Powerful and positive communication is central to all that Community Works does. Whether in research, strategic development, conflict management or any other kind of initiative, there are always a range of different people who need to participate in the process and know the outcomes. Some will be comfortable with written text. Other will need to see the information visually. Either way, effective communication for social development must be visually strong. This is why we combine words, graphics and images in the work we produce.

Community engagement

The key questions that have exercised us in communication for social development has been how best to engage with communities around their needs and expectations and how external support might best be used.

Clearly, the skills of facilitation are very important. This is especially the case if we see facilitation as not only about running workshops, but also the range of methods and competencies that help diverse groups of people tackle problems, negotiate with each other and find the best direction.

Visual communication is absolutely central to good facilitation. It helps everyone get involved. It reduces the need for people unaccustomed to reading to have to work through documents in English. And visual methods can enable people to take more of a leadership role in discussions.

Often, the simplest techniques are the best, an example being circles with a couple of words in them to represent points of discussion. Giving the pen to people in the room and asking them to put what they think on the board, next to or in the circles, moves a conversation forward in ways that can be dynamic and surprising.

Toolkits and manuals

Organisations often need to formalise a model of work. This means they need to write up how a service or a program works so it can be used by others. Where all the knowledge about something remains in the heads of key individuals, then the possibility of new staff or partner organisations being able to use it is constrained.

We like producing manuals and toolkits, both of which formalise work in written and visual form. Examples are included in the link on the right. Aside from the final product, the process itself can be uplifting for a team or and organisation because it brings together all they do and all they have learned in a structured way.

This aspect is especially valuable for organisations that work directly with clients or participants in their programs. Examples are community mental health or enterprise development programs. The precise way in which staff work with communities is often critically important to their success. So, the work of describing it in a publication helps formalise and set standards for the way the work should be done.
Of course, toolkits and manuals are also critical to organisations seeking to replicate and scale their work through partners.

Making complex concepts accessible

Community Works has provided extensive support to communication materials produced by the Stronger Communities for Children Program, which helps children in remote communities of Aboriginal people achieve the best start in life.
Given that the program works with so many people from different walks of life and different experiences, it has been important to develop a consistent visual way of giving people access to information they need. This has included regular newsletters, seminar reports and snapshots of the impact that activities funded by the program have had in the participating communities.

The photo above shows a summary of the program evaluation conducted in 2017. This single page was used as a handout and a poster. It condensed a valuable and detailed evaluation report into the key themes and information that communities needed to know.

The essence of this kind of communication work is to acknowledge complexity. The more we do this kind of work, the more important visual methods and techniques have become. Without them, people affected by investments in their communities have less chance of influencing the outcomes of projects and programs.