Community connectors are able to bridge the gap between services and people who are usually hard to reach.
By Matthew Schulz, journalist, Our Community
You're sure to know a handful of them in your community: they're the "connectors".
Connectors are the precious people who know many others and get things done. They have an uncanny ability to connect people, or to link them to resources, or information, or services. Often they'll notice people who aren't being included and they'll do something about it.
Sound like someone you know? Maybe it's you.
Now an Australian study into the role of these special individuals has described the incredible resource and potential they represent, particularly when it comes to engaging with people in the community whom services find the hardest to reach.
Swinburne University of Technology PhD candidate Carolyn Wallace has become fascinated by these fixers, who can, she's written, "facilitate the flow of ideas, information, activities and relationships" across organisations, and across social and cultural boundaries.
Her research is examining:
Ms Wallace has conducted a widespread literature review and examined case studies in regional areas of Australia and Ireland for her research. She found connectors don't have a common personality trait, and they don't have to be long-term locals to have an impact in their communities.
She did find that connectors must also act as "boundary spanners" to be successful. They are often described by those around them as "engaged insider", having a "bridging role", or acting as a "cultural bridge", "nexus", "intermediary" or "trusted liaison".
Connectors are happy to help, and for many of them, it's just an instinct.
But she says all of them demonstrate:
Mostly they're non-judgmental types, and many of them demonstrate flexibility and a general openness too.
Ms Wallace believes for many their skill is instinctive.
"Many of the connectors I spoke to talked about how this has been a consistent pattern in their life. They have a natural empathy with people, sense of justice and view that all people should be able to participate in their community."
But Ms Wallace also believes those skills can be learnt, with some connectors having been invited into the fold by other, more experienced connectors.
Ms Wallace's early findings suggest that social connectors can have a big impact on their communities, and on the efforts of health organisations to engage hard-to-reach groups.
WATCH NOW: Carolyn Wallace explains her research
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