The Sustainable Communities Initiative

In this article

  1. SCI overview
  2. Who is involved in the SCI?
  3. What have we learnt so far?
  4. Publishing History

What have we learnt so far?

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A review of the SCI project portfolio is underway to ensure the SCI delivers on its original objectives of ensuring diversity of location, scale, scope and community capacity are addressed in its portfolio.

Group of school children sitting on a large rock bushland in the background.

Reflections on the first two years of SCI operations have revealed some valuable insights. The SCI model is proving highly effective given most sustainability issues are complex and require an integrated and holistic approach.

These insights include:


Leadership is emerging as a critical determinant of project success. SCI member organisations and their representatives are leading the way in cross-sector partnerships. Equally, local leadership is a major factor in successful local engagement and implementation.


Devoting sufficient time to build and maintain trusting relationships between the key community contacts and the CSIRO project leader is an essential component of any project. This relationship then provides the foundation on which other linkages can be built and project momentum maintained.

Institutional barriers

Institutional barriers are evident across multiple sectors and organisations and the issue of timing also emerged during reflections on Year One and Two operations. Organisations and communities all operate on different time frames and work towards different priorities (political, budgetary, organisational, etc.). These factors may impact on the success of engagement and require careful consideration.

The SCI model is proving highly effective given most sustainability issues are complex and require an integrated and holistic approach.


A diverse range of participants provides a breadth of experience and resources to draw from in developing and delivering SCI projects. This also requires significant focus on managing expectations across a diverse set of organisational values, drivers and cultures.

The thread holding this together is the notion of mutual benefit through working together to attain a goal bigger than a single entity could achieve.

Key learnings from the SCI are already being incorporated into relevant policy, programs and practice at a range of scales. This will continue as the project evolves and more insights and learnings become apparent.

Looking forward

As the SCI reaches the midway point of its three-year operation (2006–09), the partners are reflecting on their collective experiences and taking forward the lessons learnt.

Over the next 18 months, the SCI expects to deliver a further four to six projects in a number of Australian communities. Participatory planning in communities undergoing change and working with indigenous communities are areas of particular interest.

Read more about the SCI's insights in Working Together ~ Learning Together II: The Sustainable Communities Initiative Year Two report.