The Social Research Toolkit has its foundations in a collaboration that formed in 2012 between Andrew Hickey from the University of Southern Queensland, and Paul Reynolds, Darryl Bates and the Community Development and Facilities Branch team from the Toowoomba Regional Council.

Following an invitation to undertake an evaluation review of one of the Branch’s youth development initiatives, Andrew and the Branch developed a collaborative approach to program evaluation that drew attention to the capacities that the Branch staff themselves held for social research and program evaluation. In fact it quickly emerged that significant capacity existed within the Branch to undertake the evaluation reviews of programs, informed as these were by approaches to social research that the university researchers could provide. An extension to the original collaboration formed with the development of the initial ‘pilot’ program that underpins what you see here. It was within this approach to collaborative social research practice that the concept and practice of the ‘practitioner researcher’ emerged.

This developed even further again with the assistance of an Australian Centre for Excellence in Local Government (ACELG) Partnership Grant, and the inclusion of Lisa McDonald from the University of Southern Queensland. With Lisa’s expertise in social research with digital technologies, the development of this toolkit progressed to consider the role that online communities play in local government community engagement.

In all, the intention behind this toolkit is twofold; firstly it seeks to identify the ways that local government practitioner researchers might come to an understanding of the communities they work with. Secondly, this toolkit seeks to provide the foundations for more effective, targeted and community focused local government practice.

We hope that this Toolkit allows you to achieve these intentions.

Andrew Hickey

Lisa McDonald

Paul Reynolds