Amidst the current Australian federal election campaigns we are inundated daily with meaningless throwaway captions and media-grab slogans. Frankly, almost without exception they sell short the whole process of electing a government to steer our country through some probable headwinds over the next few years.

So upon reflection I’m just a tad embarrassed that in preparation for a professional presentation this week I found myself searching for a snappy slogan that would encapsulate the professional passion around which I have built my community development business, that concentrates in the main upon new urban-fringe communities.

I decided that “Tapping Community Soul” was about as close as I could get. Let’s call it “TCS” to stay on-theme with the election cycle media-grab thing!

For me, TCS is the mantra by which all parties involved in the production of new residential developments should approach their work, to help those streets of countless new dwellings evolve into welcoming, functional, resilient and self-supporting places. “Soul” of a new community exists in the various aspirations and hopes of new residents but is at its most powerful when reflected in an aggregated “community” form.

The evolution of community soul does not depend upon cultural or age homogeneity. A wide breadth of views, diverse opinions and inevitable disagreements sit comfortably with the notion. What is important is that all residents feel that they have a sense of ownership, some control over their destiny and pride in the feel, culture and pitch of a new place.

In many of my presentations I find myself reaching back into my “go-to” kit-bag and using the classic Australian movie The Castle as a reference point for what I am trying to convey. The “vibe” – the memorable term used by the fumbling suburban lawyer Dennis Denuto in his court representation of the Kerrigan family’s case – is possibly the most powerful Australian-ism available, to describe this intangible sense of community soul.

My simple message to the industry that both sustains me (for which I feel most privileged) and inflames my passion – not always in a good way!- is as follows:

By concentrating on the evolution of a happy and contented community “vibe” as an over-arching objective of our work, we will grow to better understand that community soul is not delivered in a series of high-profile transactions or (albeit welcome), the fanciest facilities. Nor can it be instilled through the short-term efforts of a few employees.

The essence of community soul and contentment is that it comes from within the hearts and minds of those who reside in that place. The Kerrigan family are a recognisable symbol of this. Our collective responsibility is to take the time to tap into that latent community soul and bring forth its “vibe”. That is Community Development 101.

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