In September 2022, the $60M Brimbank Aquatic and Wellness Centre (BAWC) was opened in Melbourne’s inner west.
Outcomes framework, collective impact, local government, social impact
Australian first: $50m+ outcomes-based health & wellness hub in Brimbank, Melbourne
The municipality of Brimbank sits in Melbourne’s rapidly-growing west. It’s new health and wellness hub is located in St Albans, a suburb which has experienced deep social and health inequities for several decades.
St Albans sits at the heart of the disadvantage that runs through the region and, in Keilor Downs on the border of St Albans is the suburb’s leisure centre (SALC). While the SALC had a loyal band of users it was well-beyond its useful life with growing maintenance costs adding to the challenges of running a tired community facility in a way that generates great community outcomes.
Council wanted to go beyond a redevelopment and create a centre of regional leadership. The aim is not just to create a world-class facility (with pool, gym, community spaces) but also to ensure the infrastructure investment addresses some of the deep social and health challenges faced by people in the area.
But how can a building do this? Typically, an infrastructure project focuses on risk, speed and staying within budget. Time is money. Often the thinking about services, impacts and site usage are delayed until after the concrete is poured.
But Council wanted to make sure the development actually addressed some of the social and health inequities in the region as well as being an example of great community built-form.
THE ROLE LATITUDE NETWORK PLAYED / THE OUTCOME
Latitude Network designed and built an ‘Outcomes-Based Infrastructure’ process for Council that put a set of health and social outcomes at the heart of the development. This involved analysing social needs and patterns in the community, governance design, outcomes framework, collaboration and management structure and service design.
The process brought together the ‘community’ vision of the site with the ‘physical’ vision for the site to make sure that the investment worked harder to achieve targeted community outcomes.
In addition to helping guide the physical infrastructure decisions as part of the Project Control Group, Latitude Network advised Council on a tenancy tender process that attracted the right social service providers to join the projects as long-term tenants. The tenancy agreements even include provisions around setting and achieving outcomes - a first for a project of this type.
THE TRANSFORMATION / IMPACT
The project has proven that the money that governments and communities spend on infrastructure can be leveraged for higher social impact without delaying the build. Infrastructure dollars can create great spaces but also be accountable for positive changes in people’s lives.
More than simply a ‘hub’, the embedding of social and health outcomes into the infrastructure process has meant that alongside new world-class facilities there are also key tenants at the site who are coming together with a program logic to address long-running social and health challenges.
The development has also spawned a ‘collective impact’ project to build community momentum around addressing local social issues using the Hub. It has been set up as the ‘Impact Brimbank’ initiative with a diverse group of community members, and is building support in advance of the opening of the Hub.
This week's announcement by the Victorian Government of the $100 million Community Infrastructure Loans Scheme, will provide councils with access to low interest rate loans of between $500,000 and $10 million. The loans will apply to community centres and hubs, cultural facilities, public libraries, kindergartens and early learning facilities, heritage building restorations for community use and public spaces like parks, reserves and trails.
The funding will be very competitive and so it will be important to demonstrate how your proposal will not only provide functional benefit to the community but will also deliver real, long-term community outcomes as well.
We call it Outcomes-Based Infrastructure and it is a process that sets up social infrastructure projects so they can make a measurable difference to people's lives, particularly where pockets of disadvantage exist. Brimbank City Council is leading the way with their 'Brimbank Hub' development, which will bring together a world-class leisure centre with a rigorous approach to addressing real social and health inequalities.
Let us know if you would like to talk about how your application for infrastructure funding could become an outcomes-based community infrastructure proposal.
Link to the Premier's announcement
Guidelines for a previous, similar, program
Yesterday’s release by Infrastructure Australia of its annual Infrastructure Audit is a timely reminder of how important capital spending is to our social, community and health sectors.
It is also a reminder of how ineffective our social infrastructure currently is in addressing some of the growing and increasingly complex health and social challenges facing our communities.
The report notes that it is the challenge of operating within ‘sector-based structures’ and the ‘lack of integration’ that stops us from effectively addressing these challenges through our infrastructure investments. Indeed, it can often make things worse as a result of getting differing levels and types of services depending on where people live (p.394).
Perhaps the most critical statement in this section of the report, however, is the following:
“…challenges remain, however, in overcoming sector-based planning, funding and governance structures which limit the incentives for different infrastructure sectors to work together to improve benefits to communities.” (p. 394)
The take-out here is that the success of an infrastructure investment should not be measured by the quality or scale of the build itself but the extent to which it delivers solutions to complex and enduring social and health challenges. To do that, it requires a process that breaks down silos and creates incentives for different parts of the infrastructure system to work together with outcomes at the centre.
Latitude Network’s work with Brimbank City Council in Victoria as well as Logan City council in Qld has delivered a process which puts the social and health focus at the core of the investment, including the identification of outcomes, service delivery approaches, cross-sector partners and governance structures. The planning, design, construction as well as the operations can then proceed, confident that we are arming this piece of infrastructure with the tools it will need to truly have an impact.
It is a common problem in local and state government that a new piece of infrastructure is commissioned, but it fails to make a lasting impact on the social and health needs of the community. Our client, Brimbank City Council in Melbourne's West, had identified a range of population health and social measures that are worse than the average for greater Melbourne, yet investments over the years had not closed those gaps. In addition, a sports and recreation centre in St Albans needed to be redeveloped. The insight was that this large infrastructure project could be developed in a way that addressed the health needs of the community.
The project involves engaging with organisations to co-locate on the site, but also to sign up to common agreements and collaborative approaches to addressing community needs. Specific social and health outcomes (including in early childhood development and physical activity and health) were agreed, and a management system put in place to ensure reporting and accountability of those goals.
The program has three pillars -
Council-led social innovation, and aligning council programs and activities around common social outcomes
A novel approach that attaches outcomes goals to an infrastructure project and to tenant contracts
Building a community collaboration using the principles of collective impact
The project is still in development, but is pointing to a better way to make buildings work for the community and become more active, measured parts of system change. We will update this page as progress is made and goals achieved.
Combining an infrastructure project and a collaborative project to address population-level challenges is a new an exciting direction for local government. Typically these processes are managed separately, and while a building may have some impact goals up front, they can easily be forgotten in the commercial pressure to deliver a project in a timely and cost-effective way.
Latitude's role is to help design the systems, governance and approach for the project, and to help Council navigate their way through the complexities of analysis, managing, resourcing and stakeholder management. We believe this higher standard of outcomes-based infrastructure points to a future of improved impact and effectiveness. If you would like to keep up to date with the project as in progresses, subscribe to our newsletter or get in touch.