Building local communities of practice

The Role of Hume Global Learning Village Committee in building communities of practice & social capital in Hume, Australia.

When Hume City Council established the Hume Global Learning Village in 2003, they set up a dual structure of a high level Advisory Board and a locally- based Committee to support and facilitate the initiative. The role of the Advisory Board was to set strategic directions for the initiative while the Committee was to give a local voice and access to local organisations ad networks. The Committee has continued to facilitate the village since then, despite a significant change in its status in 2014, and in the process has built communities of practice across Hume that facilitate communications, shared understanding and knowledge, and above all trust in supporting successive Village strategic plans.

The Hume district of Melbourne is a diverse area with successive waves of migrants so that the Global Learning Village had to address a broad range of social, cultural, and economic issues. The Committee, as the local voice of the initiative brought together representatives of schools, Neighbourhood Houses, a broad spectrum of community organisations, and individual advocates for a better Hume. It was chaired by a high school principal who was also a member of the Board with an academic member of the Board also participating in the Committee.

The programs of the Village initiative were progressed by a series of strategic plans, usually three years in duration. The Committee members facilitated the implementation of projects under the plans in a number of ways. Often local knowledge required finding the right people and locations for particular projects. Interactions of members of the Committee broadened and deepened their knowledge and understanding of the district, its characteristics and needs. In some cases this led to initiatives by members of the Committee, as for example when a shortage of teacher aids for schools was identified in the discussions of the Committee so that a Neighbourhood House decided to mount a training program for teacher aids. Te work of the Committee built knowledge and trust among the members of the Committee which strengthened partnership in the district.

This was tested in May 2014 when Hume City Council decided to terminate both the Advisory Board and Committee as instruments of the Council so that resources could be shifted to addressing the growing problem of unemployment. However, the members of the Committee decided to continue to meet as they considered their role was vital in the progress and well-being of the Hume community. This has continued as an informal community arrangement supported by the local member of the Victorian State Parliament. Options such as linking to an existing Global Learning Village Association are being considered.

The story of the Hume Global Learning Village Committee over twelve years demonstrates how community of practice relationships that build trust, partnership, and social capital can evolve over time when given a supporting structure, shared vision, and leadership.


Developing Communities of Practice through co-location of youth services.

The development of communities of practice through the co-location of youth services in a hub in the Sunshine district of Melbourne provides an example of how this approach can build relationships that foster an on-going dialogue and improvement of services between partners. The Sunshine Youth Junction model is located within the Brimbank Learning Community in an ethnically diverse area of western Melbourne in an initiative that brings together the support of a philanthropic foundation, government support and funding, the contributions of a range of youth organisations, and the relationships that evolve from this co-location platform.

The Pratt Foundation has supported a range of community initiatives in Melbourne, mainly in locations where Visy factories are located. Visy Cares projects are located across Melbourne in supporting community initiatives, sometimes with government funding as well.

The Sunshine initiative was launched by the Youth Junction in 2006 in response to a growing need to consolidate youth services in the dynamic changing western region of Melbourne. The Pratt Foundation responded with funding to convert a disused Sunshine Harvester manufacturing building into the Visy Cares Hub to enable a range of youth services to be co-located in the building.

The Youth Junction has overall management responsibility with a Senior Managers Group bringing together the senior managers of the various non-government organisations that are located in the Visy Cares Hub. While all organisations are committed to improving youth services in the district, community of practice relationships develop at a number of levels within this structure from senior managers to line staff.

The Youth Junction has acted to improve communications between partner organisations including acquiring funding for a hall in the complex to enable each partner organisation to give a presentation on their work on the last Friday in each month.

When Kearns and Reghenzani undertook consultations in 2010 in developing planning for the Brimbank Learning Community for Brimbank City Council, they reported on the Visy Cares Hub as a key resource in building a Brimbank Learning Community that supported learning throughout life. The continuous improvement philosophy that drives the Youth Junction led to the manager of the Centre recently studying the work of co-located facilities in the United States and Canada on a Fulbright Fellowship and bringing back ideas to enhance this work further.