Community engagement to finalise actions for a suite of plans that deliver on the Municipal Public Health and Wellbeing Plan.
“The breakout rooms, and the associated questions to clarify gaps and opportunities meant that we (stakeholders) felt heard and that we also had complete control over our suggestions, and the way in which they are portrayed!”
– Participant in the Stakeholder Workshop
Conversation Co was engaged by the City of Kingston to design and deliver an engagement program for the local community and stakeholders in the health and wellbeing sector. Following the endorsement of Council’s 2021-2025 Public Health and Wellbeing Plan, further engagement was conducted to provide input to six action plans for disability access, community safety, positive ageing, multiculturalism, family violence and general health and wellbeing.
The City of Kingston is located approximately 20 kilometres south of Melbourne, surrounded by the cities of Bayside, Monash, Glen Eira, Greater Dandenong and Frankston.
Adding Value to Existing Community Feedback
The Conversation Co proposal recommended that, prior to community engagement, the project incorporate an initial research phase utilising the wealth of community feedback recently collected for the Your Kingston Your Future Community Vision and the 2021-2025 Public Health and Wellbeing Plan.
Conversation Co reviewed nearly 4000 comments, collected from 2100 individuals, and extracted the comments directly related to health and wellbeing. This feedback was collated according to topic (e.g. open space, mental health, community safety) and the suggested action (e.g. new services and programs, changes to Council’s focus areas or priorities, new or improved infrastructure).
Engaging with Community and Stakeholders
Conversation Co conducted a range of engagement activities including a small workshop with Council staff, an online survey and ideas wall, five pop-up consultations across Kingston and a large online workshop of stakeholders and Council staff.
To support Council staff with their conversations with community groups and targeted services, Conversation Co developed a Health Action Plans Engagement Toolkit containing communications material (key messages, presentation about the project, sample email text), discussion guides and engagement questions.
Overall 406 people participated in these engagement activities – 322 people from the Kingston community (residents and visitors), 55 Council staff or stakeholders from external organisations, and 29 people representing a range of community groups/organisations.
- To meet Council’s timelines, some of the engagement activities had to be held in December. Resident and stakeholder participation may have been hampered by end-of-year engagement fatigue, information overload or busy pre-Christmas schedules.
- Last-minute changes to the locations and dates of two of the pop-ups due to severe weather conditions, and the unexpected closure of a playground reserve.
- Engaging as Melbourne was transitioning through the 80% double dose vaccination stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, requiring outdoors or on-line consultation and adherence to social distancing rules. The final workshop was conducted on-line during the peak of COVID-19 Omicron cases (January 2022).
Keys to Success
- Council’s communications campaign using a variety of channels and tools to promote the engagement activities.
- Leveraging Council officers’ connections and their existing networks in the health and wellbeing sector.
- Incentives for pop-up participants (free coffee or hot drink) were used to increase uptake and participation in the project.
- Use of visual aids and props such as the Conversation Caravan “house” to attract participant attention. Parents of young children were able to talk with our staff whilst their children sat colouring at the children’s table.
- Conversation Co staff were on hand at community pop-ups to provide assistance scanning QR codes, as well as encouraging and aiding people to respond to the survey questions displayed on the posters.
This project provided Council with:
- A comprehensive research report based on community feedback from the recent Your Kingston Your Future Community Vision and the 2021-2025 Public Health and Wellbeing Plan.
- An engagement summary report providing specific actions for inclusion in one or more of the six Action Plans – the Disability Action Plan, the Safe and Secure Action Plan, the Healthy and Well Action Plan, the Positive Ageing Action Plan, the Multicultural Action Plan and the Prevention of Family Violence Action Plan
Reflections and Key Learnings
- The community engagement feedback largely replicated and confirmed the findings of the research report. Over the last two years Kingston residents had provided consistent feedback about health and wellbeing across a number of Council engagement projects.
- The community’s experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic were reflected in their ratings of the priority areas for the six Action Plans
- Reducing family violence
- Helping people who feel socially isolated or lonely
- Improving mental health
- Encouraging people to be physically active and
- Improving community facilities and services.
- Targeted conversations with disadvantaged groups in the community is crucial for the development of practical and effective health action plans. Those community members experiencing discrimination, social exclusion, financial disadvantage or insecure housing need to be heard as they commonly lack the resources available to the general community.
- There were real benefits from bringing together Council staff and external organisations to discuss and attempt to resolve their common service delivery challenges.
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