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The 50 Gems of George Town Municipality - Changing the Narrative through Collective Impact

What would it take to bring together local students, community leaders, Council and private industries to shine a light on the positive people and places in their community? CMM Social Change was recently in the privileged position to support and implement this exciting concept and we’d love to share some of the resultant community positivity here!

The following key elements uniquely brought this vision to life for one community:

  • The common challenges of pride in community

  • The concept of Changing the Narrative

  • The multiple benefits of being guided by community voice

  • Taking a concept and moving into action together

  • Transitioning to a long-term, community led initiative by involving the local youth


The common challenges of pride in community

Our story takes place in a beautiful coastal town in Northern Tasmania. A place wrapped in sparkling ocean views and soft white sand. Colonies of penguins chirp and waddle around heritage lighthouses whilst visitors frequent the scenic wineries and distilleries to sip, munch and delight in world class locally sourced produce.

This is the stunning George Town Municipality.

Although the draw-cards are instantly clear to any outsider such as myself, this diverse series of communities has been troubled by stigma for generations. Both in small pockets within the community, and amongst those outside the region, there has been a sense that George Town is not good enough. These reputational challenges are easily started and over time, this has been reinforced by sensationalist media and the effect has been a growing lack of pride felt by the people that live in the municipality

So how do these narratives spread, and can we do anything to change them?


The concept of Changing the Narrative

The good news, is they can shift, are shifting, and, with the right support, will build momentum and swing back into the realm of pride in place quickly!

For those of us living in Tasmania we have all witnessed a drastic shift in public narrative over the past 10 years.

By shining a light on some of the amazing opportunities and natural splendours of Tasmania, we have taken a stance against the old narrative of Tassie as a conservative backblock of Australia, and completely dismantled it. How? By simply taking the multitude of potential and gently raising it up into the broader public view.

To think that Tassie was frequently tarnished by that misrepresentation only 10 years ago is actually now rather astounding!

The conversation has changed. The very thought of Tasmania now conjures up imagery of unspoilt beauty, abundant wildlife, world class nature walks along breathtaking ocean cliffs and through majestic remnant rainforests, picturesque wineries and distilleries, art, music, architecture, festivals, fishing, dancing, laughing, relaxing, taking a breather from the hectic pace of a vastly modernised world.

This is the new narrative. A narrative built upon all that makes local Tasmanians proud of their little pocket of the world and actively strengthened every time you participate in it.

So, if we zoom back into specific communities that are still facing the challenges of stigma, how do we start to tackle this narrative?


The multiple benefits of being guided by community voice

A good place to start is asking local people “what makes them proud of their community?”

In George Town Municipality we were lucky enough to support a particularly bubbly volunteer group of diverse community members to do just that.

The Community Pride Working Group part of the local Future Impact Group (FIG), work for and are guided by their community. But rather than just “starting projects” based on their own experiences and opinions, they took the time to get into community and actually speak to people; lots of people.

Over 500 conversations with locals later, they were starting to understand what people were proud of and what positive changes they wanted to see in their community. All the while slowly mobilising a workforce for change and sparking a new dialogue… “What makes me proud to live in my community?”

Once they’d pounded the pavement, and actively reached out to collect conversations from all demographics, we helped them analyse the data and found some clear emerging themes.

From then on they had direction. They had armed themselves with the voice of their community and would use it to guide every project thereafter.

Starting with community voice helped them to:

  • Accurately understand the priorities of their community

  • Authentically speak on behalf of community - not swayed by vested interest or the loudest voices in the room

  • Connect the dots of likeminded groups and mobilise a workforce for positive change

  • Build a data baseline of pride that can be measured against over time

The message from community was clear. There was a challenge with pride in this place.

But, the answers were now clear too… People were proud of so many amazing people, places and things, we just had to gently raise them up into the public conversation. Re-claiming the narrative would take a range of actions over time, but the first major effort quickly became clear……

Enter the “50 Gems of George Town Municipality…


Taking a concept and moving into action together

The Gems is a community-led multimedia project that shines a light on everything that inspires pride in a lively, engaged and beautiful part of Tasmania.

Each episode spends roughly two and half minutes exploring natural wonders, hearing from loveable local legends and showcasing inspirational community groups.

With an injection of funding from a like-minded local council, we worked with the Community Pride Working Group to create the first 11 pilot episodes (linked below) to launch the project.

But we didn’t want to stop there. Changing the Narrative takes time and needs to be owned by community…


Transitioning to a long-term, community led initiative by involving the local youth

So, with sustainability in mind, the Community Pride Working Group set about connecting the dots… Securing additional funds and videography equipment from local industry Bell Bay Aluminium, collaborating with a local school, Port Dalrymple, with staff support from Beacon Foundation, some volunteer hours and the creation of a playbook, capacity building and technical support from CMM, we set about creating the 50 Gems class!

Over the course of 10 separate lessons, with a lot of work in between, the 50 Gems Class guided 6 eager young minds through:

  • Understanding the concept of changing the narrative;

  • Identifying what makes them proud of George Town Municipality;

  • Learning how to use the industry-standard hardware with the help of some special guests from Channel 7

  • Reaching out to conduct the interviews and attain footage; and

  • Editing the final products!

It was quite a bit ask! But the students rose to the challenge and had a lot of laughs whilst doing so. The project was a huge success; it was launched by the Premier Peter Gutwein in March and is in the early stages of bringing a new class through the course at Port Dalrymple high school again this year.

Not only did the 6 students create another brilliant 3 Gems videos, but they were also part of a larger community initiative that included local council, local industries and community groups working together. In other words, it was a glimpse of the real world; a world in which they could actively participate, inform and help shape!

Outside of the controlled nature of the education system lies the world beyond. The 50 Gems Class offered these 6 young students tangible experience of meaningful pathways in a variety of different directions. This was reflected by the fact that 5 of the 6 students went on to do media studies as an elective in year the following year. One of them even exclaiming that she “wants to be the next Michael Moore!”

So, by actively seeking to hear the voices of their community, an energetic and diverse range of volunteers have collaborated with all levels of the system to take back control of their future and change the narrative of their community for the better.

Already we are seeing signs of the dialogue change, people are starting to stand up and proudly articulate the many wonderful reasons why they choose to live in George Town. And why wouldn’t you?

Here at CMM Social Change we are so grateful to have been able to support such a multifaceted initiative get off the ground and are extremely excited to see where it leads!

Next time someone asks you about the George Town Municipality in Northern Tasmania, tell them about the 50 Gems of George Town and take part in changing a public narrative for the better!

Please spend some time exploring the 50 Gems class and some examples of this exciting new community project here:

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