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StepOne: Community Cohesion and Anti-Racism Toolkit

Multiple cities
Australia

 

StepOne: Community Cohesion and Anti-Racism Toolkit is a website-based resource on good practice on multicultural community cohesion developed for Australian local government. StepOne was developed to provide guidance, practical resources, and an evidence base to assist Councils and community groups across Australia be more informed in their practice and build links with others doing related work. The website has nine pages that provide information about principles of community cohesion, establishing a project, good practice, development of partnerships and obtaining funding, relevant research, and useful websites.

Functioning

The resource lists 48 case studies from all around Australia and overseas as best practice examples. They are categorized under the headings: anti-racism and myth busting, conflict resolution, connections between communities, integration, mentoring and social inclusion, crisis intervention, public arts and creative interventions, reciprocity and working together, and town centre and other shared space projects. They cover a range of communities and issues, especially those that were implemented to:

  • reduce racism, intolerance, and negative stereotypes;
  • build positive and sustainable relationships between communities;
  • get communities working together and interacting;
  • deal with the ‘difficult stuff’ of living together, not just soft multiculturalism;
  • move beyond the ‘multicultural festival’ model (food, dance, etc.); and
  • show us how to live in harmony, making the most of our racial, cultural, social, and religious diversity.

StepOne was primarily aimed at local government staff who works with issues of community cohesion. Other potential users of the site included other levels of government and schools, churches, and community groups. The resource was first developed in 2008 and in 2011, is an on-going project with new content being added as staff resources allow. The Australian Federal Government provided the majority of the project’s funds, through the then Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. Other support was provided by Macquarie University’s Centre for Research on Social Inclusion and the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Most of the case studies discuss participatory processes. These ranged from one on one conversation between individuals in the Living Library project, to group discussions in the Women Speak Out project, to large-scale community celebrations like the Kingston CarnivalStepOne is a freely available on-line resource toolkit. There is no policy or other requirements for practitioners, planners, or decisions makers to use it.

Achievements

The main achievements of the StepOne resource are (a) its contribution to the development of professional practice around community cohesion and (b) stronger connections between local government professionals who have responsibility for this area. The website filled a gap in the provision of information and sharing and peer learning that had not previously been available to Councils and their staff. It promoted discussion and a move towards informed and evidence-based practice.

Challenges

The most significant challenge for a web-based resource like StepOne is the difficulty of keeping it live and in front of potential users once funding has run out. For this website to remain a useful and attractive resource, it needs to be continually updated with listings of new research, resources, and case studies. A limitation of the StepOne resource is a lack of evaluation, both of the initiative itself and the projects listed as best practice case studies. No formal evaluation of the impact of the website resource on the effectiveness of local community cohesion initiatives was undertaken, largely because there was no component of the project funding for evaluation. Neither had most of the listed initiatives been evaluated for their impact. Nevertheless, information that is available indicates that both the resource and the case studies seem to have had a significant positive impact on the field of professional practice around community cohesion.