Annual Report 2014–15

Involving the community in our decisions

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Involving the community in our decisions

For six years the City of Melbourne has been systematically building a culture where engaging the public in decisions that interest and affect them is standard practice. Our employees are expected to engage the community and are supported to do so via an organisation-wide community engagement framework.

The framework includes:

  • a small specialist team to support the organisation

  • community engagement and facilitation training

  • facilitators’ and practitioner network

  • an online hub Participate Melbourne

  • formal planning, evaluation and lessons learned processes.

Projects that involved significant discussions with the public this year included the:

  • Queen Victoria Market renewal project

  • 10-Year Financial Plan

  • Bike Plan

  • Shape your Southbank

  • Smoke-free zones

  • Freight

  • Urban Ecology strategy

  • Urban Forest Precinct plans – Southbank, Parkville and Fishermans Bend

  • Structure plans and planning scheme amendments

  • Places for People.

Learn more about the results of the community engagement undertaken1 on these projects.

We engaged directly with the community on more than 40 projects last year on areas as diverse as city planning and urban design, financial planning, transport, health, waste, precincts, urban forests and significant urban renewal projects such as Queen Victoria Market and Arden-Macauley.

We also implemented a pilot community engagement evaluation framework. Our evaluation of 10 initial projects reveals our engagement approach is characterised by a high level of effectiveness, appropriateness and good value for money. Community input is considered to a large extent in Council decision-making processes. Engagement activities include reaching out to harder-to-access members of the community through mobile and pop-up events. Our on-line engagement platform Participate Melbourne has grown significantly with ever increasing numbers of people submitting their ideas and registering to remain updated for the life of a project.

Who is our community?

All projects with a community engagement component must complete a community engagement and communications plan. This plan involves a stakeholder mapping exercise as well as stakeholder analysis matrix. Against this matrix we plot all the groups likely to be interested and impacted in the project. From there we work out the level of engagement required and most appropriate way to include all impacted and interested stakeholders, including vulnerable groups in our work. Stakeholders typically include: government agencies and departments; utilities such as power and water; business, community and residents groups; the education sector; peak bodies; NGOs; residents, ratepayers, students and visitors.

We also consult regularly with a variety of specific interest groups including those representing vulnerable groups, for example the:

  • Homelessness Advisory Group

  • Disability Advisory Committee

  • InterCoM Leadership Team

  • African Australian Community Partnership

  • Melbourne Youth Services Forum.

Global recognition for City of Melbourne community engagement leadership

In late 2014, we were recognised for our work in embedding community engagement across the organisation, winning the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) Australasian and International Community Engagement Organisation of the Year awards. We also won in the project category, under Environment, for the Urban Forest strategy, ‘creating a city within a forest’. Our participatory budgeting project, the 10-Year Financial Plan, is the largest budget to go before a randomly selected citizen’s jury anywhere in the world. The City of Melbourne was also awarded the John Jago Good Governance Award by the Victorian Local Governance Association.

City of Melbourne Community Engagement (CE) Framework

  1. People: Specialist team, Training program, Mentoring program, Facilitator network, Practitioner network.

Outcome: Increased capacity of staff to design and deliver CE

  1. Practice: Portal, Planning Template, Contractor Guideline, Participate Melbourne, Planning, advice and support.

Outcomes: CE is embedded in our organisational culture; City of Melbourne communities and stakeholders provide input to decisions that affect them; Councillors have quality information to make sustainable decisions; Better decisions that result in improved policy and services and greater community satisfaction and wellbeing.

  1. Policy: Council Plan, Strategic Plan, Policy and Charter.

Outcomes: The CE policy commits the organisation to practice that is underpinned by our corporate values and IAP2 (International Association for Public Participation) foundations; Council staff has quality information for policy advice to Council and to support decisions on service delivery.

  1. Performance: Audit, Research Program, Evaluation Toolkit, Lessons Learned Process.

Outcome: City of Melbourne learns and improves its CE practice

Continuous improvement

City of Melbourne organisational capability review

In March 2015, the Chief Executive Officer commissioned an Organisational Capability Review, an independent, forward-looking assessment of the City of Melbourne’s ability to meet future objectives and challenges. The review was completed by three independent reviewers, who identified a number of organisational strengths and areas of improvement. In response to the review, the Chief Executive Officer and executive leadership team developed the City of Melbourne Organisational Action Plan – One Melbourne, One CoM, an initial blueprint for change. It is a first step in refreshing and reinvigorating our organisation to best support the Council and the community and is being implemented through 2015–16.

Continuous improvement – the City of Melbourne way

Our application of Lean Thinking over the past six years has paid off with the creation of a solid foundation of improvement within the organisation. Recent employee surveys and external audits validate that a culture of continuous improvement exists and, for many, it is simply now the way we work at the City of Melbourne.

Since our improvement effort began, thousands of days of staff time have been saved, which has allowed our staff to refocus their efforts on meeting other customer needs and to absorb the continually rising demand for services that a rapidly increasing population brings.

Particular highlights this year included:

  • Looking at ways to deliver better value to our customers. Over the past three years our park rangers collaborated closely with events staff applying Lean Thinking concepts to their work. By removing obstacles that prevented park rangers being able to devote more of their time in parks instead of being tied up in back-office work, there has been a dramatic turnaround in the number of ranger hours spent in parks, increasing from 35 per cent in November 2014 up to 70 per cent in June 2015. Embedding a culture of continuous improvement and problem solving has made it faster, cheaper, easier and better for both staff and customers.
  • Improving the way we handle permits in two key areas – construction site permits and event permits. This was a large-scale piece of work, which started with looking at the problem of customers often having to obtain more than one type of planning and building permit from us, resulting in staff issuing more than 10,000 permits each year. We looked at four of the most frequently requested construction permits and streamlined the process by incorporating one permit into another. By reducing the number of permits processed by 600 per year, we saved 200 hours of staff time. By automating the application lodgement and payment process, we expect a further 760 staff hours per year will be saved, freeing up officers to inspect high-risk sites.

  • We also looked at event permits, which are typically required for about 1000 events held each year in Melbourne’s public open spaces and can consume significant time and energy for both staff and customer, especially for larger events. By incorporating one of the approvals into the event permit, reducing the information required from customers and streamlining the number of exchanges needed between customer and staff, we managed to save 90 hours of our customers’ time. For us, the streamlined process has released 273 hours a year to invest in other services we provide. The result: better and easier for our customers.

A cross-section of organisational wins from this year’s winlog



Improved application and permit process for handbills and fundraising.

No wait time for the customer and staff time saved 129 hours.

New process implemented to mount new safe city cameras.

Saving $35,000 per camera installation, total costs $315,000.

Agreed new process for families requiring additional days of child care.

Increased service delivery for families and increased revenue of $2000 per annum.

Introduced new water efficiency strategies to our irrigation systems in Park Services.

A 21 per cent reduction in water bill costs, a saving of $126,617.

Customers moved from South Yarra Centre to the Boyd Centre for Family Services.

Increased services to these clients and financial savings of $7863 per annum.

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