A few months ago a group of postgraduate students from the UQ Centre for Communication for Social Change conducted a participatory needs and opportunity analysis (PNOA) with participants of the Community Café Dialogues (CCD) Program. While there were only limited opportunities for the students to facilitate a group reflection and while acknowledge that it was difficult for many of our interested participants to come to the meeting, the results are very worthwhile and useful for PaCSIA. Below are some excerpts from the report:
“CCD is an occasion that brings everyone together. They create a platform or space for dialogue and discussion where people can talk, hear and listen to each other. Everyone communicates differently and is offered a space to do this in CCD. For example, sometimes in the dialogical process there may be barriers such as language and disability, which means you have to use alternative ways of communicating. The atmosphere is always ‘buzzing’ with energy. It is a noisy and busy process and it’s all about connecting, exchanging, communicating with people and making connections…”

“Participants view CCD as more than just an event. It is an ‘occasion’ to celebrate and come together. There is an underlying feeling or sense of belongingness that the café atmosphere creates through food being the main ‘celebratory’ item. The dialogical process is evidently an important aspect of the cafés as it provides a platform for participants’ voice to be valued by exchanging stories. Central to the dialogical process is how participants perceive the idea of ‘space’ as a recurring theme throughout the storyboards. CCD not only create the opportunity for voice to be amplified (heard) but also provide a form of legitimacy for their voices to be acknowledged and valued through dialogue and building relationships with others…”

Based on both the analysis and conclusions presented, this report makes the following recommendations

  • Elderly participants expressed that the CCD environment can be noisy. These participants should be shown consideration and the room set-up should allow for quiet spaces, if participants are in need of a break.
  • Participants would like more information regarding employment opportunities in Brisbane. It may be useful to include this component in future topics, or include a section on employment opportunities or vacancies in the newsletter, on a regular basis.
  • It is inherent from the PNOA that participants do not readily make the link between CCD and social change. Perhaps it would beneficial to include a story or example in CCD conversation that demonstrates how social change has come about as a result CCD.
  • It was agreed amongst the group of participants that the people who need to hear and learn from these dialogues most, do not currently attend CCD. It might be beneficial to look into a communication strategy that addresses this gap.
  • It appears that people are using the informal networks from CCD to meet some of their initial establishment needs. There is an opportunity for CCD to better understand how people are using these informal networks. This will allow CCD to develop and strengthen the current services they are providing.

We are very grateful to the three facilitator-researchers for their comprehensive report and useful suggestions. We will endeavour to integrate them into further planning for Community Cafés and the future of our program. We would also like to express our sincere gratitude to the participants of the discussion groups who provided these insights into their experiences. Community Cafés work because of the knowledge and generosity of our participants and we thank you for that.

For those of you interested in reading the full report, a copy is available here:

view report