Back in 1992, Creating Communities Founding Director, Allan Tranter, was busy working for the Western Australian State Government’s Department of Sport and Recreation. For twenty years, he had grown networks and developed far-reaching strategies that developed communities throughout the state through policy and infrastructure. Yet, it was a call late one Thursday afternoon that would shape his vocational future.
While this exchange would play a role in a career change for Allan, the thinking that came before this moment was entirely consistent with where the phone call was headed.
“The Sport and Rec industry had two obvious streams at the time, but it was often dominated by a pursuit of elite pathways and performance: state, national and international representation,” Tranter recalled.
“I thought our focus should be far broader. I had seen recreation as a core expression of Western Australia’s lifestyle – a way of linking communities together.
“I may not have put the language of community around it to begin with, but I’d started to think that we were in the community development space from the late eighties.
“We had begun to embrace wellness as a holistic, all-of-community vision and idea, and while I hadn’t extrapolated all the thinking I’d been doing around this into a business model, I’d begun to think about life outside of government – particularly after the change in government in early 1993 following the State election.
“I think I was ready to move and when the call came through, I saw it as an opportunity.”
At the end of the line was Michael Smith, someone Allan had worked with before, from the Marketing Centre. Their client was a land developer in the northern suburbs, and things weren’t going so well – residents were picketing the sales office in reaction to a lack of communication, and the suburb they were promised. He was calling Allan because he knew the problem wasn’t a marketing one, but one of communication.
“I was aware of the slow rate at which communities tended to form themselves – typically eight years – and how Allan believed this could be sensitively accelerated through collaboration,” Smith said.
“Allan’s understanding of how people related to each other, particularly through the prism of recreation was important. It showed me what was possible if you were careful, skilled, and intentional.
“The reality wasn’t matching the brochure for the residents of the Mindarie development – but an airing of grievances wasn’t as significant as embracing the opportunities that came from that consultation.”
When the call about Mindarie came through, Tranter teamed up with Mary Fraser to put all the works into place to start a small entity.
Then he got his hands dirty and did what no one had thought to do: he brought all the stakeholders into one room. First, he facilitated a discussion that gave residents a space to vent both their displeasure and dreams for this fledgling community. Then, as the issues poured out, he shaped a strategy that gave them a voice, dignified the concerns, and brought the land developer onto the same side of the problem.
Smith said the shift in attitude was palpable.
“Allan quickly demonstrated to everyone’s benefit what was possible if you developed strong connections within the community and let that consultation shape the networks, community groups, and built amenities,” he said.
“Not only was there sincere intent, but a commitment to put plans into action.”
It was a pivotal moment – not only for the future of the land development in the State, but also for Allan. He had found his vocation, and the vision for Creating Communities began to take shape: a consultancy working with diverse stakeholder groups to deliver powerful community outcomes.
A new chapter
Thirty years on, the genesis of Creating Communities is still consistent with the spark that started the fire. We work alongside organisations and communities to uncover new pathways to move forward together.
We advise some of the largest companies in the world. We have the world’s largest repository of research in FIFO, have shaped the future of over 500 distinct communities across the nation, and played a part in planting 100,000 trees.
We engage people and organisations to find common ground and build social value by discovering communities’ spirit, designing strategies that inspire action and collaboration, and delivering change that matters by building capacity for sustained results.
We’re Creating Communities; we’ve been doing this for thirty years. And we’re just getting started.