Our Approach to Programming – through a COVID-19 lens
When the pandemic first began, Clunes Neighbourhood House decided to take time to go back to the basics and think about what we do, and why we do it.
Operating in a COVID-19 world means safety measures, restrictions and uncertainty about the wisdom/permissibility of any activity that involves large gatherings. It also means a world where deficiency needs will be acute, potentially so acute that they eclipse or inhibit people's ability to focus on growth needs. Understanding this, we opted to look at our approach to programming to determine how we can best meet our strategic objectives in this new world - and it turns out that that process has stood us in good stead.
At Clunes Neighbourhood House our vision is for a community that cares for it's people and place. To do this, we deliver a range of programs and our approach has been guided by Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Given the diverse socio-economic nature of our population, and the fact that we are a town that has traditionally had active community groups, we've focused on those target markets that are not typically represented, while also supporting the resilience of existing groups.
This means that our core programs typically focus on the first, second and third levels of Maslow's hierarchy - physiological, safety and belonging needs.
Levels 1 - 2: Physiological and Safety (defined as basic needs, arising in response to a deficiency)
During this pandemic it is not surprising that these needs have been primary and will remain so for some time. With careful implementation of safety measures, great collaboration with volunteers and a few modifications, we've focused on nurturing activities that support health and safety; as well as wrapping community care offerings around each of them.
Levels 3: Belonging (defined as a growth need, arising in response to aspirations)
Essentially these activities build connection and as a result for those not in immediate crisis, the need for belonging has been steadily rising as the pandemic has dragged on. Following easing of the first stage three restrictions, the more formal groups (such as the Men's Shed) moved quickly and effectively to resume or (in the case of Attitude, commence) operations and where necessary, continue to focus on their future direction. More informal groups moved slower, but as their confidence built and risk could be managed we saw activities resume OR adapt. Strengthening connections across our town is vital to rebuild resilience and capacity in Clunes.
Levels 4 - 5: Esteem and Self-Actualisation
Typically we've sought to address these levels through major events or mass gatherings. This hasn't been as easy since the pandemic began, although we have managed to successfully adapt major events such as Christmas in Clunes to work in a living with COVID world. Doing this collaboratively with other groups in towns will
strengthen ties with people in the community, creating a vital foundation for cohesion.
FUTURE PROOFING PROJECTS:
Demonstrating our ability to effectively pivot in order to not only meet deficiency needs but strive for recovery has not only benefited our organisation and those we support – but it has provided others with an example of what is possible.
Clunes may be a community with more than its fair share of socio-economic disadvantage; even before this pandemic. But we are also a community with innovation in our DNA.
Supporting Creatives in our community:
- Enabling an active arts and culture community by connecting local and visiting artists to spaces and community
- A partnership project with Creative Clunes
Concept originally conceived by community 2017. Seeking funding so this strategy can revitalise our cultural activities since the pandemic.
Creation of a Toy Library and safe space for families to gather:
Establishing a start-up Social Enterprise that helps our town tip a bust towards a BOOM:
- Launched BOOM Clunes in 2021
- A diverse, circular economy based business that includes retail, business centre (co-working and serviced offices) and learning opportunities
Successfully implemented and now in it's second year of operation.