The South Pacific has been listed as one of the poorest countries on earth. Being such a close neighbour to Australia, this should not be the case.
There is so much at risk within this region. Just one of the major issues this region is fighting, is climate change, resulting in an increase in storms and leading to an increase in poverty. Local social and urban infrastructure is inadequate and struggles to cope with demand.
Strategically, the South Pacific is overlooked by many global business partnerships. Seeing this region as a community that is in so much need and so close to Australia, Compass Housing decided to invest and then do more.
“We felt that we could share our skills and knowledge in social and physical infrastructure development—that also builds community capacity—despite knowing the high level of risk of investing into this country.”
I’m talking with James Cameron, for the Create Business blog. James is the Executive Manager of Tenant Communications and Engagement for Compass Housing. Compass Housing Services provide secure and affordable housing for low to moderate income earning households, as well as housing products for disadvantaged people who have difficulties sourcing adequate and affordable accommodation in the private market.
James and I are yet to meet in person, yet I think it is safe to say that we have worked together on a life changing project for James. We overcame the distance (James is in New South Wales, Queensland and Vanuatu and I am based in Central Victoria), using the internet and some great content collection apps, such as Evernote.
My business is driven by my passion to share my skills and expertise, for bringing value to communities and organisations that make a difference. My aim is that after my body of work is completed, my client will have resources or assets that continue to create business. I worked closely with James to document his first engagement visit to Vanuatu. The Create Business team developed campaign content to pitch to key leaders the need and the value of investment into community infrastructure into this community.
During his time in Vanuatu, James undertook a community needs assessment to determine the most effective way for Compass Housing to make an impact in the community, and to navigate all the risks associated with working in this country. It was vital that the infrastructure was not linked to government commitments, instead owned and managed by the community, for the community.
Using a voice recorder, diary entries, video and photography, James spoke to people from all sectors of the community—from tribal leaders to people making a living from resorts and facing the challenges of raising a family with a minimal income and limited education opportunities. He developed a case for what infrastructure needed to be developed—a soccer pitch and a community hub for education, women’s health and a local market to boost the local economy.
Overcoming poverty and empowering people to make a difference in their community and then the world—is an ambitious proposal. James’ work practice is based upon decision-making, practices and frameworks that empower people to have choice and control—and this means for fundraising too.
To address the divide between a community infrastructure project in Vanuatu and their Australian tenant community, Compass Housing established T4V ‘Tenants for Vanuatu’; a Compass Housing leadership group to come up with innovative ways to fundraise and drive fundraising for Vanuatu.
“No matter how hard we think we have it,” shares James, “there are people on earth who have it worse. You don’t need to be wealthy to be a part of the global solution.”
Fundraising gives people an opportunity to discover who they can be, and it’s a new and interesting way to participate socially and globally—that is why Compass Housing put T4V and the Vanuatu mission together. “We manage housing stock. When our tenants feel good, they like where they live—they take care of where they live.”
“We are busting the myth that if you come from social housing, you are a burden to society. It simply isn’t the case. You can be valuable to society no matter where you come from. It has nothing to do with where you live.”
Compass Housing believes community capacity is built through the engagement and relationship between people making decisions and driving local fundraising campaigns for global issues. “It is about people being in a position to tell a story and influence people,” says James. “Being in a national fundraising group, you can get creative about social housing and have a say about how things are run—and also encourage their community to give to another community.”
“There are a lot of people in Australia and the South Pacific who could benefit from the programs we run. It’s about the tenants contributing to their community and revolutionising the idea of who are the leaders and givers in our society.”
“Once you create a culture of giving, you change the way people think about social housing and it becomes a cultural movement.”
James explains that this way of designing community development and fundraising isn’t new. His design references the work of David Adamson, the founder of Deep Place methodology.
“We measure the impact of our community capacity building with tenants through an annual social outcome assessment,” James explains that this is a questionnaire, with the same questions that they have been monitoring over time. “People also tell us anecdotal stories and we always have different ways for people to tell their stories.”
Compass Housing has a number of engagement programs for their tenants including, “In the House” for which they won an Australian Business Award in 2016.
“We know we have made the right decision to invest into community infrastructure in Vanuatu and that we have a sound model to build community capacity in the South Pacific and our existing tenant community in Australia—connecting the two geographic locations through fundraising.”
“Cultures vary, but people are the same. They want to be heard and tell their story.”