Shaping Wollongong: Strategies for the City

Client: The Property Council of Australia
Location: Wollongong, NSW

In 2012, the Property Council identified the need for a vision that could light a clear pathway for the city of Wollongong. They established a partnership of people – state & local governments, landowners & asset owners, advisors & experts who shared common goals: gather ideas from the people of Wollongong, learn from what worked well elsewhere & find opportunities to re-energise the city.

This group commissioned Hello City to guide a creative & strategic process called Shaping Wollongong – to generate big ideas & understand how to put them into action.

The process of defining the ambitions for Shaping Wollongong started in May 2013. The partnership was looking for big ideas, fresh thinking, new connections & inspiration that also built on what was already in place, already proposed or already happening.

Hello City designed a process that stepped beyond dry public meetings or surveys. We wanted to hear the thoughts, ideas and aspirations of people from all walks of life – from grassroots community to big corporates and everyone in between. Then we wanted them tell us what was really possible. A wishlist wouldn’t cut it.

Using the dynamics of game-play, Hello City devised and delivered an innovative public engagement event called an Ideas-a-thon to create a sense of excitement and invite as many ideas as possible for the enhancement of Wollongong.

The event had a massive response. 170 people in 41 teams took part – community members, families, government, small business, big business, university students, artists and consultants. Over 900 photos were uploaded for the photo challenge, chronicling aspirations for the city. The teams worked through three challenges against the clock, between them generating an incredible 3476 ideas on the day with 41 developed ideas submitted to the judges.

Following synthesis and detailed analysis of all of the outputs from the Ideas-a-thon, Hello City developed 10 themes for further development.

Ideas Lab
In June Hello City facilitated an Ideas Lab made up of around 60 knowledgeable people with diverse backgrounds and expertise – the people best placed to understand each theme from its different angles, with intimate knowledge of the barriers, levers, politics and history, & what it would take to make them happen. Senior managers at council & state government, local entrepreneurs, traders, developers & artists all took part.

We asked these participants to work in groups to define frameworks in which many of the ideas could flourish. They considered the forces shaping Wollongong today, made hard judgement calls about the sweet spot between ambition and practicalities, set defined goals & mapped what needs to happen to realise their goals. Not bad for a day’s work.

The Lab worked them through a rigorous process of developing, testing, refining and shaping ideas into well-resolved strategies each with its own short and longer term action plans.

Participants worked through a series of 3 stages on the day:

  • Exploration: understanding the context and key drivers
  • Refinement: testing, analysis, finding the sweet spots between ambition and deliverability
  • Conclusions: decisions & actions, detailed in a business canvas model for each theme

The document that captures the Shaping Wollongong conversation was released in November 2013. The document describes 10 ambitions for the transformation of the city. We are excited to see the ambitions  coming to life, with various resources, champions, volunteers & actions now committed across the city.

The Illawarra’s creative community has praised the recommendations of the Property Council of Australia’s Shaping Wollongong report, saying it presents a “bold and inspiring vision” for the region’s cultural future.
- Illawarra Mercury, December 2nd 2013

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