Initiating and developing community gardens, transition towns and community sustainability programs is a people-oriented process that requires not only organisational skills but a diverse ‘tool kit’ for inclusive community facilitation. Permaculture College Australia specialises in training community facilitators as effective agents of change.
The community garden movement is taking off in NSW with a growing number of initiatives throughout the Sydney metropolis, regional cities and rural towns. The NSW north coast region has projects at various stages of planning and implementation in Lismore, Mullumbimby, Ballina and Coffs Harbour to name a few. While most community gardens and farms start as grassroots community initiatives, in the past many have struggled to gain support from local government – this is beginning to change.
Local government and planners are now starting realise the potential of community gardens and farms as a valuable and viable use of public land and are actively supporting community initiatives in this area. These projects are seen as an important way to build resilience into our communities, for skills sharing, food security and bringing people together for meaningful recreation and conviviality. An indicator of this shift is the recent announcement of the CITY OF SYDNEY in March 2010 to adopt “a policy on community gardening that offers the potential for collaboration with community-based and other food-oriented organisations as well as community gardens.” (see article: Innovative policy on community gardening adopted by City of Sydney)
Establishing and operating a community garden takes much more than gardening skills. It’s a people-oriented process that requires good facilitation for meetings, participatory input into planning and ongoing management. Community projects can attract participation from a wide sector of the community; people with different backgrounds, ethnicity, age groups, representing different needs, aspirations and concerns. Coordinators for such projects also need skills in promotion, fundraising, organising community events and building community networks. These skills are not unique to community gardens, they lie at the heart of most successful community projects including transition town initiatives, seed savers networks, climate action groups, environment and landcare groups and a diverse range of community development programs.
Permaculture College Australia has developed specific training programs to empower community activists and facilitators with the tools and skills to be effective agents of change in building community cooperation and resilience to the impacts of increasing food costs, food security, climate change and the inevitable consequences of depleting global supplies of cheap oil. While there are many things we can do as individuals at home to reduce our vulnerability in a changing world, ultimately its through developing community resilience and cooperation that the greatest impact and level of resilience can be achieved
Each year, a four-day intensive program, Creative Community Facilitation, is being offered for community workers and activistss, in facilitating participatory processes, planning and promoting community programs, building community networks and working with human and cultural diversity, including working with indigenous communities, and overseas development work. The course forms part of the accredited training for the community development units of competency at Certificate IV in Permaculture and Diploma of Permaculture. This 4-day course is also open to public registration for anyone working with community programs to develop these essential skills.