My Logo: Why a Kookaburra?

 

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Why a kookaburra in my logo?

Kookaburra energy is strong, bold energy. Living a solitary life in a harsh tropical bush location while I was researching for my PhD, I encountered a kookaburra who made a strong impression. It was March 1992. A male kookaburra flew in close to my shack in the forest. He settled on a tree branch about five metres away and called out–laughing and screeching. It seemed like an announcement, a `bulletin’ or some sort of `instruction’. Following his visit, my life changed dramatically. Difficult situations and relationships resolved.

I bring this catalytic energy to my professional work as a trainer, speaker, facilitator, planner and community engagement professional, often embodying kookaburra energy.

When we work with kookaburra energy, we pay close attention to opportunities. Believing that `listening is the social policy of everyday life’, I guide my clients to listen carefully – to themselves, their colleagues and to their communities. Messages from our inner kookaburra can help us decide which path to follow. As we find ourselves questioning our roles within both our communities and professional spheres, we can receive guidance about connections and relationships from kookaburra energy. Kookaburra advises us to respect other and seek respect in our work. Kookaburra’s positive energy supports professional insight, commitment and growth. Evoking kookaburra energy can create a ripple effect that invites positive changes.

Those who choose to work in this way may discover that a difficult professional journey is ending. New professional and community growth may already be flourishing. Kookaburra advises us to end old patterns that are no longer helpful by asking why we developed them in the first place.


Our workplaces are often sparse and barren places that are inhospitable to creativity and positive working relationships. When reflect that barrenness in our work with communities, the results can be disastrous. Working with kookaburra energy as professionals, we can learn to conquer fears and in turn, farewell ineffective, old patterns. Then we can be more open to suggestions from others, including community members.

The home-focused and deeply loyal kookaburra helps us hear challenging `home’ truths, as well as recognising our own capacities and strengths. In turn, we can aid others in recognising and acting on their truths. Community engagement, based on “deep listening” is kookaburra work. Working with kookaburra energy, we may find ourselves listening to others and teaching them by sharing our passions and beliefs.


While one of its lessons is to `lighten up’, look on the bright side and laugh at our foibles, kookaburra energy can be highly confrontational, teaching harsh lessons. This provocative work challenges our assumptions about how professionals should think and act – particularly in community engagement contexts. Always remember to be respectful. That is the most powerful message of the kookaburra’s proud energy.


I live in the bush and these marvellous birds live all around me – or rather, I live within and among them.

For me, kookaburra is the wise, loyal one, the remover of obstacles, who cuts through confusion and uncertainty and helps us find our way. Complexity and bafflement can melt away following the strong `announcement’ of a laughing bird. You simply cannot ignore that sort of commotion.  Once she’s here, on our side, so to speak, things are bound to improve.

She’s many things to me, kookaburra. She’s a mirror of my self.

As a wise and experienced professional, I could be many things to you.

 

 

Source: Partly adapted from: www.wildspeak.com/animalenergies/kookaburra.htm

Karl feeding Guy, 2011

Karl feeding Guy, 2011

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Reflecting as a CPTED Practitioner on Harvard and Yale

 

Harvard Yard February 2013

 

 

Spending February teaching at the Graduate School of Design (GSD) at Harvard sparked all sorts of thoughts in me about pedestrian safety.

 

And a day at Yale and in New Haven, Connecticut confirmed that I did not feel safe there as a female pedestrian. Reflecting as a CPTED Practitioner policing and street safety at on Harvard and Yale really made me question the wisdom of intensive policing.

 



See my guest blog for Greg Saville’s SafeGrowth Blogspot:

 

https://safe-growth.blogspot.com.au/2013/04/boston-terror-reality-of-street-life.html

 

Many thanks to Greg, my colleague and friend of nearly 20 years.

What is Community Engagement?

 

kb face painting kasey close

I wonder… wonder I do…

Sometimes I think we spend too much time agonising about community engagement and not enough time actually getting on with the job. We agonise about definitions of community and whether there is really any such thing as one, geographical community.

 

And then there’s engagement. Is it different from communication, consultation. Or empowerment?

 

Like my hero, Sixto Rodriguez, “I wonder, I wonder… wonder I do…”

 

 

 



An excellent blog

However, if you really want to read about the debate, here is an excellent blog:

https://sustainingcommunity.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/what-is-community-engagement/?goback=.gde_43838_member_231016217

 

NIMBY psychology at Harvard University February 2013

 

NIMBY psychology comes to Harvard — from Australia!

 

February was an exciting month for me. I spent it teaching in the Graduate School of Design (GSD) at Harvard University and giving lectures and classes at MIT and Tufts University.

 

It was exceptionally cold for a person who lives in the sub-tropics. A huge blizzard dumped 20 inches of show on Boston days after I arrived.

 

 
Harvard in February. Brrr!

 

The highlight of my month-long visit was a   lunch-time lecture for the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University on 22 February.

 

I spoke about the relationships between environmental psychology and community resistance to housing density increases to an audience in the iconic Gund Hall, which houses the Graduate School of Design.

 

See: https://www.gsd.harvard.edu/#/events/what-s-psychology-got-to-do-with-nimby-with-wendy-sarkissian.html

 

Gund Hall, Harvard University

 

NIMBY

 

Throughout the Western world and especially in Australia, we are seeing strong initiatives to increase housing density to achieve sustainability initiatives. Paralleling these types of initiatives are concerns about the social impacts of higher density housing, confirmed by a widespread Australian research and a recent visit to Canada. Even in Hong Kong, there are community concerns about housing density increases. Where governments have mandated housing density increases, the results have not always been positive.

 

The much-lauded CityPlan community engagement process in Vancouver, Canada, resulted in a strong support for housing density in the late 1990s and early years of this century, (with planners believing that they had converted NIMBY to YIMBY (“Yes in My Back Yard”). However, currently a strong community backlash in Vancouver reveals that these gains were short-lived. After tens of millions of dollars spent on community engagement about density increases, residents and others are strongly opposing further housing density increases.

 

In many Western cities, the early optimism of what community engagement could deliver with respect to housing density increases has faded. The irony is that success in this arena is much more important that it was in earlier decades as the pressures of Peak Oil and climate change begin to be felt more powerfully by communities and governments.

 

So, if density increases are needed and resistance is increasing, what is the answer? What really is at the core of peoples’ concerns? Which approaches might work to engage communities with the issues of housing density?

 

What if we could achieve our sustainability and housing density goals without causing community unrest, dissatisfaction – even uproar?

 

Could communities respond positively to density increases under the appropriate conditions?

 

I believe that all of that is possible. But we must understand more about the psychology of housing to be effective.

 

We need to appreciate why governments must continue to campaign for increased housing density. It’s as though these two initiatives are at opposite ends of a spectrum. Yet they are connected by the very concerns that seem to place proponents of density increases at loggerheads with community members.

 

Caring

 

The issue that unites them is caring. Governments who care about the future of communities are alert to the many signs that automobile dependence and urban sprawl are expensive and ecologically unsustainable artefacts of a bygone era. We can no longer afford low-density suburbs. (Actually, we never could but we thought we could.)

 

Similarly, community members who care about the future of their communities are concerned that clumsy and ill-considered initiatives will make neighbourhoods unliveable cauldrons of noise, traffic congestion, parking problems. They will have no environmental quality. Some even say: `the slums of the future’.

So, if everyone cares, where’s the problem and what is the secret?

 

A key to understanding these conflicts (occurring in our communities today) is to understand more about housing. It’s not merely `product’, as some developers say. It’s more than a `commodity’ as economists would say. For some, it’s everything: a haven, a nest, protection, security”¦ many qualities that have little or nothing to do with density, tenure or whether one’s name is on the mortgage document”¦

 

Home is a deeply archetypal concept. Humans aer animals and, like other animals, we are hard-wired to protect our territory, the “territorial core” of our home. It’s complicated and that’s partly why people’s responses to a threat to their housing often get so very `complicated’. Our Homing Instinct is a deep-seated desire to protect what is personal, precious and `home’.

 

The psychology of place and housing

 

 

Here’s a link to the Harvard lecture and the PowerPoint presentation:

 

https://www.jchs.harvard.edu/event/what%E2%80%99s-psychology-got-do-nimby-exploring-deeper-meanings-community-resistance-proposed-housing

 

Social planning was having a good month!   The lecture was also picked up by the real estate blog, The Fifth Estate: Our Planet, Our Real Estate:

 

https://www.thefifthestate.com.au/archives/45397/

 

Here’s the lecture in a Word document:

 

Sarkissian Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies lecture 22 February 2013_revised for web

 

Many sincere thanks to Eric Belsky and his colleagues of the Joint Center for generous support and hospitality and to Professor Ann Forsyth of the GSD.

 

NIMBY Psychology: Lunch-time Colloquium, Tufts University, 6 February 2013

6 February 2013

What’s Psychology Got to Do with NIMBY?:   Exploring the Deeper Meanings of Community Resistance to Proposed Housing Density Increases



tufts banner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I spent several hours teaching and meeting with facultry at Tufts University during my month in Boston.

 

My hosts included Julian Aygeman, Weiping Wu, Penn Loh and Laurie Goldman PhD (pictured below), with whom I also taught a n evening class on community engagement and community visioning.

 

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This was my first Boston lecture and I was thrilled to be speaking in the lecture hall with its beautiful architectural features.

 

It was winter outside, to be sure, as you can see from the white light streaming in the windows.

 

Little did we know what was to come with the Big Blizzard that arrived that weekend with twenty inches of snow!

 

 

 

In this lunchtime session, I returned to my “psychological” roots to explore the social and psychological dimensions of housing, to ask what’s missing in higher density housing in North America and Australia and why NIMBYism might even be warranted in some cases.

 

Offering my Homing Instinct model, I proposed that if we are to design community engagement processes to address delicate, sensitive psychological issues about our core territories, we are going to have to start by showing a lot more love, care and emotional intelligence than we have in the past.

Jane Munro

I began my presentation with a powerful poem, “Grief Notes and Animal Dreams”, by a dear friend of over 60 years, Canadian poet, Jane Munro.

 

See: https://janemunro.com/biography.html

 

Jane Munro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jane Munro

The poem is from a beautiful book by the same name.

 

See:   https://www.amazon.com/Grief-Notes-Animal-Dreams-Munro/dp/0919626823




Grief Notes and Animal Dreams

Jane’s father built a log house for his family in Vancouver and the fire that burned down the house killed Jane’s mother.

The grief and guilt associated with the fire killed her father.


I read Jane’ poem because artists speak to us about what we often cannot express ourselves about significant relationships.
In this case, relationships with home.



I offered Jane’s poem as an illustration of the passionate relationship we can have with our housing – exemplified by a poet’s words.

 

 

If you’d like to receive a copy of my PowerPoint to this colloquium, please email me, as it’s too large to put up here.

 

[email protected]

Emotions Count in Community Engagement

Emotions Count 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




There’s lots of discussion about emotion in community engagement these days.

 

Maybe that’s because we’ve ignored this important component for decades.

 

Adelaide’s independent newspaper, InDaily, recommends, following an interview with me last week, that we “consider emotion in community engagement.”

 

The difficulty is that in many community engagement circles, and especially among those practitioners in the “risk-aversion” category (and their colleagues and clients), emotion is seen as a negative thing, often associated with “outrage” and something to be avoided.

 

But emotion is not always outrage. Or outrageous. Sometimes it’s soft and sweet. Sometimes it’s passionate and daring. Sometimes it’s hopeful.

 

And sometimes it’s untrusting.

 

Emotion is only energy.

 

It’s natural and instinctive, like the human desire for territorial control. And if you find energy in a community engagement context, you don’t have to drum it up.

You have something — something energetic — to work with!   Emotions count in community engagement

 

See: https://iaf-oceania.org/emotion-and-outrage-when-facilitating-community-engagement/

 

The Energy Wheel

 

In my work, I use a diagnostic tool called the “Energy Wheel” to assess the emotional state of people in a community, a community group or an organisation.   It gives me a way of working out what’s necessary. What might work.   In a “cool negative”   community, for example, you might have literally   to”light a fire” under people to get them going — to get them involved.

 

Stories in a Park in Eagleby, Queensland

 

We’ve done that in a now-famous project in Eagleby in southeastern Queensland. And the results were transformational!

 

Here is a summary of some aspects of that creative approach to community engagement and community development:

Stories in a Park final journal article 2005   Please email me for more details about the Eagleby project.

 

The Energy Wheel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can read more about the Energy Wheel in my book, Kitchen Table Sustainability.

 

See:  https://www.amazon.com/Kitchen-Table-Sustainability-Practical-Engagement/dp/1844076148

“Realising the Revolution”: Medium-Density Housing in Queensland by Bridget Rogan and Fran Toomey

First posted June 8, 2012 – 3:21 pm

 

Two Brisbane Planners Call for a “Revolutionary” Approach to Increasing Housing Density:

Realising the Revolution?

 

 

In a recent paper to the Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) Queensland conference, Bridget Rogan and Fran Toomey of the Council of Mayors (SEQ) presented the results of work in progress on the strategic importance of medium-density housing in their region.

Their paper, “Liveable Compact Cities: Realisation of the Revolution”, is very helpful in understanding the reasons behind the strong resistance to medium-density housing in Queensland (and elsewhere).

 

https://www.planning.org.au/documents/item/3246

 

What are they saying?

 

Deconstructing this paper – and especially its very precise and specific language – can offer guidance for planners and policy makers about how to proceed with density increases.

 

And how not to proceed.

 

In their paper, Rogan and Toomey (2011) call for the “realisation of the revolution”.

 

So what is a `revolution’?

 

a forcible overthrow or repudiation and the thorough replacement of an established government or political system by the people governed.

Or at the very least “¦ a paradigm shift.

 

 

While they are not explicit about what the `revolution’ might be, it is clear that the revolution is a revolution in land-use planning with the battle for medium-density housing at the forefront of the conflict. The project they report on, the Liveable Compact Cities Project, sponsored by the Federal Government, explores policy, practice and the housing market. It aims to increase housing affordability.

 

But the real revolution that is to be realised is not housing affordability per se. It is a massive project to increase density in housing in Southeast Queensland.

 

The Nub of the Issue

 

Here, encoded in what appears to be an innocent conference paper, is the nub of the issue confronting us today as planners and policy makers. While on the one hand, governments tell us that here is nothing `revolutionary’ about higher density housing, on the other hand, their language publicly promotes it to “realise the revolution’.

 

This is exactly what local people and people in low-density communities are afraid of: “the revolution”.

 

Do people want the `revolution’?

 


A wide body of research confirms that local people, when they consider their housing and public spaces do not want “the revolution”. They want homes in suburbs like everyone else.

 

The Hall of Shame

 

They do not want avant-garde or `revolutionary’ architecture or parks and open spaces like the shockingly `revolutionary’ Parc de la Villette in Paris, with sculptures, structures, places and “community art” they cannot relate to.

 

The American Project for Public Spaces has inducted that `revolutionary’ park into their “Hall of Shame” for Public Spaces and its list of “the worst parks in the world”.

(See https://www.pps.org/great_public_spaces/one?public_place_id=369)

 

Parc de la Villette: Realising the Revolution?

 

Rather than “realising the revolution”, planners and policy makers would be wise to consider what is not revolutionary about good medium-density housing.

 

How we can re-interpret the tried-and-true, successful even archetypal elements of housing design and the design of the spaces between buildings to achieve a high level of `congruence’ or `fit’ between the residents and their housing environments.

 

This need not be a battle or a conflict.

 

Definitely not a `revolution’.

 

What works and what doesn’t work are well known. Less well known are the complex dynamics of humans’ relationships with their domestic environments.

 

A very positive response to my paper on 22 February 2013 to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University indicates that rather than a   harsh,   top-down, “imposing” and perhaps “revolutionary” approach advocated by activists and others in positions of planning authority, such as Bridget Rogan and Fran Toomey, a much gentler and more sensitive “psychological” approach could yield better results.

 

A ‘revolutionary’ approach will only inflame NIMBY-ite responses and is completely counter-productive.

 

See:   Joint Center for Housing Studies

 

https://www.jchs.harvard.edu/event/what%E2%80%99s-psychology-got-do-nimby-exploring-deeper-meanings-community-resistance-proposed-housing

 

 

The Fifth Estate: Our Planet, Our Real Estate

 

https://www.thefifthestate.com.au/archives/45397/

 

To contact these authors and hear more about the revolution they propose:

 

Council of Mayors (SEQ)

Level 6, Hitachi Building,
239 George Street, BRISBANE QLD 4001
PO Box 12995, GEORGE STREET QLD 4003
Tel 07 3040 3460
Fax 07 3211 5889

 

Better Together? Let’s Get Practical!

 

Better together senior mgmt

 

 

 

 

 

 



Better Together

 

Last week, an Adelaide-based colleague gave me a copy of Better Together: Principles of Engagement, just published by the South Australian Government.

 

 

You can read about it at:

 

https://saplan.org.au/yoursay and

https://saplan.org.au/better_together

 

You can also comment. I tried to do that but could not understand how to do it.

 

A good idea

Still, a good idea and a tick for trying.

 

As I was  preparing a public lecture on community engagement in South Australia, I opened it with great enthusiasm and read it with care. In it, the Premier spoke about breaking down barriers to genuine engagement and that public servants feel that they don’t have permission to engage. They need to try new ways. My shoulders relaxed: a very promising start.

 

I needed to remind myself, as a person who hasn’t lived in Adelaide for many years, that this is an initiative of a state government eager to remedy many of the community engagement weaknesses of the previous state government. And yes, there is a lot of catching up to do. All my South Australian planning and engagement colleagues admit that. And there’s considerable embarrassment − verging on shame −in the planning profession and in government circles about some of the high-profile debacles of recent years.

 

It’s like a Leviathan

Gustav Dore, 1865

Gustav Dore, 1865

It’s also easy to attack a large target. Bringing the Leviathan of state government in line with leading practice of community engagement is a formidable talk.

 

But it’s not rocket science, either.

 

We must remember that it’s 2013 now and community engagement is a well-established field internationally, with its leading practice, methods, principles, discourses, territories, philosophies and gurus. Australia leads the way in much of this professional work. There is also a lot of expert help around, especially in South Australia. In my view, most of our best engagement practitioners are in South Australia.

 

It’s important to be up-to-date with community engagement. Policies and approaches no longer need to be brainstormed or invented from first principles. That’s sort of a waste of time and suggests that there may be nothing local or relevant to build on…

 

There is a frontier. We know where it is.

 

 

It’s long and many of us — and many excellent people in South Australia — are working at the growing edge.

 

Back to Better Together

 

I read with satisfaction that lots of people have been involved in the workshopping and design of this publication. Big tick.

 

However, as I read on, I wondered where the engagement specialists in South Australia were when this work was being undertaken”¦ Were they consulted? I doubt it, from the somewhat simplistic approaches in the document, contrasting markedly with the sophistication of much of the on-the-ground work being undertaken in South Australia.

 

Members of the Senior Management Council (pictured: one lone woman) spoke of their desire to foster a debate-and-decide approach, which, I guess, is a step up from the ever present “DAD” (“Decide-Announce-Defend”) approach that characterised much of previous state government engagement. They want to ensure that the public service has the skills to undertake high-quality engagement processes. Tick.

 

It was encouraging to see a distinction between communities and stakeholders, as many people confuse the two terms.

 

IAP2 Spectrum

 

This document aims to assist in engagement with those who are directly affected and who have personal and professional interests in an issue. The model uses is the IAP2 Spectrum. Again, a tick for a respectable, respected and commonly used model.

 

The aim is continuous improvement. Unfortunately, some old-fashioned words (such as “audience” and “expectation management”) slipped though the editing net. Perhaps, in the next version, “audience” will become “partners”?

 

I heard a hopeful tone to the emphasis on reaching community leaders and influencers. And a plea not to “forget local government”. (As if we’d dare!)

 

Importantly, one should know the history and backgrounds of any engagement situation before starting out. Be wary of over engagement and engagement fatigue. Another big tick, even if it’s somewhat stating the obvious.

 

Being genuine

 

Being genuine is one of the guiding principles. Personally, I think it’s safer to specify behaviour than character traits. As an ethicist, I find that virtue ethics is hard to evaluate. And being genuine is very hard to do in some situations. But it’s an admirable aspiration nonetheless. Another tick.

 

Being creative also gained a guernsey although it was hard to say how that might occur. The literature on creativity in community engagement is clearly yet to be mined by the authors. Next step, I guess.

 

But a tick for effort. I am looking forward to examples of creativity in the next edition.

 

For some guidance on what to read, see: https://sarkissian.com.au/publications/community-engagement-books-by-wendy-sarkissian/creative-community-planning/

 

Social media gained a look-in as it should, as did evaluation, but with little mention of the complex and ongoing discourses regarding evaluation in community engagement. Still, it’s good advice to get in touch with people and be part of a regular mailing list. Medium-sized tick.

 

Even Better”¦

 

I was hungry for more when I came to the last page, relishing the stylish graphics and lots of white space.

 

Maybe in the next version of this promising publication, we could hear something about what’s missing.

 

Children and young people

 

pk camera darlene 2

I could find not a single word about engagement with children and/or young people.

 

Cultural diversity did not get a look-in.

 

 

 

 

Influence

 

Matters high on the agendas of communities and practitioners (and dominating professional journals and conversations of practitioners like me, as well as in local government), such as inclusion, influence and representativeness, were missing entirely.

 

The path-breaking, evidence-based work by Roz Lasker and John Guidry on influence by marginalised groups in community engagement (Engaging the Community in Decision Making, 2010) deserves a mention.

See: https://www.amazon.com/Engaging-Community-Decision-Making-Participation/dp/078644312X

 

There was no consideration of governance issues, including accountability and the structures needed to incorporate communities and their precious local information and local knowledges into decision making. People want more than having their “input” taken “on board”.

 

National and international polices with which the contents of this publication might align are yet to be identified. Sophisticated approaches to evaluation are yet to come, including the simple (but powerful) notion of using formative as well as summative evaluation.

 

Resources

 

Community planning.net

It’d be good in the next edition to have links to some leading-practice websites, such as Nick Wates’s generous community planning handbook and website, community planning net:

https://www.communityplanning.net/

 

Another great source is People and Participation.net:

See: https://www.involve.org.uk/people-and-participation-5-years-on/

It’s changed after five years and is now www.participationcompass.org

 

 

 

peopleandparticipation.net

 

And where to go for help?

 

That’s yet to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As is advice about tying this approach to local government plans and polices.

 

So, from a practitioner looking for guidance: some middle-sized ticks for beautiful graphics, a smashing video and clear, plain language.

 

And a deep sigh of disappointment that in this day and age − with such urgent planning problems facing us − the wisdom of practice appears to be ignored. Not consulted.

 

The community of practice

 

If you’d like to join the community of practice, you can email David Speirs: [email protected]

 

I’ve done that already.

 

A modest proposal

 

In the next edition, I’d like to see more respect paid to the existing community of community engagement practice in Australia and especially in South Australia. I’d like to see the next edition acknowledge the wide community engagement literature from practice and theory and the range of professional discourses. A wise approach would be to embed this work in leading practice and align it with the work of community engagement professionals. And it’d be helpful to offer more practical advice. A bit less spin and a bit more substance could work well.

 

I can think of dozens of people who’d be willing to help get it right, me included.


Postscript: a bouquet

After an excellent discussion with the Deputy Premier, Minister for Planning, John Rau, about this matter in late May and a meeting with Department staff, I am encouraged. I feel as though the Government is now listening — and especially listening to the voices of engagement specialists in South Australia.

I promised no more brickbats.

Oil Painting tulips



Consider this a bouquet!

Wendy Sarkissian on Nimby Psychology at The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, Adelaide, 29 May 2013

HawkeCntr_Ownlogo_col_12_01-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NIMBY psychology is coming to Adelaide!

 

On 29th May at 6 pm, I will be presenting on NIMBY psychology at a free public lecture at the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre at the University of South Australia.

The lecture is free but seating is lmited so you must register to attend.

 

Details

 

Please click here for details:

 

https://w3.unisa.edu.au/hawkecentre/events/2013events/Wendy_Sarkissian.asp

Allan Scott Auditorium,  UniSA City West campus, Hawke Building level 3, 55 North Terrace, Adelaide

5.30pm for a 6pm start

 

To register

To register for this free lecture, please follow the links above.



Abstract


Here is the abstract of the presentation:

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

NIMBY responses to higher density housing: It’s all in your mind

Why is there such strong community resistance to proposals for higher density housing in Adelaide’s neighbourhoods?

Aren’t people just being unreasonable and ignoring the need to make our cities more sustainable?  

Isn’t Adelaide’s 30-Year Plan what we must have to be sustainable – despite community resistance?

 

Australian social planner and ethicist Dr Wendy Sarkissian, who has lived and worked in Adelaide for many years, believes that so-called NIMBY responses to housing density increases are both reasonable and helpful. And she’s been testing her theories in workshops in Canada, the USA and Australia. Recently, she spoke about this topic to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.

 

Dr Sarkissian argues that neighbours are resisting proposed higher density housing because humans, like all animals, are hard-wired to protect our territories. Further, the `core territory’ of home is one to which we have the strongest place attachment. It has strong symbolic as well as psychological importance.

 

Naturally, instinctively, we will defend our homes and neighbourhoods at all cost.

 

That means that unless planners, designers, governments and developers understand and respect this `instinctive’ response, the battles will continue. And unless community engagement approaches are sensitive to the deeply emotional nature of these responses, those processes will fail to support sustainability initiatives.

 

Proposing her “Homing Instinct” approach to housing design and community engagement, Wendy argues that two things need to change. We need housing that is more `home-like’.   And we need community engagement processes that reflect greater emotional intelligence than the processes we currently employ.

 

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

For further details, please contact me at 0402 966 284 or at [email protected]

 

Media coverage:

https://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/social-planning-expert-wendy-sarkissian-to-speak-on-state-governments-30-year-plan-at-hawke-institute-forum/story-e6frea83-1226622388277?from=public_rss

 

NIMBY psychology image

Criticisms of community engagement

Ach, du Schreck!

 

It’s a worry!

 

I’ve explained before that community engagement – especially with sustainability – is not an easy task.

 

Many people argue that it is problematic and can actually hurt those it most intends to benefit.

 

So let’s just have a quick look at some of the major criticisms. I’d love to hear comments back and maybe we can prepare a good list of responses.

 

And then figure out how to make better processes happen in our communities.

 

Please make a comment in the box below or contact me at [email protected]

 

Thanks!

Valid criticisms of community engagement include:

  • Lack of political and technical prowess among community groups makes them easy prey for co-optation by politicians or bureaucrats;
  • In engagement situations, a non-representative interest group may be able to manipulate the decision-making process towards its own ends;
  • Lack of expertise, inertia and fear of the results of new or novel ideas may induce opposition to whatever is proposed and only preserve the status quo;
  • Interest groups may veto each other’s proposals because it is always easier to organise resistance than to reach agreement;
  • The short-sightedness of local groups may prevent or delay formulation or implementation of broader plans; and
  • Non-participants will always form the bulk of the population. On these grounds, radical planners suggest that engagement is a diversion from the primary goal, that of changing society’s institutions.

 

What do YOU think of this list?