Many Indigenous organisations in urban, rural and remote areas are successfully managing a broad range of programs and services for their communities. This paper reviews available literature on Indigenous community-managed programs and organisations and summarises what is working in successful community-managed programs. It also considers some literature about the use of community development approaches and how they support successful Indigenous community-managed programs. This paper is intended for practitioners and policy-makers working with Indigenous communities to manage their own programs and organisations.
Many Indigenous organisations in urban, rural and remote areas are successfully managing a broad range of programs and services for their communities.
The following factors are common to successful community-managed programs and organisations:
the community has ownership of and control over decision-making;
culture is central to the program, including an understanding of local context, history and community leaders;
local Indigenous staff work on the program or in the organisation;
good corporate governance exists;
Indigenous staff are working on programs and existing capacity is harnessed;
trusting relationships with partners are established;
flexibility in implementation timelines.
Barriers to successful community programs and organisation include a range of factors that are external (e.g., lack of long-term commitment from external funding agencies) and internal to Indigenous organisations (e.g., human capital and capacity that underwrites economic development and significant social and health problems that are impacting the social and cultural capital of Indigenous communities).
Currently, there is a lack of evaluation data to determine the extent to which community development practices are more effective than other practices in delivering successful Indigenous-managed programs or comparing community management against programs where communities are not given responsibility for management. This indicates the need for long-term data and research in these areas.