Small towns are hard-wired to be good collaborators

Their knowledge of their community, often going back generations, as well as need to work together and be inclusive is innate.  These traits bode well when they want to take on bold initiatives, even without funding or resources.  This year Clunes, a little town in Victoria, has used Christmas to create a bit of collaboration cheer to inspire us all.

Iconic collaboration instincts.

“Small towns have collaboration in their DNA,” said Lana de Kort, Manager of the Clunes Neighbourhood House and a fellow collaborator from way back.  “It’s been nurtured over generations by Aussie icons like the RSL, the CWA and the Ag Society, and is still strong today when towns have a reason to remember and tap into it.”

Putting Christmas in collaboration.

ldk2Christmas gave Clunes, a town with less than 2000 residents, a reason to remember this year when traders, residents, business and community groups came together to literally light up the town.  Without major funding the town drew on local donations and encouragement to hold a month-long festival of activities that was kick-started by a flash mob involving over nearly 10% of the town’s population.

“It had all the hallmarks of a great collaboration.  A clear goal that was shared by all involved, transparency, reciprocity, trust, defined roles, a decision and resolution making process.  But,” said Lana, “It also had the tipping points that made it possible to keep up the momentum.”

Sometimes this good timing is all you need to create something out of nothing.

“Major town business got involved,” said Lana, “With Wesley College lending their weight behind the flash mob, while the local Makers Market, and also Farmers Market pulled together to provide us with stalls at all our events.  Even the local council and Bendigo Bank gave us the encouragement we needed to keep going.”

Creating collaboration across the country?

So if small towns are hard-wired to be good collaborators, is it possible they could become the engine rooms of collaboration across the country?

“I believe there is a lot that can be learned from small town collaborations,” said Lana, “As well as a lot that can be gained by strengthening their ability to collaborate.”

Event like ‘Christmas in Clunes’ help identify key collaboration agents in town, and provide practical learning opportunities for residents, traders, businesses and community groups to gain confidence in their ability to effect change.  Documenting those experiences so people can reflect on them later, and re-apply what they’ve learnt is key – ensuring that whatever success has been achieved this time, can continue again in the future.

“If governments and business were to invest in (or in some cases, continue investing in) identifying and strengthening collaboration agents in small towns or defined communities then the possibilities over a period of time could be endless,” said Lana.

“For Clunes it’s a Christmas festival this time, but next time it might be a transport strategy to solve their public transport problem, or a way of reducing isolation in the community.”

Now that is a story that puts a bit of Christmas cheer in collaboration for us all.


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