Informed by Evidence – Council example

This page provides an example of how Wonderland Shire cultural development staff sought evidence to inform their planning.


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Staff of the Wonderland Shire Cultural Development team decided to address the Council goal in the Plan:
Community and Support: A connected and healthy community, which is supportive and confident

3a. Evidence about the cause or origins of the issue
They began by finding out about what causes or contributes to issues with community health and connectedness, support and confidence either in their own Shire or elsewhere. The Council Plan included lots of information about this, so no additional research was required. The Plan reported that many small country towns where there are few opportunities for employment have significant social problems. Whole communities are impacted for generations when there are no members working. Young people who feel that there are few employment opportunities often lose motivation to engage in education. Young people who are not engaged in school or work often become socially isolated, have more health issues, feel unsupported and lose confidence (evidence from research).

3b. Baseline: where we are now in relation to this issue
The Council Plan also provided information about the Shire’s current state of connectedness, health, support and confidence, so no additional research was required here either. This indicated that loss of the manufacturing industry in the town was having a very significant impact on opportunities for employment for residents, and this was causing a flow on effect to families of those affected. Consequently the Shire had serious concerns over wellbeing issues in the Shire, particularly the community’s lower than desirable levels of health and connectedness. This was most significant for young people of low socio-economic status (evidence from research).

When reflecting on their own engagement with young people, the Wonderland Shire staff released that young people were very under-represented in current activities supported by the Shire.  The staff agreed that initiatives to date for young people, especially efforts to engage them in activities of the small performing arts theatre and art gallery, had not had the desired take-up.This was especially so for young people of low socio-economic status, and the high proportion of Shire residents who are neither studying or working (practice knowledge and evidence from data collected about attendance). However, the staff had a strong motivation to service young people and wished to know what they could do better, drawing from the experience of others.

3c. Evidence to address this issue
Staff then decided to seek information about cultural development initiatives that have previously been effective in engaging young people, especially those of low socio-economic status, in improving their connectedness, health, support and confidence. They discovered that many arts initiatives have been shown to be effective for these issues (for example, McQueen-Thomson et al 2004, Barraket 2005, Barraket & Kaiser 2007, Pope & Doyle 2006; NetBalance 2013) and many organisations have expertise in engaging hard to engage young people (McConville, n.d).

3d. Processes that have contributed to change (either positive or negative) in previous initiatives
Staff then examined these resources to discover what processes might have contributed to that change: what was it about successful cultural initiatives that made the difference? They found an article that discussed in great detail another organisation’s processes for engaging hard to engage young people (McConville, n.d.).

They read about three vital aspects of positive youth development: the provision of opportunities, skills and recognition (Catalano & Hawkins, 1996). They discovered that creative participation has greater impact on participants, with active-creative’ cultural pastimes associated with high levels of life satisfaction than solo or sedentary cultural activities and non-participants in those same pursuits. Engaged in a number of different activities rather than frequent participation in one type of activity led participants to experience more life satisfaction (Brown, MacDonald & Mitchell, 2014).

Expertise and experience of professional artists who offer positive and inspiring role models are identified as contributing to the most successful outcomes of arts engagement projects (Creating Australia, 2014). Young people’s aspirations and their perceptions of what is possible can be influenced positively by participation in arts programs that involve ‘wow!’ moments (Brown, 2011).

Cultural development staff deduced therefore that activities that are likely to have the best outcomes for addressing young people’s connectedness, health and confidence will involve: opportunities for them to develop skills and experience recognition; enjoy creative participation; a range of options; the expertise and experience of inspiring professional artists; connection with existing groups and networks for long term collaboration.

Therefore, when they were developing their Plan, they included activities to address social connectnedness for young people, especially those of lower socio- economic status, and ensured these included opportuinities for development of skills and receiving recognition; creative participation; a range of options; expertise and experience of inspiring professional artists; connection with existing groups and networks for long term collaboration.


References

Barraket, J. (2005). Putting people in the picture? The role of the arts in social inclusion. Melbourne: Brotherhood of St Laurence. Retrieved January 13, 2011 from http://www.bsl.org.au/pdfs/barraket_arts_social_inclusion_1.pdf

Barraket, J., & Kaiser, A. (2007). Evaluating the mental health and wellbeing impacts of community-based festivals: Awakenings Festival and Braybrook’s Big Day Out. Melbourne: VicHealth.

Brown, J., MacDonald., R.& Mitchell, R. (2014). Are People Who Participate in Cultural Activities More Satisfied with Life?, Social Indicators Research, 122(1), 135-146.

Catalano, R. F., & Hawkins, J. D. (1996). The social development model: A theory of antisocial behavior. In J. D. Hawkins (ed.), Delinquency and crime: Current theories, (pp. 149-97). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Creating Australia (2014). Principles of community arts and cultural development. Sydney: Creating Australia.

McConville, K. (n.d.). The BE Way Toolkit,  Armidale: Beyond Empathy.

McQueen-Thomson, D., James, P. & Ziguras, C. (2004). Promoting mental health and wellbeing through community and cultural development: a review of literature focusing on community festivals and celebrations. Melbourne: VicHealth.

Net Balance (2013). SROI Evaluation of the Beyond Empathy-Rites of Passage Project, NSW: Beyond Empathy.

Wonderland Shire (2013). Wonderland Shire Council Plan 2013-2017, Wonderland: Wonderland Shire.

Wonderland Shire Cultural Development Department (2014). Cultural participation surveys, 2013-14, Wonderland: Wonderland Shire.

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