Injury Prevention Summit 2021: Developing strength-based community programs breakout session recap

Attendees at the Injury Prevention Summit were given the opportunity to explore ways to increase engagement with regional and remote communities in Western Australia. Jo Drayton, Suicide Prevention Coordinator at Holyoake Wheatbelt delivered the workshop on developing strength-based community programs: adapting the system to uncover the solutions.

The workshop showcased success stories within the Wheatbelt region of Western Australia using Community Wellbeing Plans (CWP’s). A Community Wellbeing Plan is a plan that articulates what will happen at a local level to drive change in the identified issue, increase community safety and strengthen social capital.  The plan provides a means for collaborative work and partnerships amongst multiple agencies and communities. CWP’s recognise that every agency is impacted by alcohol and other drug misuse, suicide attempts, suicide, and associated harms, therefore, everyone is part of the solution.

Currently, there are 7 Shires in the Wheatbelt involved in developing CWP’s. These include Shire of Pingelly, Shire of Moora, Shire of Northam, Shire of Narembeen, Shire of Dalwallinu, Shire of Yilgarn and the Shire of Chittering. There are 8 other Shires who have expressed interest in developing a CWP.

The importance of collaborative efforts were highlighted as Jo challenged the group to think about ways to innovate. Being inventive in taking programs that already exist and re-designing them to work in new ways, courage to adapt systems to suit contemporary needs and trying new projects were all explored during the workshop. “Just because something hasn’t been done before, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t or can’t be done” said Jo.

Collective Impact, collaborating through a new lens was explored. Collective impact is a collaborative approach to address complex social and health issues. This includes broadening focus and increasing key stakeholders by embedding the Social Determinants of Health in stakeholder planning. This includes considering culture, health care, gender, family, housing, environment, self-determination and more.

The conversation led to mapping to find out what is already happening to avoid duplication. Questions such as ‘Do we always need to create or fund new program initiatives?’ were raised and discussion had. It is important to note that keeping the focus broader, enables greater impact on all areas of injury prevention, increasing sustainability involves cross sectorial support and funding, spreading the workload across agencies prevents burnout leading to greater sharing of professional expertise and knowledge all of which lead to better outcomes for all.

Jo posed a question to the group regarding community champions. Community champions can either inform, consult, become involved, collaborate, or even empower. It is important that we value our community champions through trust and listening to their voices. We cannot expect communities to understand or value our work if do not value or engage with them.