Community agency workshop

The results from the creative ethnography and the semi-structured interviews with residents were presented to more than 30 members of the Together Now Interagency Group. This workshop acted to inform the service workers of the residents' responses and engage them in critical dialogue, many of whom do not live in the community but who provide key emergency, health, education and cultural services to residents. Many of the agencies represented by this group were challenged by the local values expressed in the preliminary themes and data, as their organisational goals typically are represented by national benchmarks, which necessarily consider the specific local context. Without a coordinated approach, it is difficult to understand how North Central, as a whole, is progressing or not.


While it is unclear whether the ten-year Community Pulse initiative in the City of Port Phillip and the scaffolding indicator framework development in North Central will continue, these communities have experienced an alternative approach to not only measuring, but also understanding the culture of their neighbourhoods. Community Indicators Victoria claimed that 'while indicators can't change day-to-day reality, they can frame the way we perceive it, endorsing a common understanding of development' (Wiseman et al. 2006, 86). This chapter has argued that cultural indicators can, in fact, effect social change. When indicators are determined by citizens as what matters, they may be more likely to become involved not only in the data collection, but also in being the change. By challenging existing measurement regimes, this process of debating local values amongst stakeholders can assist decision-makers as a mechanism in building a consensus about 'how we know our neighbourhood is getting better.'

This development of cultural indicators from a local perspective can be messy and require a long-term commitment to process development, data collection and communication of outcomes from both the bottom-up stakeholders and top-down decision-makers. These methodologies can be modified by new communities in their own social and historical contexts, but these case studies suggest that it is only the people who experience the community directly who can determine what progress means locally. If you do not live there, it is very difficult to understand the local culture. While some measures and indicators can stand on their own or be compared regionally, it is important to understand the broader context, within a framework of the four pillars of sustainability: economic, social, cultural, and environmental. From this cultural development perspective, meaning about local culture can thus be created through a conceptual handshake between local knowledge, the conceptual history of the cultural indicator movement, and relevant policy frameworks.

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