The port-city of Burnie on the north-western coast of Tasmania is a small and vibrant community, rich with inspiring people and stories, and home to a progressive cohort of changemakers with a strong desire to address community challenges and create a brighter future. The Burnie identity is one of hard-working, robust resilience, yet the community has some complex challenges to overcome, including a culture of long-term inter-generational unemployment and education and economic outcomes the community wants to shift.

Local collective impact initiative, Burnie Works, is determined to tackle some of the region’s most pressing issues by bringing together community people, government, service providers, churches, educators and businesses to collaborate on community-led systems change and social rejuvenation. Run by a small, powerhouse team, Burnie Works was cultivated from a desire for self-determined community transformation, storytelling, and a deep knowledge that local people are best placed to solve local problems. Innovative local Councillor Chris Lynch, who Chairs Burnie Works, was pivotal in uniting all three levels of government to sign a unique collaboration agreement that underpins the initiative.

A growing list of community collaborators has united under the Burnie Works banner to pioneer locally-led, bottom-up social change and identify meaningful community stories. The Burnie Works team has identified that the crucial next step in progressing their systems change vision is to progressing their systems change vision is to create a Shared Learning environment, which Seer is supporting the team to build.

Creating the conditions for Shared Learning and a platform for Shared Measurement is what Burnie Works now wants to build. The team know that stories are at the heart of every community and that data can help define these stories, turning them into a powerful narrative, especially when combined with the community voice of local, lived experience. Data storytelling is crucial to building an evidence base for funding, influencing policy decisions, informing programs and service delivery, and establishing a shared measurement framework that will allow all areas of the community to move forward together.

While the Burnie Works team understands that policy influence and community change is data-driven, they have quickly uncovered that Burnie data falls far short of the mark. Outdated, deficit-based, and mostly missing, the Burnie community recognised that the available data wasn’t reflecting their story. Seeking a solution, Burnie Works has partnered with Seer Data & Analytics to work towards bridging their data divide and empowering Burnie’s community voice.

Data Workshops held to progress Burnie Works’ future vision

Last week Burnie Works relaunched at a 3 day event to celebrate the ‘beginning of their community initiative through to the future vision’. Great minds wrestled with a hypothetical that saw Burnie community in control of their own future and deep conversations got into the nuances of the need for data sharing, collaboration and shared measurement.

As part of the celebration Seer ran two workshops and “Data Walks” with the community and partners. A Data Walk focuses on data sharing as the platform for multi-sector collaboration. Burnie community residents, service providers, Government representatives and others reviewed data presentations in small groups, interpreted what the data means, and collaborated to use their respective knowledge and expertise to advance community change. Questions asked included: is this telling the real story?  What are the gaps?  How can we fill them?

The energy and agency in the room was strong for shared community learning, a positive sign for Burnie Works.

A Data Walk is an interactive tool for sharing data and engaging local stakeholders in a collaborative communication and sense-making process to determine community needs, shared visions and enable community-led decision making. Engaging the entire changemaker ecosystem, which included Burnie community members, service providers and government representatives, the data walk brought together the stories and the data to create a clearer picture for Burnie and showcased what is known so far.

Easy to interpret insights were displayed around the room; a visual storytelling experience of what data is available and what it can tell us now, engaged Burnie collaborators to let them see which stories resonate and which fall short. They were also able to review, evaluate and determine what data is needed. Energetic changemakers made valuable contributions through robust conversation, connectedness and colourful post-it notes to identify the nuances of Burnie’s unique needs.

The data walk asked Burnie fundamental questions: Is this telling the real story? What are the gaps? How can we fill them? The energy and agency in the room was strong for shared community learning, a positive sign for Burnie Works.

Seer’s contribution to the event showcased how to break down data in order to effect change and busted the myth that data is too hard to understand without advanced analytical skills. Insights and observations from the event and the Data Walk will now be compiled and reviewed by Burnie Works and Seer to map out what the next steps need to be.

Next steps and future vision

Seer and Burnie Works are now planning how to build data capacity for shared learning to fulfil the future vision for Burnie.

Burnie Works Measurement and Learning Officer Kylie Burgess is advocating strongly for the development of a centralised, community-driven shared data portal to be built for Burnie Works using the Seer platform. An up to date data knowledge hub would give the Burnie community a newfound confidence, clarity of focus and greater power to access resources to effect change, influence policy and achieve transformation.

To successfully create this powerful data collaboration infrastructure additional dedicated funding will be required for Burnie Works to bring together new and existing data from all community collaborators and to continue to advocate for data sharing, collaboration and stakeholder engagement.

Burnie Works is drawing inspiration from the collective impact, data infrastructure and shared learning success story of Maranguka Community Hub in Bourke. The Maranguka Initiative is the first major justice reinvestment project and largest data-driven community project in Australia and the community is leading the way for place-based shared learning models. Data is added to the collection from 14 different data contributors, securely ingested, held and shared via the Seer platform and analysed by working groups. Indigenous Data Sovereignty is central – the Bourke Tribal Council maintains ownership and authority for access to the data as well as the narrative and story. The work is allowing for local decisions to be truly community-led, for community voice to be central to decisions and for data sovereignty to be maintained.

Both Maranguka Community Hub and Burnie Works are part of the Department of Social Services Stronger Places, Stronger People (SPSP) initiative which seeks to demonstrate how place-based collective impact can disrupt disadvantage. Maranguka was one of the first SPSP communities identified and this Government backing, paired with strong community participation means they are further through the transformation process and are setting a shining example for others to follow.

Burnie Works has begun their journey towards creating a similar shared learning environment by engaging key community stakeholders and solidifying the necessity of creating similar data infrastructure for Burnie. Seer will continue to support Burnie Works as they strive to empower their community with data-driven, collaborative change.

Seer’s Kristi Mansfield said “Seer is committed to helping communities and people of all skillsets access data, gain knowledge and take action to effect positive social change.”

“Data sharing, collaboration and shared measurement allow community voice to be front and centre in decision-making for societal reform. Every person has their own domain knowledge, expertise, and story. Few people have the skills and resources to fully harness the opportunity of the data age to take action to reshape and reform society.” she said.

“We are looking forward to continuing to partner with Burnie Works to help them harness the opportunity of the data age and positively transform their community.” Kristi said.

Burnie is without a doubt a community with challenges; this is part of the story. But, multiple Burnie tales remain untold; stories of a community that is rich with complexity, depth and diversity. A community with capacity. A community that holds within it the power to change.