The key steps involved in building strong and connected communities are provided below as a useful starting point for developing your Community Action Plan. These steps provide an indicative guide; it is important to tailor your approach to your local community.

A whole-of-community approach to prevent AOD harm is recommended. Building strong, resilient, connected and harmonious communities takes time, and requires the active involvement of the community. A whole-of-community approach involves working with community partners to deliver multiple and mutually reinforcing actions. Be mindful that one-off, isolated events are not effective at creating change.

Consultation, planning and design

There is no one right way to build strong and connected communities. What works for one community may not work for the next, and so it is important to consult with your local community to design your approach. This will help ensure that the actions your LDAT takes are what local people want and need – and that it will be supported by and beneficial for the community. This will also help you identify what already exists within the community and what can be strengthened and built on.

There are a number of things to consider when planning your community action.

Your target community

Be mindful that communities can be defined in different ways. Will you target a geographic community, where people share a physical space? A community of interest, where people share identity, values, beliefs and social norms? Or a virtual community, where people interact via technology?

Communities of interest may include:

  • special interest groups e.g. dancing collectives, craft groups
  • occupations with a strong identity e.g. newspaper reporters, police, army
  • music-related groups based on genre e.g. country, punk, electronica, hip-hop
  • groups with strong link to a specific ethnic identity e.g. Italian-Australians
  • sports groups and fans with strong commitment e.g. AFL fans, soccer fans, skaters, golfers, cyclists
  • groups of commonality e.g. mothers’ group, faculty students at university
  • technology-based groups e.g. gamers, blog followers, social media fans
  • groups with specific drink interests e.g. beer, cider, wine, spirits, non-drinkers[1].

The environment

What environment, or setting, will your project be delivered in?

Environments may include:

  • public spaces e.g. parks, beach, entertainment precincts, public transport
  • events e.g. weddings, birthdays, BBQs, sport, celebrations
  • festivals e.g. schoolies, music, comedy, arts, cultural
  • education institutions e.g. primary, secondary, tertiary incl. TAFE
  • workplaces e.g. during work or after hours
  • sporting clubs and sports events e.g. game days, racing, parades
  • technology e.g. social media, internet, online gamers
  • licensed venues e.g. bars, clubs, pubs[2].

How to manage

Details about how local action will be managed and what processes will be required also need to be considered.

Some questions to consider may include:

  • Who will provide oversight of the program?
  • What are the risks that need to be considered and how can they be mitigated?
  • How will you involve community members in the design of the program?
  • What support does your group need?
  • Will you engage volunteers and/or paid workers?

Engage the community

A critical role of LDATs is to engage with their community to support them to put strong and connected communities on the public agenda and to assist them to achieve it.

Tips for engaging the community:

  • Raise awareness among influential groups (such as parents) about the role they can play in preventing AOD harms, and equipping them with the right tools.
  • Identify community organisations that you may partner with. See Section 2: Working with community partners.
  • Identify key contacts and/or gatekeepers. Identify key people in target organisations who can act as a champion and with whom you can invest time into this relationship. A champion may be in a leadership role, have an influential personality, or be a proactive person who is passionate about preventing alcohol and other drug harms. For example, key contacts may include a coach at a local sporting club. Meet face-to-face if you can, rather than just sending out information via email.
  • When discussing strong and connected communities, promote the benefits to individuals, families and the broader community. Show them how activities to build strong and connected communities align with their core business and values.
  • Be aware of the complexity of the topic. The rationale for building strong and connected communities to prevent AOD harms may not be immediately clear to others in the community. Take the time to explain how work to promote community cohesion and connectedness protects against AOD harms – and results in a number of additional positive health and social outcomes.
  • Answer the question: ‘What’s in it for me?’. Find the hook for potential partner organisations. You might find these answers on their website, in strategy or annual report documents, or through direct discussions with staff from various parts of the organisations you are targeting.

LDATs can have an influential role in increasing participation and social connection. This may involve providing these directly, or working with partners to provide these opportunities through the work they do.

Increase community participation and social connection

Consider action to increase social networks, build social connection through arts or sports participation, promote civic engagement and volunteering, increase people’s sense of belonging, and promote a culture where people support one another to engage in low-risk drinking practices and where drunkenness is not encouraged.

Examples of action that could increase community participation and social connection include:

  • offering youth activities such as holiday programs that provide mentoring and support from caring, responsible adults
  • helping schools to set up peer-support programs and other activities to make sure all students feel welcome at school
  • welcoming newcomers to your town or suburb to ensure they feel part of the community
  • providing information stalls in shopping centres to inform people of health problems and how they can take action to reduce risks to their health
  • using local media to promote healthy local activities and services, to increase local involvement and increased benefit to your community
  • bringing counselling services to the local area or promoting telephone helplines
  • organising drop-in child care facilities and activities to enable parents and young children to strengthen their relationship
  • encouraging employment in the local area such as through small businesses
  • promoting job-seeker support services.[3]

Improve amenity of local facilities and communal spaces

LDATs can play an important role in improving the overall amenity of local facilities and communal spaces. Improving amenity should involve the local council and other partners, however LDATs may take a leading role in identifying and coordinating a project/action.

Consider projects that improve safe and inclusive environments, introduce new or improve existing local facilities, increase use of public spaces, and create shared spaces that can be used by multiple generations. All of these can build a greater sense of cohesion within a community.

Examples of action that could improve the amenity of local facilities and communal spaces include:

  • improving facilities for young people within the community (e.g. skate parks, BMX tracks, graffiti walls and access to a range of sports)
  • engaging with local faith leaders, multicultural groups and other cultural groups to develop ideas for a shared space that celebrates diversity in the community
  • working with local council to identify public spaces which can be rejuvenated to encourage multi-generational use.
Please get in touch to find out more about the program
Please get in touch to find out more about the program