It was a long way to the Village Well. I took the early morning flight that rose out of fog and darkness in Portland, bound for Melbourne. Then a taxi ride through workday congested traffic to the old Abbotsford Convent.
Gilbert (pronounced with French accent “Jillbear”) Rochecouste greeted me warmly. He wore black and white plaid pants, pink shirt and a purple sweater draped around his shoulders. Jac (Jacque) was the other presenter.
The group of about 40 people were mainly from urban local government and a few were from housing development companies.
This Village Well Masterclass was titled Place Making & the Art of Authentic Engagement. They began by using one of their engagement methods; a conversation cafe. With fresh coffee or tea, and a couple of questions to prompt discussion, we immediately embarked on conversations with some new found colleagues, while ambient music played in the background.
The concept of place-making takes us away from using planning and design to solve community problems and instead focuses on people power as the means to tackling and enriching community living. It embraces history, culture, diversity, story, enjoyment, environment, and more and favours a fluid approach to achieving this.
We danced to “Staying Alive”. We sang as a choir “Amazing Grace”. We sat in the courtyard enjoying a healthy lunch. We listened intently to the colourful Gilbert and the practical Jac. We shared our stories.
All in all it was a positive, hopeful experience but I am left wondering how to translate this information into practical solutions at work and in our community. It is food for thought I guess.
“Be an organisation, but act like a movement.” ~Gilbert Rochecouste
Read more about this at Urban Ecology Australia