Mentee: Britt Gregory – North Central CMA
Mentor: Tony Baker – Wimmera CMA
This project has come about through an interest in understanding new, innovative ways to attract, motivate and engage the local community in valuing and taking action to protect urban waterways and nature, and in turn for the community to reap the benefits of time spent in nature. Community engagement and implementing action can be tricky business, particularly attracting and retaining volunteers in our time-poor society.
Britt initially reached out to join the twinning program with a view to seek out alternative ways of motivating her local community, beyond the traditional ‘friends group’ model. With strong links to her role at the North Central CMA, her employer supported Britt to undertake this development opportunity.
Britt’s key goal was to learn new, innovative methods of engagement and to be able to incorporate those into a community engagement plan. “Ultimately, I want to improve my success in fostering environmental advocacy and stewardship for the benefit of my local environment as well as the health of my local community”.
Tony’s main goals were learning and developing his skills in mentoring. He hoped that his mentee would also meet their goals and have confidence in the process and project. Tony was also keen to ensure we had fun!
The project visioning exercise undertaken early on was helpful in several ways. It acted as a bit of an introductory ‘icebreaker’ for the mentor relationship and helped us to identify what the project was really trying to achieve:
The local community and broader Bendigo city appreciate the Spring Gully Reserve for its outstanding natural values so close to the city centre. They protect and continue to improve the ecological health of the site and see it as a valuable resource for the city. The site contributes to the health and wellbeing of the community and the variety of native species that live there.
During the program, we caught up from time to time over the phone when it suited both of us. We also met on site at Spring Gully to discuss the project which gave Tony some real insight into the challenges facing the site but also Britt’s passion for it. We also met one final time in the NCCMA office when Tony was over for another meeting.
Tony’s focus was on asking Britt questions about the project and how she felt about progress. He also focussed on talking about examples and experiences rather than giving his opinion about how things should be done.
Britt asked many questions and enjoyed researching different models of engagement. One that stood out was a program highlighting principles of pride, which inspires community-led change that lasts. It identifies the inherent link between pride and behaviour. “This really resonates with me and is something I have adapted for the scale of my project”.
The project has resulted in development of a Community Engagement Plan for the reserve, with a view to implement in coming years. The plan may also act as a ‘blue print’ for future projects of a similar nature in other areas.
“The thing that has stuck with me the most from the program is how powerful storytelling can be, and the importance of starting with the ‘why’. This is something I have already been putting into practice as well as observing others using this technique. This is a tool that can be used in many situations but is particularly useful when trying to gain the trust and understanding of a community you are trying to motivate.”
“There is a big difference between a mentor and a coach and it can sometime be challenging to stay in the mentor role. It’s also important to understand your why in everything you do. It gives clarity and purpose.”
What did we personally gain from the waterway management twinning program?
“Not only did I establish a great relationship with my mentor but am now part of a wider group, the twinning crew, with such a broad range of knowledge and skills. I would feel confident to get in touch with anyone in the network if needed. This has been a refreshingly ‘gentle’ program too, not too intensive or exhausting and with plenty of time for networking and reflection. The ongoing mindfulness program is a real bonus too and something I have been enjoying implementing in my everyday life.”
“I was grateful for the opportunity to practice mentoring skills in a safe environment. Britt was understanding that I was somewhat new to this and she made it easy for me to give it a go.
I was happy to see Britt’s confidence grow during the process. The growth in her understanding of the project meant she became very confident in presenting what it was about.
I was also grateful for the expanded network that this has provided me.”