The Project

Opportunity Spaces – Community Engagement in the Planning, Use and Governance of Shared School Facilities

In Australia and internationally, there is increasing interest in making more effective use of schools as community hubs. Investment in shared school facilities aims to engage parents and local communities in schooling, to coordinate educational and community services, and to encourage civic participation. There is little research on the conceptual and practical problems associated with engaging local communities in the planning, use and governance of shared facilities, or on the benefits to schools and communities of shared use. Opportunity Spaces is a three year research project (2012-2015) supported under Australian Research Council’s Linkage Project funding scheme (LP110200550) that will generate new insights into this significant development in education and social policy.

Opportunity Spaces
The Opportunity Spaces research project is being conducted by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, State Government of Victoria, with a team from RMIT University and the University of Western Sydney. The research aims to identify effective ways of engaging local communities in the planning, use and governance of joint school-community facilities. To pursue this aim the research team will:

  • assess Australian and international developments in shared- or extended-use school facilities, both physical and digital (2012-2013)
  • conduct a series of interviews and focus groups with key informants on the issues of community engagement in design, development, use and governance of shared-use facilities at three investigation sites located in Colac, Derrimut and Hume (2013-2014)
  • develop conceptual models and procedural tools, including on-line tools, to optimise community engagement in shared facility development, use and governance (2014-2015)

Research team
Dr Ian McShane (RMIT University) has published in the fields of social history, education, social infrastructure and public policy. He has a Masters degree in education and completed his PhD on the provision and management of community infrastructure. He has consulted in the areas of museums and heritage, education, and industry training.

Professor Denise Meredyth (University of South Australia) worked with the Federal Department of Education to lead the first benchmark study of the IT skills of Australian school students and teachers. She has linked the study of informal learning to social partnership and neighbourhood renewal, exploring alliances between state and non-state agencies.

Associate Professor Jerry Watkins (University of Canberra) has conducted a number of international studies into digital literacy and social media. His PhD focuses on the application of user-generated content to informal learning systems. He is a UNESCO Invited Expert on mobile media and has a 20-year track-record in commercial design and communication.

Dr Chris Wilson (RMIT University) has conducted social, economic and market research for private consultancies, media organisations and universities for almost 20 years.  He has also spent time as a classroom teacher in both mainstream and alternative education sectors.