‘New conversations with new people in new places,’ is how the Operation Next Gen Program was described at a local community meeting held in February 2017.
Appreciating that this was a fresh approach to how Collie can take control of its own destiny in a rapidly changing world, it was agreed that the Collie & Districts Community Bank would fund a two-year facilitated program that has generated valuable ongoing conversations.
The past week, Operation Next Gen founder, Kerry Anderson, has been catching up with locals and reflecting on the results of these conversations over the past two years as well as supporting new ideas into the future.‘
Operation Next Gen has been a very grass-roots conversation’ she explains, ‘it aimed to empower local leaders, engage with youth, highlight the importance of entrepreneurs, and encourage the local community to invest in itself.’
Of course, she admits that not everything has gone to plan and there have been quite a few unexpected results along the way.
When it comes to the statistics, the Operation Next Gen activities directly engaged with 1,050 local people at some point over the past two years. This included through the 13 community workshops, six community conversations, and two major events conducted. In addition, three video resources have been created and some substantial pieces of research initiated including a Collie Youth survey and the Collie Business Capacity Needs Analysis.
While all that adds up to a lot of work that has helped prepare Collie to think about new possibilities into the future, Kerry says that it is the personal antidotes that reveal the true benefits.
One of the conversation leaders, Bec Woods, agrees. ‘Since Operation Next Gen started, I’ve become a councillor and was promoted to the role of CEO at the Chamber. The workshops have been of great personal benefit and helped give me the confidence to step up as a leader.’
‘Being involved in a team environment has enabled us to create some awesome conversations like the Frankensound projection on to the Good shed,’ Tyron Massara says reflecting on his involvement. ‘Collaborating has been a really big thing for me.’
Jasmine Hulls was excited to be involved in the Be Your Own Boss Program conducted at the Collie Senior High School last year with Year 7 students. ‘I heard some great ideas and can’t wait to see what comes of them in the future.’
‘It would be great to keep this conversation going into the future,’ added Ash Stewart who also met with the students.With the recent announcement of the trails funding, Erik Melleger is excited about the future. ‘There are people actively thinking about how they can work in this space that is opening up with the development of trails and the Motorplex being so busy.’
While Kerry’s facilitation role has officially ceased, she says she will continue to be an active ambassador for Collie.
‘I never cease to be amazed at the initiative and resourcefulness of rural towns and can see the ripples of many community-wide conversations joining forces to make a significant difference to Collie’s future. Change doesn’t happen overnight and it’s important that these conversations are led by the community. Full credit goes to the Bendigo Bank for investing in Operation Next Gen Collie and allowing these community-led conversations to happen.’
More information can be found at www.ongcollie.com.