Decision support tools for community informed decision-making

Thu 12 June 2014

Professor Anthony Hogan, with Professor Robert Tanton, David Donnelly, Dr Kim Houghton, Dr Paula Jones and Dr Jen Cleary (all University of Canberra) and Professor Dean Carson (Flinders University) have produced the Community Adaptability Tool.


Significant environmental and economic changes are impacting on the viability of communities in rural and regional Australia. Drought, drying, floods and fires persistently impact on peoples’ livelihoods and wellbeing as does the constantly changing global economic environment. In the face of such demands, rural communities are looking for ways to adapt particularly as large scale national policy had very specific impacts in their local community. But how do people know what their options are? How might policy impact on the viability of their community? What opportunities are available to take the community forward? What role can industry or government play? And if we had a good idea for the future would our community support us? While large public datasets exist that could help communities understand their futures, such information was rarely in a form that communities could use.

In response to this need, our research team took up the challenge to develop a community-based decision support tool that small communities could be used to assess the impacts of policy change in their community. Central to this project is the participation of stakeholders in the development of a choice experiment wherein community members have to move beyond wish lists for their future and grapple with real life trade-offs about the future, but armed with informed about their local economy and community. The process also gives community members an equal say in envisioning their future.

Developing the tool was a big job. We were successful because we had a diverse team of talented people who respected what each person had to contribute to the overall project. The project was also successful because people in four communities across rural Australia worked with us to get it right.

We hope that rural communities across Australia will be able to use the tool to develop realistic scenarios for infra-structure development, economic investment and community planning. We believe that the development of this kind of information is central to ensuring that all regional communities are able to make the best use of the $1 billion the Australian Government has put on the table for its National Stronger Regions Fund.

We have produced a ‘how to guide’ which provides communities with a step-by-step plan to developing their own well informed community decision-making process. 

To download a copy of the 'how to guide', please click this link.

For more information on this research, please email anthony.hogan | at |



*photo courtesy of David Isbester

Back to News