Communities in Control Conference

Spent the last couple of days at the races. Maybe 700 people from community orgs from around Australia. Held at the Moonee Valley Racecourse. Inside the building. Not on the track. Here are some reflections:

Paying Respects to the original owners has become PC. Of course, it IS worthy. Reminds us every time that all us whitefellas are migrants. But I look forward to it becoming more than mere words.

Jenny Macklin: Hard for a politician to make a good speech. Too many risks. Still - avoid protectionist response to threat. Be inclusive and open. It's the Aussie way. Respect, and include, minorities. It's all good.
  • there's a rise in child protection reports during times of social/financial stress.
Ambivelence about the eulogising of Richard Pratt for his great support of the social works of many in the room. Are robber barons justified by their good works? Eloise Waislitz, daughter of Richard and chair of the Foundation, says Dad loved Australia! I guess it was pretty good to him too.

Professor Len Syme - a nice surprise packet. Unlike most speakers, he stayed for the whole conference. Could be found chatting with anyone who took the trouble at every break. I wrote the following notes:
  • involve the community as an empowered partner;
  • a disease focus in treating coronary heart disease has not worked. Why? 3 reasons:
  1. research into coronary heart disease identified 12 main risk factors, but these only explain 45% of the cases;
  2. people find it very hard to change their behaviour. Cited a huge and expensive trial that tried to change high-risk candidates. Failed.
  3. new people keep entering the risk group because there are factors in society that contribute to the risk.
  • NIH in USA is organised into disease silos (Cancer, heart disease, arthritis) - but there are few institutes for population, poverty, gender. Therefore the funding never goes to studies on the the societal factors that cause ill health.
  • The most important risk factor in disease is social class.
  • British public service study showed coronary heart disease rates as a stepwise gradient from the top down. Bottom level was 3 and half times the top level. But 2nd level is TWICE the top level. How to explain it. Syme hypothesis is that it is related to the degree one has control over one's destiny. [Well, of course! People without hope, get sick.]
  • the critical issue is HOPE. - otherwise who cares about heart disease, fitness, smoking.
  • Syme told story of the San Francisco bus drivers who exhibited a series of health issues. They treated symptoms effectively, but new entrants soon exhibited same health issues.
  • Problem was the job itself. The bus schedule could not be maintained. So bus drivers were continuously underperforming, skipping rest breaks to make up time, and getting drunk after work to deal with stress.
  • Why don't we deal with the fundamentals?
  1. because the funding regime is focussed on particular diseases and is not integrated nor holistic (and is governed by experts).
  2. Empowerment is only one part.
  3. Work cross-disciplines is essential - but all training is in discipline silos.
  4. People DO change their behaviours - interventions mostly don't work, but people will change on their own! In California, smoking has reduced from 43% to 20%. This only happened because smoking was attacked from a multi-disciplinary POV.
  • Coronary heart disease rates are stable, but deaths are fewer because medical treatment is better.
Rhonda talked about the sceptre of swine flu. I guess she meant spectre.

A book = The God Trick and Science mentioned by a delegate.

Re the issue of racial and social inequality Syme says people don't care! Yes, as a social justice idea, or as a moral issue. But not in a way that makes a difference. It's like giving a dollar to a homeless person. It doesn't treat the real issue.

Why am I so surprised that there is such a dearth of community development process and principles in every initiative? Haven't we known how to do this for decades??

Practice social inclusion in the breaks. Speak to someone you don't know. I obey.

Catherine Deveny is funny, coarse and moral. She mentions two books The Drama of Being A Child and Families and How to Survive Them (John Cleese). I think I might have read the latter. Sad, but she observes that men often become better fathers when they divorce. The space taken up by mother is absent?

Wendy Harmer describing Rhonda Galbally A beautifully decorated, lipsticked piece of earth moving equipment.

Lily D'Ambrosia cites 4 learnings from the bushfires:
  1. Need for systems to handle the overwhelming offers of help (accept, connect). For example, 500 tonnes of food aid [I thought it was more]. 10,000 offers of accommodation.
  2. Need to be able to cut through red tape to get the right things done.
  3. Need to have good coordination and clear role responsibility [I would have asked a question here, but no questions were allowed]
  4. Local involvement is essential in planning post-disaster. Make funds available for community building.
  • Need to understand that volunteering is changing [she's well briefed!] and that more resources applied. Generational distinctives have created new patterns of volunteering. More than $9 million in this year's budget for volunteering [Really?]
Daryl Taylor from Kinglake. Very impressive. Excellent community development principles. Mentioned Thomas and Tessa Libreri who organised material aid from the foot of the mountain. Set up in acres of land. Got stuff sourced and collected and into Kinglake faster than community agencies could.

The community organised in Kinglake is called KANDO. cute.

Outreach services are don't reach services in peri-urban areas. Listed about 8 community health centres surrounding Kinglake that have money for providing health services into Kinglake. None do.

Worried about the horizontal violence of the mutually oppressed. People turn ON one another rather than TO each other.

Mentioned a book by Cheryl Walter on community development. 5 aspects:
Power with = community development
Power over = planning
Power to = act
Power of = community consciousness
Power within = community commons

Mick Dodson did a forensic deconstruction of the NT intervention by comparing the community development approach of AusAID in Asia and the South Pacific with the top-down, takeover of the intervention. The Office of Development Effectiveness says AusAID is making a reasonable start in implementing the Paris Declarations. Donors partner with communities. Why don't we do that in NT?

Because governments won't lose control. They won't give up power to communities. In overseas aid, the Oz government don't have control to begin with. So nothing to give up. But in NT they ARE the government and community development is too hard.

Governments are incapable of community development. [Resonates with my experience elsewhere in the world. Most CD gets down in spite of governments.] They need to get out of the way and let communities do it.

Richard Watson
is a futurologist. Not a futurist which is group of Italian artists.

Change starts with a single event/person on the edge and ripples in to the centre.

Google trendmap and what's next? for Richard's stuff.

Woody Allen said The future is here already. It's just unevenly distributed.

2011 will be the first year that more people will leave the workforce than will enter it. Thereafter we enter an era of skill shortages.

China might collapse. Or split up.

Question from the floor: I have a metal hip and am about to get a metal knee. How much metal, before I qualify for a remote?

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