THE ART OF COMMUNITY BUILDING
Frasers Property Australia has been creating places for people to belong since 1924. At the very heart of this ethos are their Community Development Managers, people like Michelle Mrzyglocki, who are responsible for nurturing and driving community spirit. They know better than all of us that a place where community thrives is a place where people feel they truly belong.
When we think of the word community, we think of a place where the people are connected. This could be your family or friends, your street, or your neighbourhood. At an instinctual level we tend to understand that a sense of connection is what drives feelings of belonging. Yet rarely do we question how this comes to be.
There’s no secret formula that goes into fostering a sense of community. It’s not something that can be googled or a how-to guide that can be found. Rather, community is something that manifests in many different shapes and forms. It’s an intangible thing that’s unique to each and every case, differing in every neighbourhood that Frasers is responsible for.
So, what exactly is community building?
Community Development Manager for Frasers Property communities in Western Australia, Michelle Mrzyglocki sums it up as: “creating the most fertile environment for the community to make a really great and healthy start.” A good way of thinking of it is to visualise her as a coach, networker, and team member all in one. She’s the one who is there to shape the scaffolding to best support residents, providing the opportunity for them to connect with their neighbours and the wider community.
Community building is about helping the community realise their collective vision of the kind of place they want to live in. We do this through bespoke strategy, programming, education events, and planning with the community and local stakeholders. We make sure the community has the skills, connections and setting to succeed in their vision. Which, all together, encourages and fast tracks a healthy and resilient neighbourhood within a broader community setting.”
Where it begins
In the beginning of a community’s life cycle, the very first piece of the puzzle comes from the residents themselves. For Michelle, this means facilitating those big collective community vision conversations about what sort of place residents would like to live in. “The first step is simple. I’ll sit down with residents and have a chat. This is how we find out their hopes and dreams, their aspirations for where they live and the types of experiences they desire to have. From here, we can start thinking and planning about how we can help them achieve these ambitions.” In the community of Frasers Landing in Western Australia, this has manifested in a host of activities and initiatives, both within the neighbourhood and including the larger suburb of Mandurah. “They do everything from regular morning teas and community barbeques to celebrating Australia Day with their annual thong-throwing competition on the green,” shares Michelle. “We’ve also done National Tree Day, an event that helped connect Frasers Landing with the wider Mandurah community, including six local Rotary Clubs, Scouts and Girl Guides.
Where it ends
The development of a community never finishes, it’s constantly evolving. But while the work doesn’t end, the Community Development Manager’s job there does. “We always have the vision that we’re stepping out. It’s a relatively short-term relationship. You’ve got to look at it like you’re setting them up and giving the community the tools they need to not only survive, but thrive. And doing that as quickly as we can while they have us as a resource. If I don’t do myself out of a job, I haven’t done my job.” And with their incredible community spirit, pride in where they live, as well as the drive and ability to self-organise events, Frasers Landing is almost there. “The residents have created a really welcoming, vibrant community,” Michelle notes, “I can see they feel really supported by each other and have a great understanding of what a good neighbour is. They really have that feeling of being able to go next door to get that cup of sugar” “It’s really not about what my vision is. It must come from the people who live there. The most important part to fostering community spirit is that the drive comes from the residents. Because if they’re not excited about it and given the opportunity to participate and shape the outcome, they’re not going to be a part of it.”
“At the end of the day, the most important thing is to ensure that the Frasers community we co-create, our new piece of the puzzle, fits in seamlessly with the wider neighbourhood. It’s about enabling the foundations for healthy, welcoming connections and a good culture within the community. And that never stops. It continues evolving throughout the lifespan of the community.”