One of the Administrators' tasks is to design a Community Communication Strategy and the DCSCA Committee has sent the Administrators a draft Community Communication Strategy that was adopted in April 2010 by the Affiliation of Bellarine Community Associations (ABCA).
The draft Strategy was produced because for years, community associations on the Bellarine Peninsula – individually and through the collective forum of the ABCA - had levelled detailed criticisms at the City of Greater Geelong over its handling of public consultation. In 2010, the ABCA decided to go beyond criticism and to propose ways to improve the council's communications with its citizens. It submitted a draft consultation policy to the council, intending that it would be the first step in a joint effort to improve the council's consultations.
The council didn't even show the ABCA the courtesy of acknowledging receipt of the document, let alone respond substantively to it.
The DCSCA Committee has told the CoGG Administrators that the ABCA draft Strategy reflected community attitudes to community communication at the time and that it will assist them to design a contemporary community communication strategy.
When ABCA submitted its draft Strategy to the council, it accompanied it with a covering letter summarising the draft Strategy; this appears below.
ABCA draft Community Communication Strategy. Covering Letter.
The Affiliation of Bellarine Community Associations believes that the City of Greater Geelong's public communication and consultation practices could be better than they are now; and that improving them would contribute to building a vigorous local democracy. We are keen to contribute to that process and, in that spirit, we make the following two proposals:
1. The City of Greater Geelong should develop a set of protocols concerning its communication and consultation with communities and other stakeholders; and should list specific communication and consultation targets that should be met before any proposal or report is presented to a Council meeting.
2. Each proposal or report presented to a Council meeting should include a section - ‘Communication & Consultation’ - in which the authors show that they have:
(i) communicated with and consulted relevant communities and other stakeholders in accordance with the Council’s communication and consultation protocols
(ii) met the specific targets associated with those protocols.
Such protocols and targets will enable councillors to see whether and to what extent their officers have communicated and consulted with stakeholders in the manner that the Council has decided they should; and they will enable stakeholders to see whether and to what extent their views have been taken into account in a Council proposal or report.
At present, some reports and proposals to Council list and/or summarise the results of consultations, but this practice isn’t consistent. Implementing our two proposals will give continuity and consistency to the Council’s relationships with its stakeholders.
These proposals require no new spending and this alone should commend them to councillors! Indeed, we believe that making the Council’s public communication and consultation consistent with published protocols and targets will streamline officers’ work, instill new stakeholder confidence in the process and provide tangible evidence that the City of Greater Geelong listens to its constituents and wants to promote local democracy. The outcome will be that the Council's public communication and consultation will be easier and quicker (and potentially less expensive) to perform.