More than 250 delegates attended a Victory Village Forum in Nelson, July 27–29, 2011. The forum aimed to showcase the Victory Community — ‘Kiwibank New Zealand Community of the Year’ in 2010 — and share information about family-centred, community-led development.
The three-day forum, organised by Victory Village, Inspiring Communities and the Families Commission, was fully subscribed – underscoring an interest in New Zealand in thinking differently about how we work within and across communities, and promote family-centred, community-led ways of working. This new way of working requires thinking about what is best for families, and allowing communities to lead the changes they want to see.
The forum received widespread interest and the more than 250 delegates came from central and local government, iwi, community organisations, social service providers, education and health sectors, business and funding agencies. The diverse mix of people represented the individuals, groups, agencies and organisations working at all levels of family-centred, community-led development.
The forum gave the participants maximum opportunity to share information and extend their networks. Concurrent workshops, run by facilitators who work within family-centred and/or community-led development, discussed starting points for this way of working, and the skills required. The homegroup sessions allowed participants to safely share their ideas and experiences; their successes, challenges, reflections and learnings.
The discussion in the World Café was structured around specific questions that delved more deeply into issues associated with family-centred and/or community-led ways of working. Finally, the plenary sessions invited guests with different backgrounds, and therefore perspectives, to speak more broadly about the current ‘environment’ for familycentred, community-led development.
Overwhelmingly, themes of pride, achievement and positivity emerged from the forum. Participants shared stories of communities using their strengths to lead locally run initiatives, local government and businesses understanding the importance of applying the ‘family lens’ and successes ‘against the odds’. The forum emphasised and endorsed the importance of local communities leading family-centred action. Change must be driven ‘from the ground’, and communities must ‘own’ the process if they are to be successful. There is a desire to see the learning and insights gained at the forum shared with key community funders, policy makers and central government. A set of resources, case studies and support materials would be a useful way of disseminating the wealth of ideas and experiences shared at the forum with all those wanting to know more about this way of working.
The Victory Village Forum was designed to give participants an opportunity to learn from and inspire each other, building on the practical and inspirational developments of Victory Village, and other initiatives throughout New Zealand.
The forum was held in Nelson, and opened at the Victory Primary school campus, so that participants could experience the ‘look and feel’ and some of the magic of Victory.
The forum’s goals were to:
- learn about the Victory approach to family-centred, community-led development;
- share and hear a range of experiences of working in a family-centred and community-led way;
- build a network of people who can continue to advise, support and inspire each other;
- explore how meaningful change occurs, discuss ways to promote intentional change, and to capture and demonstrate progress;
- develop thinking about strategies and ‘pressure points’ for systems change, building on systems change already taking place in New Zealand.
The forum was structured to maximise opportunities for participants to share their knowledge and experiences of family-centred, community led development, discuss their challenges and generally learn from each other. Recognsing participants as key knowledge holders, the forum was built around having time for facilitated, small group discussion (homegroups), extended by a World Café process, and informed by the workshops and plenary speakers, or provocateurs, who each brought a different perspective to proceedings.
Homegroups were designed to give participants an ongoing ‘base’ where they could:
- share their own experiences;
- explore the content and themes of workshops/plenary sessions; and
- build relationships.
Participants were randomly allocated to one of 19 homegroups, which were facilitated by experienced, trained Nelson people. These facilitators recorded the themes and ideas raised in the homegroups and workshops. Most participants said they enjoyed and appreciated the homegroups; some even said they were the best aspect of the whole event. Facilitators noticed the homegroups change between the first and third sessions. The group members quickly built trust with one another, with many people exchanging contact details, having extended conversations with one another, and talking enthusiastically, in pairs or small groups, outside the homegroup process. As the participants held different roles within a wide range of organisations, the homegroups enabled them to meet, greet and get to know each other.
The following excerpt, recorded by Nancy Eisenberg, a homegroup facilitator, indicates the kind of dynamic created in homegroups:
Someone spoke of difficulty getting resources — her example was in an IT capacity — there was an echo of “Yes, it’s hard to get funding” and then a voice in the group said “My organisation/department can help you”. There was a buzz around discovery that two of our group members at Community Relations, Department of Internal Affairs, were keen and able to help in a variety of ways and were just waiting to be approached by community groups — not just for cash but for advice, liaising, great ideas.
After an opening session at Victory School, when the Victory story was told, the rest of the forum was held at the Nelson College for Girls. Plenary sessions were designed to present different perspectives on family-centred, community-led development — rather than just expert views. Perspectives from central and local government, philanthropic organisations, and the community helped to inform participants, and provoke wider discussion.
Two series of concurrent workshops were held. The first series explored a different ‘setting’ or starting point for family-centred, community-led development. Participants shared practical ideas and examples of what had worked within their own communities. The second series of workshops looked at skills and techniques that can contribute to effective family-centred, community-led development and add capacity to organisations that are working with this approach.
On the final day of the forum we initiated a World Café style discussion to share the ideas and discussions from the homegroups. World Café conversations create a conversation network around questions that matter with a large group. The purpose of the café is not to critique, but to contribute ideas.