Building community capacity for collaborative change

Back to Neighbourhoods

Collective and collaborative participation in local projects builds strong communities.  However, bringing this together often needs skills and support that communities don’t have.  

Recognising this, Beacon has collaborated with the Seattle-based Pomegranate Center to bring their training programme to New Zealand.  This programme builds the capacity of New Zealand communities to lead change by:

  • teaching professionals and students skills to engage and support communities to build resilience by using art and creativity in place-making.
  • sharing practical tools, processes, and approaches that help communities to help themselves by working together
  • inspiring actual change and collaboration in New Zealand communities.


Step One: Building Community training workshops

Beacon has brought Pomegranate founder and 27 year veteran of art-based placemaking, Milenko Matanovic, to New Zealand to lead training for all those who work with or in communities as a community leader, council staff or in  professional projects.   Milenko shares the Pomegranate Center’s practical tools, processes and approaches to facilitate community groups to more constructively engage with, and participate in, their community.

These skills are what Milenko calls fierce facilitation for community engagement (as opposed to community recruitment).  Milenko says “In a world of many agendas, ideologies and approaches, a facilitator’s work is to ensure that different insights contribute to, rather than extinguish,  each other. Every community needs dedicated and fierce facilitators to uphold the standards of conversation that enable a collaborative culture capable of multiple victories, solutions that meet many different goals at the same time.“

Step Two: Initial community workshop

Prior to engaging with a community, the project has to be ready to go. That means that a lot of homework has to already be done;  to ensure whatever is proposed can be created. This is usually done with a small steering group.   

Once prepared, there is an initial community workshop or meeting to bring the community together to share information and ideas about what they would like to see and come up with a vision and approach for a project. The first community meeting needs to invite as many of the local community as possible, including potential detractors.  Milenko suggests a set of ground rules to understand roles and responsibilities, keep the project on track, and prevent any one group or person derailing the process.

Beacon’s staff are trained in the Pomegranate Center’s methods, and are available to facilitate these intial workshops to support the community in getting their project vision up and running.

Pomegranate Center primarily uses this method to create gathering places and, very quickly after the initial community meetings,  professionals develop the ideas into a proposal that is refined by local people.  Opportunities for some early successes are then created and the main project is completed within 3-4 months, often with many volunteers involved.

Milenko Matanovic

Milenko Matanovic at a training workshop



Upcoming training workshops

Building Community workshops, led by Milenko Matanovic, will be held in New Zealand in July-August 2016.