Communities, service providers and all levels of government in Australia are increasingly adopting place-based approaches to empower communities to design and develop durable solutions to local problems, enhance connectedness and resilience, and, in communities of concentrated disadvantage, tackle causes of poverty and exclusion. While there is no fixed definition of a place-based approach, there is some consensus it should involve:
A collaborative, long-term approach to build thriving communities delivered in a defined geographic location. This approach is ideally characterised by partnering and shared design, shared stewardship, and shared accountability for outcomes and impacts (Dart 2018: 7)
Place-based approaches characteristically emerge, or are designed to respond to, complex, interrelated or challenging issues impacting ‘at risk’ communities. Leveraging local insights, skills and resources, place-based approaches address local social, health and environmental issues on their own terms and help build the capacity of communities as active participants and leaders in local decision-making processes. Such approaches aim to ensure reforms at the national and state-level are informed by local experience and implemented according to community need and expertise.
Place-based approaches belong to a well-established network of practices that value community-driven change and transformation. Over the years, place-based approaches have been adopted to address localised needs in areas as diverse—and connected—as disaster recovery, child development, Aboriginal self-determination, land-care, industry closure and economic renewal, regional healthcare, and crime prevention. The effectiveness and benefits of place-based approaches are widely recognised, as is the need for further development, research and evaluation to unlock their full potential.