Case Study - Community Profiling

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Project Snapshot
Project Date July – December 2003
No. of people to manage/deliver project 1 profiler, 3 support team, +5 mentors/ advisors
No. of people involved 45-50
Who was involved 20 local community members and 20 agency staff were involved in the profile development as well as members of the project steering committee (5-10)
Type(s) of engagement Inform, Consult, Involve
Cost 1 FTE for 2 months
Time 1 FTE (full time equivalents) for 2 months
Tools used Research – snowball sampling, story telling and collection, socio-demographic data collection, visioning workshops


Objective of the project

The Brucknell Creek Catchment is a small catchment in South West Victoria near the township of Warrnambool. The catchment is predominantly rural, with several small towns and a population of approximately 1000. Over the last two-and-a -half years a group of people including local agency representatives and members of the community have gathered to talk about working together in the catchment.

The Brucknell Creek Catchment Project has since evolved to adopt a holistic community development approach to addressing the social, economic and environmental issues of the catchment area. My part in the project has been to develop a Community Profile of the Brucknell Creek Community. The development of the profile occurred over a six-month period from April to September 2003.

The main purpose of the Brucknell Creek community profile was to develop a greater understanding of ‘who’ the community is – their characteristics, their story and their networks as well as establish the initial phases in development of relationships with the community. The profile would then be used to form the basis of the Community Engagement Plan.
Road leading into small town

Map of community showing different organisations.

The Community

The project team was keen to establish a relationship with citizens, explore the level of diversity in the Brucknell Creek community and to use this knowledge to develop more inclusive engagement processes. It was necessary to engage the citizens and stakeholders in the development of the profile because this kind of information had not been recorded for this area before (e.g. local history, lists of groups and networks and descriptions of their interactions with each other, identification of community leaders).

Guiding principles of the project:

Relationships are critical for success
A particular highlight of developing the community profile was the relationships that developed between myself (the profiler) and the community members. I found that giving people the opportunity to talk about their own community was an excellent starting point from which to build a relationship. An unforeseen benefit was that the relationships built from the profile became the foundations of the community visioning exercise. Most of the people who attended the visioning workshop had been involved in the profile.

Passion drives action
I discovered how passionate people are about their community and how much diversity there was within the one area. Often our discussions would lead to reflections on how things have changed in the community which was an excellent starting point for the community visioning exercise that took place a few months later.

Tools and methods used

The research component of the profile involved conversations with community members using a snowball sampling technique. The community members on the steering committee were the starting point from which a list of active community members, community groups and stories was collected. A map of the groups was developed.

This information was supported by statistical socio-demographic data from the ABS 2001 Census of Population and Housing and a list of all of the agency engagement activities in the catchment. In retrospect, the approach was ‘consultative’ (as people were asked questions), but were not involved in the development process.

The following flowchart illustrates the steps involved in this profiling process for a specific community.

Stage 1: Reserach and Scoping
What is the purpose of the Brucknell Creek community profile?
What information needs to be in the community profile?
What resources/ constraints will influence the development of the profile?
How will the profile information be used?

  • Research report into different approaches to community profiling.
  • Scoping discussions within team about the content of the profile.
Resources: 1 month FTE

Stage 2: Develop proposal and endorsement of steering committee
  • Develop research proposal based on activities from Stage One
  • Explain and demonstrate the value of a community profile to steering committee
  • Clear definition of:
  • The research questions/ define boundary of area of interest
  • The data sources and method to be used for each research question
  • The time required for the research
Resources: 3 days FTE

Stage 3: Research activity
Identifying groups/networks/
Method: snowball sampling beginning with steering committee (phone calls), visiting local store owners, local directories/notice boards.
Resources: 1.5 weeks FTE
(20+ community members contacted)

Agency activity/ projects in catchment area
Method: snowball sampling technique/ phone calls.
Survey to obtain more information on extent and purpose of engagement.
Also enquired about prior social research in area.
Resources: 1.5 weeks FTE

Stage 4: Presentation of profile in progress to steering committee
Identified next steps in profile development after presentation
Resources: 1 week FTE

Stage 5: Ongoing development of profile
Further research activity as project progresses/ more relationships with people in the community (Landcare group meeting, community visioning BBQ coordination)
Resources: < 1 week FTE

Stage 6: Production of living profile document
Information can be added to overtime/ edited.
Endorsement of community members (i.e. town descriptions)

Lessons learned

A key learning for the team was that community profiling can be a significant way to develop relationships in a community, and it offers much potential as a starting point for building community capacity to create more enduring, long-term beneficial outcomes.
In the future, our approach will be to inform groups within the Brucknell area more widely of the intention to develop a community profile through:
  • invitation of groups/community members to either take on the profile project, or to be involved in decision-making around how the profile would be developed
  • involve/empower community members to undertake the research themselves or be involved in ways that suited their preference.


"Originally the community profile was thought to be the information from which the community engagement plan would be based. However, it was soon discovered that profiling is an engagement activity itself as people from the community are involved in the research."

"… community profiling can be a significant way to develop relationships in a community, and it offers much potential as a starting point for building community capacity to create more enduring, long-term beneficial outcomes".


Lyneve Whiting, Community Engagement Network, DSE Warrnambool, 03 5561 9988