Design community together

This blog was originally posted in 2015 and updated in October 2020.

Begin with the end in mind

Creating a great early learning community requires developing an idea of what your service will be like. This creative, collaborative process works best when it includes everyone in your community―children, educators, families and the wider community.

To hear everyone’s dreams and ideas takes time and investment but to create the place you are hoping for it is worth it. Dream big, be brave and you might be surprised with what is possible.

Finding your focus

At Be You, our focus is on creating a mentally healthy generation. We sharpen our focus through five domains of professional learning that provide us with a framework to understand and promote your community’s mental health by exploring:

  1. Mentally Healthy Communities to gain an understanding of mental health and wellbeing, to connect through strong relationships and include everyone by embracing diversity within the community.
  2. Family partnerships to partner with families through positive relationships and assist families to foster mental health and wellbeing.
  3. Learning resilience to affirm the importance of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and resilience, embed evidence –based SEL strategies and empower children and young people
  4. Early support to notice the early signs of mental health issues, inquire sensitively about an individual’s circumstances and provide support or referrals to children and young people
  5. Responding together to recognise the potential impact of critical incidents and respond collaboratively to critical incidents.

What is your community’s focus?

Be deliberate and purposeful―Make the choice to shape your learning community

All organisations have a culture that can occur by default or we can intentionally play a part in shaping it.

Culture is a kind of ‘social energy’ that builds up over time and can motivate people to change or create barriers that slow, or stop action. When you make a choice to create a great place by focusing on children’s mental health and wellbeing, you are choosing to be deliberate and purposeful in creating an organisational culture that supports this.

Five practical tips to help you create the place you want

  1. Reflect on your current situation.  Learn about your community – find its story, from everyone’s perspective.
  2. Look, listen and feel–from all angles. At the next staff meeting take a walk through your environment. Give each person a role to play. Ask them to imagine they are a new parent, child or staff member and ‘take a walk in their shoes’. Notice what you see, hear and feel and consider how welcome you feel in this space. Thinking about the service from another’s point of view can help you create a great place. Explore the Be You Share and Extend guide for more ideas.
  3. Use the National Quality Standard and Early Years Learning Framework to guide your thinking and planning.
  4. Develop policies informed by your service’s philosophy statement, and current advice from recognised authorities to embed changes (NQS p106).
  5. Culture matters. Learning environments are welcoming spaces when they reflect and enrich the lives and identities of children and families participating in the setting and respond to their interests and needs (EYLF p15).

Be You provides educators with knowledge, resources and strategies for helping children and young people achieve their best possible mental health. This article was first published by KidsMatter (now known as Be You) in 2015.

Be You

Early Childhood Australia’s Be You team is a highly qualified and experienced multidisciplinary team of professionals committed to promoting and supporting positive mental health and wellbeing in the early years. Together, with Be You partners, Beyond Blue and headspace, the ECA team support educators in implementing the Be You Professional Learning and continuous improvement processes across early learning services and schools.

3 thoughts on “Design community together”

    Clare McHugh says:

    would add: Choose tools to support the process. It can help circulate the ideas and keep everyone in the loop. Free tools (e.g. Survey Monkey, Doodle etc) can take the headache out of surveys (for the surveyor and the surveyed). There are social media options too where information can be posted and people can visit, comment etc as needed. ECA is experimenting with a messaging app for teams (with the unsettling name

    Jenny says:

    KidsMatter clearly knows what it’s doing when it comes to kids, with pragmatic advice that I can appreciate. Kids mental health is perhaps the most (or is the most!) important aspect of development, and having a welcoming community is critical here. I agree with Clare that the social media aspect is another element to brining safer communities to kids.

    Dario says:

    That takes us up to the next level. Great ponstig.

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