Entrance to Samford Commons

Design thinking in action – the wellbeing project

For our second design thinking project, I have chosen to work on an initiative aimed at improving health and wellbeing in our local community (Samford, an outer suburb of Brisbane). The wellbeing initiative is part of a series of community-driven initiatives focused around social, economic and environmental sustainability. 

Samford is a community in the semi-rural outer metropolitan area 22km north-west of the central business district (CBD) of Brisbane in Queensland, Australia. There are over 10,000 residents in Samford, the surrounding valley and wider postcode area (4520), and a large proportion of residents live on acreage properties. The focal point of the area, Samford Village, is a popular weekend destination for visitors as well as locals, and has a number of cafes, a large park and children’s play area (John Scott Park), a local museum, and a range of independent shops and services.

A unique community

The Samford community is unusual in that it has a strong history of community engagement and participation in local activities. This is a community that ten years ago banded together and successfully stopped a major retailer from setting up in the area and potentially ruining the local environment – a feat other towns tried with less success. It is also a community that still produces a fortnightly printed newspaper (the ‘Village Pump’) which is distributed throughout the Samford region, during a time when major national newspapers are struggling to survive. There are a number of Samford-focused community social media forums and websites where people get help, share stories, buy and sell stuff, inevitably complain about things, or keep up with local news and events.

Samford Futures website screenshot
Samford Futures website

Following a process of community-led consultation called ‘Samford Futures’ from 2010–2013, when local people were asked how they wanted to shape the future of the community, a number of initiatives evolved. These related to areas as diverse as transport, the arts, urban planning, energy, food production, social support and sustainability, and a report was produced outlining proposed actions in each of these areas.

All of this was led by people in the community, not by government or organisations. For example, in 2013 Samford launched a campaign called “Change your bag habits” to reduce plastic bag use, well before the state government legislated against single-use plastic bags in 2018.

Samford Futures event photo
Community members at a Samford Futures event

Samford Commons – a place to grow

A major outcome of the Futures consultation process was the development of Samford Commons – a not-for-profit organisation formed around the idea of repurposing some local disused council-owned buildings and turning them into a sustainable resource for the community.

I am fortunate to have worked with Samford Commons since its inception, designing the visual branding and creating items such as annual reports, partnership proposals for local/state government, site signage and other marketing and communication activities.

Samford Commons journey diagram
Diagram illustrating the journey towards Samford Commons

The ethos of Samford Commons extends beyond the physical buildings and encompasses the idea of sustainable living, working, learning and playing. The Samford Commons tagline “a place to grow…” reflects the desire to improve peoples’ lives in various ways – a place to grow knowledge, connections, ideas, creativity and more.

The redevelopment of the buildings has been a slow process due to political, financial and environmental considerations, but this has not stopped Samford Commons (and related organisations or spin-offs) from implementing a number of initiatives to support and enrich the community. These include educational programs, farmers markets, food waste reduction, traineeships for unemployed youth, a community library, business events and a maker festival for arts, craft and technology.

Maker Festival Samford Commons
Maker Festival at Samford Commons, November 2017

The need: improving wellbeing

One of the themes that has emerged as a result of Samford Commons’ activity in the community is the need to support people in improving their health and overall wellbeing. Samford already hosts an annual wellbeing fair in the park, with stalls representing local businesses related to health and fitness. Samford has also hosted a very successful Arts Trail for the last two years, run by Creative Samford (another off-shoot of the Samford Futures process) to promote and support artists in the wider community.

The proposed solution: a Wellbeing Trail

Samford Commons has decided to create a ‘wellbeing trail’. This trail aims to connect people to resources and organisations focused on physical, mental and social wellbeing. It intends to support both social and economic sustainability by helping people within the region and supporting local organisations.

The Wellbeing Trail is a similar concept to the Arts Trail, with a number of ‘stops’ on a physical trail people can follow — but in this case it will be a trail that relates to aspects of wellbeing, and the stops will be manned by local businesses, clubs or non-profit organisations.

This is the starting point for my design thinking project. A need has been recognised, and a general solution has been identified. Now that solution needs to be designed, implemented and communicated. To do this I need to investigate the context further, reframe the solution with people at the centre, and determine the best process to take the project forward…

Next > Starting the design thinking process


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