May 08, 2018
Contact: Nick Terrell
0487 388 763

Reconnected - Parramatta Social Capital consultation

The Hon Dr Andrew Leigh MP - Member for Fenner

Shadow Assistant Treasurer | Shadow Minister for Competition and Productivity

Shadow Minister for Charities and Not-for-Profits | Shadow Minister for Trade In Services


Social capital conversations – Parramatta Mission, Parramatta

On 2 May 2018, a group of charities from Parramatta joined Labor's Julie Owens and Andrew Leigh to discuss successful strategies for building social capital and community engagement.

The small group conversations generated dozens of ideas and observations, some of which are set out below.

Please note that this list does not reflect Labor policy, but the ideas that were proposed by the charities and not-for-profits in attendance.


Engaging and enlisting volunteers

  • Community projects, with concrete local goals, are good focal points for generating new involvement.

  • Volunteering can be a pathway for people to develop skills and experience and grow – especially within migrant communities. Outward looking organisations draw on innovations from overseas and different ways of doing things that are already working in other countries.

  • Meetings are less appealing as a first encounter for new members or volunteers – events and workshops (with food) `provide more social and less formal introduction.

  • Recruit volunteers through community leaders with good connections in their community. Invest time in ambassadors – train leaders from target groups, give them skills and confidence to encourage and invite collaborators and participants.

  • Base recruitment on an ask for “skills” rather than ‘volunteers’

  • Recruit volunteers by framing their role as helping the community, not your organisation.

  • Share stories of success and volunteers that make a difference to their community. Praise the skills that people bring.

  • People respond willingly to things they perceive as having an immediate impact on their community and to moments of crisis. 

  • To attract new volunteers, create short term volunteering opportunities – sponsorship, donations, projects – rather than ongoing roles.

  • Engage potential volunteers in younger demographics through champions and experience-based propositions. Calibrate age of supervisors to the age of the volunteers – older sibling / mentor.

  • Younger volunteers are looking for empowerment (skills), gratification, experiences and flexibility. Offer them skills that will help open up pathways to employment. For example, the “Care to Work” program, which recognises the skills of carers and how they can translate into paid employment.

  • Share agency and authority with volunteers – provide more board and committee opportunities for young people.

  • To give volunteers an opportunity to use and develop existing skills, create job roles rather than stand-alone tasks.

  • Provide proper support structures – ‘code of conduct’ and ‘risk management’ and skills checklists for incoming volunteers.

  • When planning, formulate a clear commitment about what you give back to volunteers

  • Recognition and reward helps to keep volunteers on board over time, long service recognition consolidates relationships.


Increasing Capacity

  • Charities would benefit from a central independent accelerator hub – providing info about grants, approaches, best practice, and a meeting place for organisations looking to collaborate.

  • National bodies need to work with place based committees to get benefits of localised vantage while avoiding duplication of functions and planning.

  • Research local organisations or companies you can partner with – propose reciprocal arrangements to offset access to space, skills and other resources.

  • Culture of collaboration and shared purpose – more sector-based forums

  • Micro-financing models can help organisations be self-sustaining

  • Develop an ideal model or template for groups to collaborate with other service providers (corporate governance and resources).

  • Develop light touch compliance agreements for small organisations seeking grants and relationships with public institutions (insurance, contracts, permissions etc).

  • Remove red tape for small groups to facilitate single purpose local initiatives like: neighbourhood exercise groups; no-car zones around schools to create opportunity for social interaction; volunteers to drive people to driving lessons; community beautification teams; sharing household equipment and DIY abilities.

  • Maintain sector identity through conferences, forums, peer to peer support and collaboration through umbrella organisations.

  • Use networks to find pro-bono experts like accountants and fundraisers.


Culture of Community Building

  • Make a point of celebrating achievements of volunteers and the organisation.

  • Create links between P&C organisations and the broader local community (streams engaged and organised community members into community building beyond their children’s school years).

  • Piggybacking off existing community hubs (ie schools, libraries and retirement villages) – can promote intergenerational giving and sharing of knowledge, plus relationship building. There is an established ‘family’ or domestic environment, many of these are the base for communities that have daily contact, and are a central focus for broader family units.

  • To put young people in touch with services that could assist (and be assisted by) them, encourage schools to be proactive in looking at ways to work with local community organisations.

  • Fund community Development workers to work in high schools.

  • Community building and social capital activities need to be recognised and supported at local planning level (zoning and sharing public infrastructure ie school halls).

  • Free or low-rent locations to facilitate collaboration between charity groups – info sharing, resource sharing, skill sharing – and geographic hubs, ie medical centres co-located with community centres.

  • Be public – visible events showcasing work of the organisation, benefits for the community and the opportunities to be involved. Community stalls and one off market days to introduce people to opportunities without implied commitment.



  • Acknowledge and reward volunteer co-ordination – provide tools to enable co-ordinators to give structured training and experience to volunteers.

  • Good volunteer managers, with appropriate training and skills, increase satisfaction and retention of volunteers and increase the capacity of charities. Generic modules and hubs for sharing information could assist for organisations that don’t have specific resources for volunteer management.



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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.