SGS Economics and Planning Principal and Partner Patrick Fensham recently volunteered his expertise and insights to the Shine Harcourt project. The project is a community based economic development initiative of Mount Alexander Shire Council, led by creative agency Hello City, to help stimulate the economy of the small town of Harcourt 30 kilometres on the Melbourne side of Bendigo in Victoria.
First stage: the ‘Ideas-a-thon’
The first stage of the project was an ‘Ideas-a-thon’ held at the local bowling club. Patrick (Pat) joined local community members to generate a long list of ideas to advance the small town. Each table of participants then developed one idea with more implementation detail. In between table workshop sessions, the whole group was entertained by a comic cabaret singer who solicited plenty of crowd involvement.
Stage two: the ‘Ideas lab’
In stage two, a smaller group of local community members, local council staff and diverse experts gathered for an ideas lab to develop the ideas from stage one. Pat was involved in the ‘growth’ group which developed a plan for repurposing excess and underused road space for pop-up community facilities and a town pub, which the town is currently lacking.
Where to from here?
Hello City will analyse the outputs from the ideas-a-thon, ideas lab and previous engagement activities and will develop a draft report which will go through a review process with Council and with the Shine Harcourt Partnership. The final report will define a clear economic vision and framework for action that is true to Harcourt. Mt Alexander Shire Council has initiated the project, but the ideas and strategies of Shine Harcourt really belong to the broader community.
Reflecting on his involvement Pat said, ‘the Shine Harcourt process is an exemplar for community based and owned economic development, which will increasingly be fundamental to small town success and prosperity. It has built on and developed the locally specific knowledge and expertise of Harcourt residents, and further deepened relationships that will provide a platform for sustainable development.’
Photos by Brendan McCarthy: https://www.brendanmccarthy.com.au/
Photo: Patrick Fensham (middle)