Consultant Randi Wagner on having an open heart and mind and why community engagement is critical

Randi is a community engagement and communications practitioner with a range of experience including social enterprise business development, community mental health service facilitation, design and visual communication. She has been involved in business development, start-ups, and community-based projects in Australia and Myanmar. 

Why did you decide to get into community engagement?   

I have a diverse career experience including photography, design, small business, mental health support facilitator and women’s economic development projects. One thread that ties all of my work together is the focus on relationships. Over the past few years, I have become more and more interested in approaching challenges through a design lens. Therefore, bringing people and ideas together to solve problems became a call to action for me. I began studying systems design and applying this to my work. At the core of any good design is understanding the problem and who you are designing for. I noticed a real theme in jobs and projects I worked in – that community engagement done well provides a critical foundation to build upon. If you get that wrong, things will fall over somewhere along the line.  

What’s the most rewarding project you have worked on?  

I have been at Capire for over six months now and exposed to a whole range of projects. I would have to say that one of my favourite projects has been the work we did on Local Services.  Between 2008 and 2015 I worked in community mental health sector delivering on the ground support to people experiencing mental health through individual and group support. I think mental health is something that impacts all of us at some point in our life, yet it is something which we as a society are largely silent about.  Working on the Local Services project was an opportunity for me to revisit that important area of work, but through a new lens.  

What does it take to be a great community engagement consultant? 

I think it takes an open heart and mind. Of course, there are some things you need to be clear on such as your values, and the organisations values, but you also need to allow for much flexibility, you need to be aware of your own biases, and expectations because if you are not that can impact what you hear. And on that note listening carefully and not judging or fixing – even though this can be a human response.    

The other thing you need is a strong and diverse team of people around you. People who may have a different view to you and can challenge yours in a supportive way whether that is how to approach a brief or how to run a focus group.   

Who in the field inspires you?  

I am endlessly inspired by the team at Capire who are incredibly skilled, and very generous with their time in supporting me as I jump into community engagement consulting.   

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