Launched in 2013, Project Robin Hood is a program where the community develop and deliver projects that help build better places. It could be a growers market to sell or share produce from your garden, a pop-up crafters session in an old unused space, revitalising a sad corner of concrete somewhere and making it a pleasant place for people to sit and chat or creating habitat for some of our very important animal friends. Basically it’s about making a place for all, no matter how big or how small.
What really makes Project Robin Hood unique is that the community decides. As part of the process, project ideas are pitched to the people who then vote on which ones should receive the funding. The aim is to hand the decision making over to the people with a focus on improving places within communities.
Project Robin Hood aims to empower the community to select priority projects for implementation in their neighbourhood; support the creativity of community owned project ideas and enhance relationships between the City of Melville and the community
With $100,000 in the pot for distribution, Project Robin Hood is a way of building relationships by working together to create interesting, connected places in our streets, neighbourhoods and communities.
Opening up the budget process to direct involvement of the community is a guaranteed way of getting the community involved. It has been used to engage and empower the most disconnected members in a community. Being involved in the budget process builds peoples capacity and interest in being involved in other government and governance processesOpening up the budget process to direct involvement of the community is a guaranteed way of getting the community involved. It has been used to engage and empower the most disconnected members in a community. Being involved in the budget process builds peoples capacity and interest in being involved in other government and governance processes
The objectives for Project Robin Hood are to:
- Provide an opportunity to deepen citizenship and democracy
- Empower citizens to influence public decisions that directly affect their lives
- Enhance government responsiveness and accountability to citizens
- Enhance citizen understanding of public budgets and budget constraints, creating more realistic expectations
- Enhance citizen confidence in Council
- Promote greater democracy and equity in the allocation of public resources
- Encourage community cohesion and help build understanding, trust and consensus among citizens
- Promote productive dialogue and constructive working relationships between City staff, Elected Members, citizens and communities.
Project Robin Hood presented an extraordinary challenge to the organisation, and a major shift in usual practice. Historically local government processes for budget expenditure are controlled by the organisation, thereby mitigating any risk.
Project Robin Hood turned this upside down with control being handed to the community to not only develop the projects, but also vote on the ones to be implemented.
A degree of uneasiness in the organisation is to be expected for this project which empowers the community in a decision making process. To mitigate this sense of uneasiness, training, workshop attendance, participation of organisational technical experts and criteria to support the decision-making has been incorporated into the project process.
Several Placemaking workshops were funded by the City with an invitation to both community and staff to attend. The purpose of these workshops was to get people to think creatively about possible projects to be funded through the project.
Branding the project under the Robin Hood theme gave an emphasis and focus to the project and provided an element of fun and a point of difference to the way we usually worked with the community.
Key personnel across the organisation were appointed as ‘Ombeardsmen’ – technical experts that could provide logistical advice and support to the community members in the development of their project proposals and then continue to work alongside these groups to cut any ‘red tape that might impede the realisation of the project if successfully voted.
One of the greatest impacts is an acceptance by an increased number of City staff that the community has the skills and knowledge to achieve positive outcomes as defined by community members and that simple processes can still obtain beneficial community outcomes.
Abstract from ICTC 2019 Conference
Author: Leanne Hartill, Manager Neighbourhood Development, City of Melville