presentation material will be available following the event for stakeholders unable to attend on the day.