Disclaimer: while this reflects the philosophy we have all brought to CoCreate Adelaide, this is a personal comment on a volatile conversation happening in Adelaide, about Hub Adelaide, Format and the role of government in community inititives. Apologies if it makes no sense! – John
The State Government last week awarded Hub Australia a million dollars to set up Hub Adelaide. Yes – a Million Friggen Dollars. And they’re moving upstairs to where Format is being forced out of. This all came as something of a surprise to many of us here in Adelaide. It came as a slap in the face to many who have spent years here building communities, starting businesses, and pouring blood sweat and tears into making awesome things happen.
We shouldn’t take a slap in the face lying down. Obviously.
The issue is not so much what happened – but that what happened is to be expected.
Our current paradigm and the systems in our society are built on a dysfunctional relationship between government, community and enterprise. As community members and as citizens, we are locked out of society’s systems for getting things done. These systems squash our agency and our ability to cocreate the world we live in.
The set up of Hub Adelaide is a perfect example of this. A dysfunctional consultation process called an Emerging Leaders’ Forum, a secretive development and ‘tender’ process, and a distasteful, poorly consulted and shocking announcement. Hub Adelaide has so far sung a perfectly dysfunctional, paternalistic narrative.
This is indicative of how government works – but it’s not all their fault. All of us in the system are playing a part. If government is playing the father figure, we are playing the children.
The reaction from the community has only served to reinforce this narrative. I’ve come across only one example of a proactive response, taking this as an opportunity to reinforce our own strength and continue to grow. The primary response has been to lament the process and how it has undermined community (fair call), lament the lack of government support for community initiatives (meh), and call for government to step in to make the current situation right (f*#% off!).
The community here is a distributed system of people making amazing things happen. Distributed systems are supposed to get stronger under attack – but not if they’re stuck within a prevailing narrative of subservience.
Every awesome thing started in Adelaide against the grain, against prevailing norms for ‘culture’ or ‘business’ or ‘vibrancy’, is a demonstration of our agency. It’s a snippet of a world where we’re not disempowered, but active agents creating the futures we want to live in. But this is not enough.
If nothing changes but mild disapproval and social media rants, then what happened will continue to happen. Because what’s happened is that our agency has been overlooked and undermined – and we’ve done nothing to stop it. State governments are not good at supporting community initiative. A million dollars unwisely spent is not unusual. It is not new, and it should not be a surprise. They need our help.
What should we do? To be honest, I don’t know. I hear current conversations – but I don’t know Adelaide’s history. CoCreate Adelaide will make a contribution, providing a forum for community groups to share our visions and work together to take action on them (you should come along!). But it’s only a drop in the pond, and it’s not enough.
I’m definitely NOT advocating unification. Trying to centralise will only serve to undermine the strength in the community. But we don’t need to be unified to be coordinated and tap into our collective capacity.
If nothing else, we need to shift the conversation to move forward. Learn from what has gone poorly, to understand the better futures that we want to see. And of course to start asking – what can we do to make it happen?
– John Baxter, partner/organiser here at CoCreate Adelaide