What’s our dream for community based activities as we age?

More than centre-based respite - a community engagement project in Moreton Bay QLD

Council on the Ageing (COTA) Queensland, recently hosted an engagement project with Brisbane North PHN and the Healthy@home consortium. Our role was to help with the design and hosting of community engagement activities and a collective sensemaking process with a range of stakeholders, to create a vision for the future of community based activities and steps towards it.


A big part of this project was to develop capacity with the COTA team for participatory design, hosting and sensemaking with complex issues, coaching while doing. The particular approach for this project was agreed in conversation between the COTA project team and Campfire Co-op team members.


We co-designed the process together, acknowledging the deep complexity of contexts we were working within. It was important to open up the engagement process to as many voices as possible - beyond service providers and current service users. We used a mix of invitation and engagement options which included online hosted conversations, small group self-guided conversations (based on kitchen table conversations), online surveys and print surveys.


We shifted as things changed in the midst of the COVID pandemic and we reflected as we went.

We brought 20 people together face-to-face in a sense making workshop. These were representatives of those stakeholders in the engagement process. It was a day to make sense of all of the data that had come from the engagement, and inform the final vision.


The outputs created at the end of the project included a graphic visual representation of the vision and steps to get there and a written vision also with the steps to get there. Campfire also reported on the process and learnings, helping to inform a framework for engaging community in the future of aged care in Brisbane North region.


In the words of ...


  • Reassures / affirms we are in this together. Really enjoyed today.

  • Wider perspective, bigger vision

  • Listening to what matters - continuous learning

  • Appreciation and acknowledgement of passionate people doing wonderful things and bring people together

  • Conversation with inspiring people

  • Opportunity for collaboration

  • Intergenerational movement - all working together. Encourages me to do more

  • Keep this going, a working group to catch up, connect, tackle things together


Participant reflections | Sensemaking workshop


Campfire Coop have been very accommodating and flexible within a changing environment and worked with us creatively within the constraints of the pandemic.

We were looking for consultants who were innovative in their approach and thinking, who would come from a community, person and relationships-based perspective, and who would have a willingness to share their skills and knowledge with our team. We were particularly interested in Campfire Coop's offering of the graphic harvesting technique, and inclusion of a range of modalities when engaging and presenting information in and with community and key stakeholder groups.

Mel has a skilled way of listening to hear what it is that people are ‘actually’ saying, and reflecting that back in a way which is empowering and useful for moving forward.


Bronwyn Bidstrup | COTA Program Coordinator, Aged and Community Care


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