21 Dec 2020

Knowing and helping our neighbours in times of need is a fundamental Australian value, but have we lost sight as our lives become further consumed by work and family?

COVID-19 has seen us spending more time in our local community. During the shutdowns and restrictions, we have observed community networks pop up in suburbs and towns to support us in staying connected, safe and well in our homes. This renewal of community values and initiatives may well be an unexpected yet welcome outcome arising from the pandemic, but we must explore how we can continue to build and sustain strong local communities.

The Waverton Hub, located in the suburb of the same name in Sydney’s lower North Shore is an outstanding example of a strong community network that has had remarkable success. Our evaluation and Social Return on Investment report provided strong, independent evidence that the Waverton Hub has achieved an enormous amount in a very short time, including.

  • Creating a total social and economic impact of $7.32 for every $1 invested in the organisation through real funding and members contributing their time
  • Generating a net benefit of $813,853 each year to the Waverton community
  • Winning support from members, non-members, local businesses, and local services
  • Being highly valued by its members

The Hub does not employ any staff. It is not located in any physical premise. It is not funded by government grants, except for a contribution from North Sydney Council. The community hub is run by and for older people in the community, although others are welcome to attend certain events and activities. It is a membership organisation run totally by and for local community members, who each pay a small annual fee. Members gain access to almost 40 different activities in their local community. Activities make full use of the local community parks, clubs and cafes, the local hall, and even people’s homes.

One resident declared the Hub creates “a sense of belonging to a happy and lively community.” This would be one of the Hub’s greatest achievements, ensuring members feel comfortable calling on friends in the neighbourhood for assistance. Participation in Hub activities has also heightened awareness of local support services, while also improving people’s physical health and helping them develop new skills and interests. Members say they feel more secure, confident, optimistic, as well as more independent. The Hub has even established a Memorandum of Understanding with local businesses and providers to ease access to support.

The Urbis report found that strong governance, management and community leadership in the establishment phase was key to the project’s success. Most importantly, there was a strong alignment of the Hub with local values, aspirations and preferences – the Hub was designed for the community by the community. It was also crucial that the Hub was easily accessible, with the affordability of membership, hosting activities close to where people live and ensuring members only need to dedicate an hour a week for Hub responsibilities.

The Waverton Hub model has demonstrated the power of the local community to improve people’s lives and wellbeing. Older people have been the focus and the driving force behind this model, but there is a lot to be learnt from their experiences and return to community values and social cohesion.

There is considerable interest in the Hub model across the country, both from communities and Local Government. The Federal Government has recently committed funds to assist similar community projects to get off the ground in other locations.

Click here to read more about the Hub or get in contact with our team below.