Place-based approaches

One of QCOSS' four focus areas is place-based approaches.

What does this mean?

Place-based work is bringing together citizens in a place to address entrenched disadvantage and community need by harnessing the vision, resources and opportunities of community.

Place-based approaches are long term, collaborative efforts which give power to the community in guiding systemic change, and contribute to a cycle of learning about investment and impact.

Why do it?

During the recent past, the wellbeing of many people and communities has been improving. However this has not been the case for all. Some communities, some people, some families have struggled to get by and succeed. Some communities experience entrenched poverty and disadvantage. In some communities there are intractable problems that persist despite generally successful conditions. In some communities, opportunities are beckoning, but it is difficult to see how to maximise the benefits for all.

In many instances, despite the best intentions of governments, the community sector and a range of stakeholders – progress on these issues has not been made. Improvements in social and economic outcomes have not been made, the intractable problems persist and opportunities pass by.

Change is needed!

Globally, place-based approaches are being recognised as critical to responding effectively to certain community challenges and building strong, cohesive communities. There is significant evidence and a multitude of impressive stories demonstrating real change that supports this.

Why is QCOSS so committed to place based approaches?

QCOSS has worked in many parts of Queensland to tackle some of these entrenched issues using a place-based approach to build local partnerships and develop joined up, place focused and community driven responses.

The process of using a place based approach, with a focus on engaging all elements of a community, can in itself contribute to addressing issues such as social isolation and social division as well as enhance the suitability of the work to the local area by ensuring local input into local solutions.

Our experience shows us that with effective engagement, local input not only ensures participation of local groups and individuals, but an ability to develop, implement and adjust the program to meet the needs and characteristics of the local community and its environment. The diversity of local responses that emerge from this work tells us that place-based approaches are effective in generating innovative solutions to address the local experience.

QCOSS is committed to supporting the development of place based approaches through:

  • developing the collective knowledge of place based across Queensland
  • sharing and developing resources
  • advocating for government policy to support place based
  • building partnerships across the community, community sector, business and government to tackle Queensland’s biggest challenges


Common characteristics

While it could be said that any activity in a place is place-based, there are some common characteristics of what is termed a place-based approach.  The diagram below shows the common elements for place-based approaches.

They are in an agreed place
This can be less obvious than it looks and is often influenced by government boundaries or defined regions. We would argue large regions or entire states would not fall into this although such a program could include place-based work in defined areas within a region.

Engagement of local community and key stakeholders 
The most crucial element of effective place-based work is the engagement of the local community and key stakeholders. Without this, it is essentially in a place but not place based. This engagement requires a great deal of work in establishing trust and good relations with and between those involved 

Focus on assets and opportunities and respects existing structures, knowledge and efforts
Using a strengths-based approach and tapping into the knowledge, skills and resources existing in the place enables effective engagement of key players and builds sustainability.

Framework for integration of effort and measuring outcomes
Place-based work depends on coordinated and collective efforts from the key stakeholders involved. A common and integrated approach to measuring outcomes of this work is necessary to track effectiveness and ensure ongoing support.

Shared vision/addresses an agreed issue
Rather than a network or other regular form of bringing together of agencies, community and government, place-based work has a common focus on an agreed issue and shared vision. The joint approach by the various elements of a community such as local businesses, sporting clubs, community groups and services and government, enables holistic responses.

Image of the elements QCOSS includes in our place-based approach.  It is described in the text.

For QCOSS, our approach to place-based work also incorporates:

  1. Acknowledgement of country and commitment to work with Indigenous Elders and traditional owners of the place
    A key aspect of working in a ‘place’ in the Australian context is to be mindful and inclusive of the First Peoples of that land. To this end, as an integral part of the process, it is important to seek permission from Traditional Owners and elders to work in place and explore opportunities to partner in the work. This is also essential to ensure Indigenous perspectives and approaches are included in the planning and implementation of the work.

  2. A strategy for social inclusion
    Beyond the strategy for inclusion of Indigenous communities, it is also important to ensure the inclusion of those outside the mainstream of most communities. Intentional and culturally sensitive engagement is necessary to effectively include the diverse groups that make up a community. In the current political climate where division and fear seems to dominate, this work may be harder, but all the more essential.

  3. Inclusion of lived experience in all aspects of the work
    There is no doubt, social service organisations and government have a wealth of knowledge, skills and resources to contribute to place-based work. Those with lived experience of the issues also have much to contribute and provide the insight into how actions, policies and processes can, or cannot work in practice.

  4. Led and informed by local community
    One the key benefits of place-based approaches is their ability to adapt and respond to the specific needs, aspirations, assets and opportunities of the place. These things can only be identified and accessed through the active participation and direction of the local community itself.

How does QCOSS implement place-based approaches?

More detail on this process here.


What are some examples of place-based activity?

There are numerous examples and we outline them here.

Media Release QDN and QCOSS Successful ILC Grant - Changing Lives, Changing Communities
Published: May 2018
Partners, Queenslanders with Disability Network (QDN) and Queensland Council of Social Service (QCOSS) are pleased to announce their successful grant “Changing Lives, Changing Communities” under the NDIS Information, Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) National Readiness Grants (Round 2)
Report Prospect joins the QCOSS Pulse
Published: Apr 2018
In March 2018 Prospect took part in the QCOSS Pulse conversation and held a gathering with their staff. This is their story.
Strengthening our place
Published: Mar 2018
In July 2016 QCOSS partnered with QFCC to develop and implement a pilot for place-based sector development in Central Queensland. This pilot aimed to work with communities to empower local networks of services to prioritise initiatives in partnership with community.
Where are place-based activities happening?
Published: Mar 2018
These are just some of the place-based activities and projects happening in Queensland and beyond.
Changing Lives Changing Community - Townsville
Published: Mar 2018
Following the success of the Bringing the NDIS to Life in Townsville event in June 2016, we again joined forces with Queenslanders With Disability Network (QDN) and Townsville City Council (TCC) to host the next part of the conversation, Changing Lives, Changing Communities in May 2017. More than 100 people took part over two days which informed, inspired and sparked dialogue between community groups to co-design projects. Participants left feeling invigorated and with a clear sense of purpose.
Report QCOSS PULSE - Stories from Queensland Communities
Published: Mar 2018
This report is a compilation of the the QCOSS Pulse conversations we had in 20 locations across Queensland throughout the month of February.
Report Creating Thriving Communities in Queensland roundtable
Published: Feb 2018
The Creating Thriving Communities in Queensland roundtable was initiated and hosted by the Hon. Coralee O’Rourke, Minister for the Department of Communities, Disability Services and Seniors, and Mark Henley, CEO, QCOSS. The purpose of the roundtable was to bring people together, from across Australia and Queensland, to discuss the potential of place-based approaches to help build thriving communities throughout the State. This report captures the thoughts, comments and themes from the event.
How do we build our community as a place for young people to thrive?
Published: Sep 2016
We are planning a two-day exploration and idea-generation event in National Youth Week in 2017. Together we will explore the data and research and gain a deeper understanding of what is happening in our community. We will then explore what is possible and together develop responses that suit our community.
Local Champions - Southern Cross University and QCOSS - Expression of interest
Published: Sep 2016
You are invited to use your skills and networks to engage widely with your community to invite people to join us at our community session during National Youth Week in 2017.
Rockhampton and Fraser Coast Local Champions Capability Sessions
Published: Sep 2016
Access the presentation form our capability building sessions.