Harbinger Consultants

Creative Sustainability :: Place, People, Product, Potential, Partnership + Pollinating

CAPABILITY | Towards Transition in Queensland

It’s official. The State Government has released policy to steer a transition to zero net emissions by 2050. The policy, Pathways to a Clean Growth Economy: Queensland Climate Transition Strategy, aims to work with Queensland’s regional communities to transition and acknowledges the role of communities and cities in transition dynamics.

This policy recognises the importance of place-based approaches to transition and the need for local and regional communities to build on their strengths and endogenous assets. The spatial scale and place-based dimensions of transitions are the least understood with a research profile now emerging. However, a regional development approach is not sufficient for addressing transitions which need to engage whole of system processes to catalyse and sustain change. This change occurs through the setting of vision to guide action for change. It involves flexible processes of coordination to facilitate system learning and innovation. The traditional style of top down blueprints and roadmaps is not sufficient for guiding such dynamic change: transition research stresses that transition is not planning. New methods, governance styles and approaches are needed.

Transitions aren’t just about technological change – they are also about changing social, institutional and ecological relationships. Sustainable transition is among our consulting and research capacities. Linda has been working on PhD to investigate relationships between sustainable transitions and regional level planning. Regional and place-based approaches are developing. The policy opens windows of opportunities for regions, communities and cities to coalesce action to develop alternative pathways.

Eco-tourism has been proposed one aspect of regional transition. This is not just about isolated or examplary projects but a broader industry-wide or place-based approach to transitioning the industry from carbon dependency to systemically sustainable ways of operating. In so doing this catalyses other benefits for the local community. Sustainable tourism appeals to a range of market segments who aim to make conscious choices about their tourism spend.

The strategy also supports local government, community engagement and social innovation as integral for transitions. The local scale is particularly important for facilitating experiments and learnings. This includes regional and remote Indigenous communities.

If you are considering investigating or implementing transition please let us know your needs. We have a deep understanding of transitions and how to work with communities to facilitate place-based approaches. Linda recently attended an immersive Summer School at STEPS at Sussex University in the UK to enhance transitions research and knowledge and pathways to sustainability.

We have extensive experience working with Indigenous communities, regional communities and local and state government in a broad range of planning and development initiatives that support sustainability. Our consulting practice has embedded transitions thinking, research and practices into our capability. We aim to work with clients and communities in ways that builds understanding of and enthusiasm for sustainable transition. We can also work with your organisation to develop workshops and training for your organising.

Please be in touch with John Armstrong at jmjarmstrong[at]hotmail.com

You can also read some of our posts about sustainable transitions and what is means for communities, government and institutions:

Also a post on LinkedIn, Transition to Zero Net Emissions in Queensland, offering some perspectives about recently released policy, which will be examined in greater detail as part of Linda’s research.

PROJECTS | Participation and process

In the last few weeks, there have been some significant shifts in our work. We work in a very flexible way and this means we often take on individual projects and roles as a way of working within communities for impact.

John is working as part of a team to develop an Indigenous enterprise and training initiative based on traditional knowledge. He has been tracking with this initiative for several years and most recently was involved in several planning meetings involving key stakeholders. He is also participating in the development of a training initiative in the Torres Strait.

John’s recent facilitation of creative practitioner masterclasses in Hervey Bay are testimony to his skills as a facilitator and communicator.

Linda’s PhD research continues with a focus on sustainable transitions in regional infrastructure planning. The transitions approach is based on complex systems thinking and aims to identify transitions pathways in social and technological contexts.

Linda is also facilitating a Students as Partners initiative with the Oodgeroo Unit at QUT to build student and staff collaboration. Recently, a collaborative workshop was held in which students and staff explored and co-designed ideas for working together to enhance student success.

Linda’s role with the Dementia Friendly Communities Advisory Committee continues and she recently participated in a face to face meeting in Sydney to discuss and contribute to the development of resources that will support people living with dementia.

Linda also contributed an article to IN PLACE, the digital magazine of Place Leaders Asia Pacific, examining what placemaking means for people living with dementia. The article is now published online.

Linda was offered a place in the ESRC STEPS Summer School on Pathways to Sustainability, at University of Sussex, UK. The Summer School is set to commence mid May.

COMMENT | Any place for a ‘Chief Transitions Officer’?

In an article in Cities Today, John Krauss examines how resilience is placing new demands on planning and other built environment professions addressing urban challenges. Krauss calls for a new breed of professionals to deal with the complexity of issues facing our cities and communities. The article asks the question: How do we build infrastructure that is both resilient in itself and adds to a city’s overall resilience, by adapting to climate change and anticipating new shifts such as driverless transport, changing business models and demographic change?

The Rockefeller Foundation has successfully introduced a global campaign promoting resilience by supporting cities to employ a Chief Resilience Officer. This is important and commendable work, although the mix of new professional skills and knowledges shouldn’t stop there. Where resilience addresses the necessity of adapting to, responding to and recovering from shocks, such as extreme weather events, transitions makes it explicit that more systemic and long term change is needed. Having just endured another extreme weather event in Queensland, it seems somewhat self-defeating to end the discussion at resilience. A whole town is being evacuated in northern NSW because a levy, an infrastructural resilience initiative, isn’t high enough. How’s that cost-benefit analysis and governance process really measuring up?

How are we addressing transition other than a handful of throwaway sustainability and emissions targets? Throughout my research on sustainable transitions and infrastructure, I’ve been underwhelmed by many of the planning responses to transitions in Australia, particularly focused on Queensland. Yet, transitions are being explored, tested and trialed in many places around the world – not just the German energy transition, but experiments in transition management in the Netherlands, various urban labs, and transitions analysis of infrastructure systems elsewhere. Transitions prompt us to look to the very long term to design pathways for change and to engage the whole system in problem-solving, system innovation and path creation. It’s highly charged political and contested territory.

Sustainable transitions are understood in terms of socio-technological systems, such as infrastructure systems, and their impacts on economic and socio-economic activity to address ecological and socio-ecological priorities. Transition theory is an emerging and growing area of research, which envelops systems, evolutionary economics, governance, innovation and complexity theories Transitions occur through both incremental and multi-dimensional momentum towards radical change involving learning and experiment. Sustainable transitions involve system innovations that trigger whole-of-system changes, not just system improvements, as can be the result of urban and regional planning. Several research papers addressing transitions and infrastructure planning call for a rethinking of professional education.

Krauss calls for 10,000 Chief Resilience Officers worldwide, but that’s only part of the sustainability remix of our professions and their skills – and the role they play in urban and regional governance. There is also a case for a new breed of professional focusing on transitions, say a ‘Chief Transitions Officer’, to provide the kind of strategic and reflexive leadership that is much needed for addressing complex challenges like carbon and infrastructure lock-in.

SYMPOSIUM | Designing for Dementia

The Designing for Dementia Symposium hosted by the QUT Design Lab presented diverse research project updates, highlighting some of the vital work by designers and researchers in addressing the needs and wellbeing of people living with dementia. The presentations all presented nuanced approaches to person-centred design and environments, project evaluation, participatory and inclusive approaches to design, and the need to create meaningful experiences for people living with dementia. Some of the projects that were profiled during the day are listed below.

The LAUGH (Ludic Artefacts Using Gesture and Haptics) research project is designing innovative playful devices that amuse, distract, comfort, engage, bring joy, and promote ‘in the moment’ living for people with late stage dementia.

Materialising Memories
The Materialising Memories project aims to use a design approach to assist people in remembering through a selection of appropriate digital media cues and facilitating forgetting irrelevant experiences. This project will investigate remembering and forgetting (both results of the same process), the effects of physical and digital media on memories in everyday life and the creation and curation of these media. This knowledge will be used to design, implement and evaluate interactive systems that will facilitate remembering and forgetting.

Dementia Care by Design
A research film about De Hogewyk by Nicole Gaudet.Given exclusive access to de Hogeweyk in early 2015, researcher Nicole Gaudet and Megan Strickfaden with filmmaker Steven Hope traveled to the Netherlands to explore a care facility for people with dementia – De Hogeweyk. This ethnographic documentary promises a glimpse into the world of dementia through an innovative space that leaves audiences touched by the humanity of a different kind of care facility that gives hope for future generations.

MinD – Designing for People with Dementia
This project aims to help people with dementia engage in social contexts to improve psychosocial wellbeing. Design can offer novel ways of complementing existing care approaches to empower people with dementia in everyday social situations. Utilising the concept of mindful design, the project investigates innovative design solutions to enable self-empowerment and confidence building of people living with dementia.

Dementia Training Australia
DTA is a service established to provide dementia-specific training to aged care, health care professionals, undergraduate trainees, and a range of other professionals and community service providers. The goal is to improve the care and wellbeing of people with dementia.
DTA will provide a range of services, events, and resources to ensure that up-to-date dementia knowledge and skills training are within reach of anyone who has a professional contact point with people who have dementia.

The presentation by Kirsty Bennett focused on Environmental Design Principles for Dementia, which is downloadable from the website.

Dementia Friendly Airports
Airport audit using the Dementia Friendly Communities Environmental Assessment Tool to determine the ‘dementia friendliness’ of Brisbane Airport’s Domestic and International Terminals.

Inside Aged Care
Through a semi-longitudinal ethnographic case study, the ‘Inside Age Care’ project investigated the day-to-day ‘lived experience’ for residents of one Brisbane aged care facility over three years (2014–2016). One of the project outputs was an exhibition at the State Library of Queensland featuring photographs and stories by the project participants.

I also recently attended the Dementia Friendly Communities Advisory Group meeting which involved co-design of the program. The participation of people living with dementia and their carers is essential for the success and relevance of this program. In Place, the magazine of the Place Leaders Asia Pacific, will also be publishing an article I have written about place making and dementia in the near future.

WORKSHOP | Reflection and discovery

On the weekend of 25 February, John facilitated two day-long workshops for artists in Hervey Bay. The workshops were designed as interactive and peer-based learning experiences that offered the participating artists insights through discussion and reflection.

Through the process, the artists shared knowledge and articulated community connections. They were highly engaged with each other and attentive to helping others in the collaborative learning context. Several participants noted that this helped them clarify and articulate their needs and thoughts – workshops work best when participants are fully engaged in discovery for themselves.

John also received some glowing feedback:

Thank you for helping me climb a mountain. I couldn’t have done it with your great communication and telling me on Saturday arvo that if I couldn’t do my artist statement it was ok. Best advice for me because I had to reach inside to find a place to focus and start. I am at the beginning of revealing what I have always known and what I love to do but honestly fear held me back.

You brought clarity to the cv, bio and artist statements but the standout for me was the way your teachings were cemented by actively apply that knowledge. Brilliant. It wasn’t easy, but now I feel there is hope for public speaking and I’m looking forward to taking the viewer along on my journey through the written word. It’s been a huge growth for me.

John will be delivering other workshops as part of the Flying Arts 2017 ‘by request’ workshop program. More information is available online.

WORKSHOP | Professional Development for Arts Workers

Flying Arts has a long history of providing arts workshops to the regions and Harbinger’s John Armstrong has been engaged to deliver a weekend of professional development to the arts workers of the Fraser Coast. John will draw on his vast experience as an artist, educator, mentor and consultant to work in Hervey Bay with a small group to explore the ways that a resume can be structured for maximum impact and will facilitate an interactive session on writing and talking about the creative process. Through a peer to peer learning circle participants will develop their own resources as the next step in their careers.

John’s recent work has been particularly focused on peer-to-peer learning and engagement to encourage reflection. He draws on a range of models including coaching clinics and learning circles to create space for discussion, feedback and learning.

Making art is the start of the artist’s journey into successful business and creative enterprise. Knowing how to write about, document and present artwork is the next important step in getting ready to go to market. The visual arts is an extremely competitive world and taking care about how the work is presented can be as important as the work itself when it comes to getting noticed. This workshop introduces participants to the skills and techniques to develop a professional portfolio designed to impress. It discusses a range of practical tips and tools for writing about and documenting work and outlines the process of presenting a portfolio with confidence.

AWARD | Lilley Australia Day Award



Congratulations to Harbinger’s John Armstrong who received a Lilley Australia Day Award on 26 January. The Lilley Award recognises community members who contribute to community wellbeing through volunteering. John was acknowledged for his voluntary engagement with Indigenous, cultural, community and disability organisations in Brisbane. The award was presented by Federal Member for Lilley Wayne Swan and RSCPA Representative Michael Beatty.

PS: An official photo will be available soon.