A City with a Vibe

Submitted by Liz Weaver on August 27, 2013 - 12:49pm
Melbourne, Australia

My first week of this three week journey was spent in Melbourne, Australia.  Just walking and riding the various buses and trams that circle the city, you get a sense of the importance of place, neighbourhoods and design that pervade this city.  It is a walkable and cycling filled city, at least in the downtown core and in many of the smaller precincts and neighbourhoods that I visited. 

 It’s interesting to be in a place new to you but seeing it through the eyes of its citizens.  Over the week I was able to meet many members of the Municipal Association of Victoria, a body focused on building the capacity of municipalities across the state.  The pride they have about their places is substantial.  This is probably not different from communities in Canada if you scratch below our surface but not as apparent initially.  Perhaps we are more reserved. 

 There are many similar issues between Canada and Australia but collective impact is just emerging in this country.  Conversations are beginning to occur between diverse partners and it is interesting to share our experience in Vibrant Communities with our colleagues in Australia.  My sense is that many are intrigued about the potential of collective impact but don’t have a lot of local examples of how to work collectively and collaboratively across sectors and with usual and unusual suspects. 


 It occurs to me that Melbourne, as a city, is particularly well positioned to use its capacity in design to take collective impact in new and innovative ways.  Combining design thinking, innovation and social change has the power of moving communities from transactional relationships to transformational change. 

 Collective impact is an emerging body of practice that requires the collective investment and intelligence of practitioners from all sectors as we continue to experiment with the framework.  Design will take us from the framework into developing practices that scale change even more intentionally and with greater impact. 


 My week in Melbourne has left me with much food for thought.  How do we make cities places of engagement, activity and pride?  How can and does design improve our collective effectiveness and community cohesion?  How can we continue to build a community of practice around social change that ensures we learn from each other recognizing that local context is critical but seeing the system from different perspectives is also valuable?

 Thanks Melbourne and MAV for sharing your perspectives and your heart. 

For more on Liz's trip to Australia, see this previous blog post.



Its all about design

Hi Liz, thank you for sharing this.  I agree design is key in building a strong community particularly in cities.  I find that though cities are full of people, often times there is a real challenge to build community.  A key part of it is people have a hard time finding safe spaces to bump into the same people regularly.  If we can design our cities with a clear intention to build communal space, and communal space that fosters sustained relationship building.  I think a great exampl of what this could look like on a really micro scale is youth hostels.  Every time I go to one I am always blown away by the sense of community.  I know Montreal also has some really interesting spaces for community.

The other thing that i think shows great potential are the groups like Improve Everywhere, who work to create moments of connection through fun flash mobs where they shock people out of their stupour and invite them to connect in with a common human experience.  This website is also a great way to procrastinate: http://improveverywhere.com


Thanks for sharing, Liz! Melbourne is a beautiful city- I loved it went I visited a number of years ago.

Looking forward to hearing more from your travels downunder!