Open Communities – Coming Together in Learning

Open Communities – Coming Together in Learning

Do you love making the world a better place?

Do you care about community building, local joy, and helping people thrive?

Do you find yourself coming up against challenges in progressing the things you care about sometimes?


… then we would love to design with you!

We’re on a mission to build a collective of do-ers and dreamers who are passionate about community building, and making the world a more connected, vibrant and inclusive place.
Are you a…
  • volunteer at a community association
  • staff member of a community organisation
  • local community builder
  • community activist
  • place-maker
  • community development officer
  • or just someone who wants to learn the ins-and-outs of community building?
community events image



We’re inviting you to join us in designing a collaborative space, that will help us all further our mission of connected, vibrant communities. We hope that this space, which could be digital, could be in person, or could be a magic combination of both, will enable everyone working in community to:

Image description: Workshop run by Befriend
  • Learn from others
  • Share your own experiences
  • Swap stories
  • Access insights about the inclusive community building practices other organisations use
  • Discover new ways of doing things
  • Meet new community collaborators
  • Overcome common community building challenges
  • Get creative with everyone working in this space!

There are so many similarities in what we’re working towards. What could it look like if we were able to learn from each other?

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.

Helen Keller

This is your opportunity to help design this space for the community building sector, so your unique needs, learning style, and collaboration methods are represented in the prototype.


We’re hosting:


A gathering at The Platform (3/256 Adelaide Terrace, Perth WA 6000*) on Saturday March 11 2023, between 10am – 12pm (nibbles, tea and coffee provided!)


An online gathering on Tuesday March 28 2023, between 10am – 12pm


Together, we’ll go on an Insight Gallery Walk, where we’ll share some of the work we’ve been doing with Black and Indigenous People of Colour with disabilities, learning more about inclusion in community life.


Then, we’ll Build Upon the Insights, generating new ideas on how we, as community do-ers, dreamers, volunteers and workers, can come together in learning to enhance our impact.

*Public Transport: The closest train station is Perth Station, which is approximately a 15-minute walk away.

Car Parking: Wilson Parking operates several car parks within walking distance of The Platform, including the 141 Adelaide Terrace Car Park and the 256 Adelaide Terrace Car Park.


We’ve been working with Black & Indigenous People of Colour (BIPOC) with disabilities, just like Jess here, to learn more about what they need to feel included in community spaces.

In zooming into the unique needs of this unique group of people, we’ve been gifted some rich insights that may be able to be applied to many of the different communities we all work with.

We’re excited to share these insights with you, so you can apply them in your own community building work, and so we can build upon them in our shared learning space.

Please join us for a fun and engaging learning experience that will help the communities we all serve be stronger, more inclusive and more welcoming.

‘Open Communities’ is proudly supported by the Department of Social Services.

Neighbour Connection Cards

Neighbour Connection Cards

Human connection is the best gift of all.


We tend to think of the festive season as a busy time for dinners with family and social catch ups with friends, but for many different reasons, people in your neighbourhood might be spending Christmas Day alone.


Maybe they’re new to the area, or their children are overseas this year.

Maybe they’ve just come out of a long-term relationship or lost their life partner.

Maybe their plans have changed at the last minute.

Maybe they’re working a lot over the next few weeks.

Maybe this is just how it turned out this time.


We think that the festive season is a time for showing people that you care about them and for prioritising connection. If you’re feeling open-hearted and you love to help others feel a sense of belonging in your community, then consider reaching out to a few folks on your street!


We’ve made a cute little print that out that you might like to use (which you can download for free below) that lets your neighbours know your door is open. Or, if you fancy getting creative or inviting the kids in your life to make a card, you might like to write your own note!


Moments of connection come in all shapes and sizes, and we encourage you to think about what you might like to share this Christmas – a mince pie and a cuppa over the fence, brekkie on the veranda, or an extra seat around the dinner table. All of these moments and invitations matter more than you think!


Life is better together… especially at Christmas!


Downloadable flyer that you can print to send to your neighbours


If bringing your neighbours together and building a vibrant street community is something you’d like to be more intentional about in 2023, then we recommend checking out Neighbours Every Day for some great resources. Alternatively, reach out to us for a chat about how you might do this in a way that feels right for you!

Feeling awkward about meeting new people? It’s totally natural!

Feeling awkward about meeting new people? It’s totally natural!

Do you often find yourself saying “I’d like to go… but I don’t really know anyone and it might be awkward…” Yeah. Us too!


You’re not alone! This is a totally natural part of making new connections. And whilst it can feel really uncomfortable at times, we can learn to embrace the awkward!


The dread of feeling awkward is something so many of us share. In fact, it’s a fear that can actually hold us back from trying a new experience or getting through the door. As many as 1 in 4 Australians acknowledge that they regularly experience high levels of social anxiety when they’re meeting new people.


There isn’t really a clear definition or criteria for ‘feeling awkward’ but it’s a universal fear that we all experience in our lifetimes. Whether it’s through the process of making new friends, mingling at a party, attending a hobby group or club, networking, dating, meeting your in-laws for the first time… we all dread ‘getting something socially wrong’ and ‘not clicking’. It can become a serious phobia with devastating consequences, causing high levels of distress, racing thoughts, sweaty palms, muscle tension, panic and anxiety. Over a sustained period of time, that fear of being so uncomfortable in the moment can cause us to socially withdraw and stop trying new things altogether.


picture of people chatting. they look like they're pushing through the awkward!


But here’s the thing. We believe wholeheartedly that there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way of socialising. There’s no ‘succeeding’ and ‘failing’ at trying to make new friends. There’s just a bunch of strangers sharing some kind of experience and trying to spark a conversation, hoping that it flows and deep, deep down, hoping that we won’t feel rejected at the end of it. Fear of rejection is one of the biggest barriers to cultivating deep human connection.


We’ve been community building for over 12 years so trust us when we say that ’embracing the awkward’ is a natural, healthy and endearing part of trying something new in community. It shows our authenticity because building relationships isn’t a performance, and we’re not always going to have the perfect words to say. The trick is to not let it define you, to keep on practicing and keep showing up, and to remember that you, just like everyone else in the room, is worthy of being there.


Here are some tips to help you when you next hear yourself thinking “that sounds good, but I don’t know anyone there and it might be awkward…”



If you’ve spotted a gathering you’d love to go to but you start talking yourself out of it, try gently challenging that thought. Recognise that your mind is just trying to protect you from feeling rejected or embarrassed in the moment, but acknowledge that you’re also excited by this opportunity to do something fun and you’re curious about who you could meet there! Remind yourself that you are so worthy of friendship, that you can always go at your own pace and volume, and that you can excuse yourself to step outside any time you need to.


Message the organiser of the group

If there’s a key person organising the gathering you’re hoping to go to, try getting in touch with them and just explaining that you’re a bit worried about not knowing anyone. They will know how to welcome you in warmly and can help introduce you to others. One of the many lovely things community members do for each other across the Befriend Social Network is actually introduce people together who have shared interests, or who are confident chatters and curious questioners!


Ask someone you know to accompany you for the first few times

Being around a familiar face helps us feel safe and secure. Try asking a friend, family member or carer to accompany you for the first few times, just until you find your feet. They can help support the conversation whilst you gather your thoughts. Befriend Dungeons and Dragons Host, Harrison, remembered his first time hosting the group.


“My partner was just supposed to drop me off because I couldn’t drive at the time. Like, I didn’t beg… but I definitely just said please, please, please, please, please come in with me! Mostly, I just needed someone there that I knew. Once I got in, the fear didn’t go away, but it faded into the background a lot.”


embracing the awkward hosting dungeons and dragons


Prepare some easy conversation starters

You would not be the first person – or indeed the last – to have a list of conversational prompts stored in the notes of your phone. Having some reliable icebreakers under your hat can help get the conversation flowing a little so you can find common interests. You can use your environment to guide some curious questions (how long have you been doing [this activity]? Do you live locally?), or focus on light-hearted things such as book recommendations, favourite bands, movies and TV shows. You may not need this list, but having it available to you may enable you to relax more.


Acknowledge it!

It’s totally okay to admit out loud that you’re a bit nervous, and that you can’t think of anything to say. People respond well to vulnerability and humour, especially when it’s something we can all relate to in different ways. Chances are you’ll all have a chuckle over it and it may even break the ice a little.


Keep on turning up… it might get easier!

We’re not going to say that ‘practice makes perfect‘ because after all, what even is a ‘perfect’ conversation with someone? What we will say is that having the courage to keep turning up is how connection happens. Your presence matters; it makes a difference in the room, to you, and to others. Over time, you might be able to push past it and get to know someone, or, hey, you might just learn to become more comfortable with the occasional social faux pas (which is never as bad as you think it is!).


D&D Host Harrison offers this advice;

“If your goal is to meet new people that have a shared interest, you need to go to the places where that interest is expressed. And just, try, try to… try to just get into the building. If it helps, chances are, there is someone else in that building who’s thinking ‘I’m terrified, why am I here?’, and you might click and realise it wasn’t that big of a deal.”


You have the potential to make a big difference to others!

This is a story from a local community member who, like so many of us, struggled with meeting new people. They found the courage to come along to a few Befriend groups and over time, things started to get just a tiny bit easier. With that, came a new level of care and awareness that in turn, helps others.


“I am a naturally shy and introverted person. In social situations my default setting is to not talk. I find it hard to say hi…how are you? What’s your name? Or just to talk with people that I [don’t] know very well. While I was out and about on the street going to the shops or whatever, I would make a point not to really talk to the people who were serving me food or putting my groceries in a bag or whatever. After coming and being involved with Befriend, I started to feel more comfortable in social situations. I feel less nervous interacting with people, I am better able to interact with people in a way that makes them feel included and happy and welcome. Those skills and that awareness came about as a result of attending Befriend events. Just to be clear…I still find it difficult but I find it much easier now than I did before.”


We actually see this a lot – that attending something regularly and routinely not only helps someone strengthen their self confidence in different social situations, but actually helps them become better connectors for others! There’s a shared experience in feeling vulnerable that helps us recognise one another. If you’re looking for a safe space to be your authentic self (awkward warts ‘n’ all!), then you’re always welcome at any gathering in the Befriend Social Network. Groups are hosted and attended by local people all over Perth, and it’s an open invitation for you to embrace the awkward knowing you have a safe, friendly place to land. You can download our “conversation cards” to your mobile phone and lean on to them spark a chat!


That being said, if you find that your fear of experiencing awkward moments is really preventing you from meeting new people, then it may be worth chatting to your GP or sharing how you feel with someone who cares about you. Social anxiety can have a devastating impact on our individual and collective health and there are some great support avenues out there to help you take the steps you need at the pace that is right for you.

Case study: City of Kwinana

Case study: City of Kwinana

We are a non-profit social enterprise based in Perth, Western Australia who exist for one single purpose; to foster inclusive, welcoming communities. We love to work in partnership with like-minded organisations and people who share our mission, and work together to change the way people think about community and their roles within it.

In 2017, we were given the opportunity to spark a partnership project with the City of Kwinana and Dept Communities (Disability Services), targeting the broader Kwinana community, with an emphasis on residents at risk of social isolation/exclusion. We were invited to bring the Befriend Social Network to the City of Kwinana, empowering local residents to contribute their skills and gifts to their local community, share what’s important to them with others and create welcoming social spaces in which everyone can participate.

Here’s what happened.

Image description: Befriend ukelele group

The Objective

A partnership project between the City of Kwinana and the Disability Services Commission began in February of 2017. The programme was funded for one year with an intentional, strategic focus to find, engage and activate local residents to make Kwinana a more welcoming, inclusive and connected place. On a micro level, this would look like small, ‘every day’ social gatherings, led by the Kwinana community. On a macro level, however, this network development project would begin to change the dialogue around inclusion and increase the whole-community effort to enable connection to flourish for everyone, particularly for residents who may be more vulnerable to loneliness than others.

The Significance

Human beings are social creatures with an innate need to belong. But establishing and maintaining new, meaningful relationships can be challenging and many of us can find ourselves feeling isolated and lonely. There are lots of circumstances that can disrupt our social circles unexpectedly; we move to new countries or cities in search of new opportunities, we end long-term relationships, we change careers or have big things evolve in our lives that create the need to form new connections. For some of us, cultivating new relationships can be particularly tricky due to our diverse abilities, experiences with mental ill-health, social anxiety or a multitude of other factors that result in increased isolation.

Loneliness in our communities is having a devastating effect on our collective health and wellbeing, both physical and mental. Studies are now discovering that our level of social integration (the frequency with which we interact with various people in our lives; saying hello to our neighbours, having a brief discussion with the barista who makes your coffee, engaging in a polite chat with the person who delivers your post, having dinner with some friends, etc.) is the biggest determining factor of how long we are likely to live. It is this pivotal aspect of our health that impacts us far greater than obesity, diet, whether or not we smoke, how clean the air is that we breathe and the frequency with which we exercise.

Befriend’s existence is built on the understanding that the size, strength and quality of one’s social circle can significantly help individuals to discover more about themselves, explore how they relate to others and find new ways to contribute.

The Befriend Social Network

The Befriend Social Network has been strategically designed as an easy-access opportunity for local residents to be their own catalysts for change, creating community-owned welcoming spaces for any adult in Perth to participate in a shared social experience.

The project required someone ‘on the ground’ who was passionate about connection, the community and social inclusion. This person would need to be both a do-er and a thinker, a listener and a collaborator and be that perfect, unique blend of being equal parts analytical and creative. Thankfully, Befriend met local Kwinana resident Jodie Papiccio, who took on the role of ‘Community Builder’ in the local area.

Image description: Befriend volunteers and staff at info stall

 Jodie’s primary role was to encourage, support and activate local residents to build a grassroots movement of togetherness through social participation and develop several relationships with community partners who could serve as a referral pathway into the network. Jodie was encouraged and supported to use her gifts of hospitality (and scone-making), and her local networks through the school, sporting, family and local government networks to find, engage and activate other local residents who shared her passion for making Kwinana a more welcoming, connected place.

Two years later, we met Inger Ward; another local resident who shared Jodie’s passion for community, connection, and contribution. Inger began her Befriend journey as a Host within the Kwinana Social Network and was quite the social butterfly! When an opportunity came up for Befriend to expand our work in the local area, in stepped Inger, armed with her ukulele and her strengths in story-telling, to support the continued flourishing of community-building activities.

Over the next three years, Jodie and Inger have supported their fellow neighbours and residents to develop the confidence, skills and tools to start up and run their own social/interest groups and clubs, connected together as a local inclusive social network.

Image description: Befriend knitting meetup

The Impact

After the initial grant ended with DSC (February 2017 to January 2018), the City of Kwinana stepped in as a funding partner for the following 6 months, having witnessed for themselves the impact and success of the project within the community. Shortly after that, the Department of Communities supported our work as part of their Empowering Communities programme. This abundant strategic support has enabled The Befriend Social Network to continue its growth in Kwinana over the course of four years, reaching an estimated 9,000 local residents who between them have spent more than 3,000 hours connecting with one another through fun, participatory and inclusive activities. Jodie and Inger have been supporting the growing strength of the community with the help of talented volunteer community champions who have developed a number of valuable roles within the project, including co-Hosts, skill-sharers, promoters, newsletter-creators, social inclusion ambassadors and social media whizzes.

It’s become almost impossible to track, but by our estimations, there’s been over 8,000 community gatherings since the project’s inception, ranging from social sewing to coffee catch-ups, to ukulele practice, to board game nights! Community members report that they feel a greater confidence in connecting with people, feel a great sense of belonging in their local community, and have more opportunities to sweeten their social life.

Over 60 local residents have laced up their Hosting bonnets and proudly step into the role of regularly initiating welcoming social groups, both online and in-person. As a community, they showed enormous resilience during the 2020 pandemic lockdown, hosting fun digital gatherings over Zoom to stay connected and continue sharing social experiences with their groups. Without Hosts being brave enough to take that leap of faith, leading the way and putting the invitation out there, the network simply wouldn’t exist. We’re just the support act.

The project is supported by an effective partnership network, with over 25 Kwinana-based organisations acting as referral partners.

Ultimately, what we’ve seen over the course of 4 years is an evolution of the community, led by the very people living and playing in it. Community Builder and local resident Jodie says “I don’t really have any one favourite moment from this whole process, rather a series of moments that lift my heart. They seem to happen most often when I attend an event and see people who otherwise might never have met, I see them engaged in conversation, sharing a laugh or helping each other”.

If you’re looking for a partner for a place-based community development project, then reach out to Iain for a chat on or learn more about how we do what we do, just here. We’d be happy to explore our shared purpose with you!

How do I make friends in Perth if I’m introverted?

How do I make friends in Perth if I’m introverted?

You want to meet people, form friendships and feel less alone, but you think that your introverted nature is an obstacle to achieving that?

In a society mainly designed for extroverts, you can think that somehow being quiet and introverted isn’t the right way to go, and that more extroverted personalities have it easier when it comes to interacting.

First, stop undermining your introverted nature! It’s not better or worse than being extroverted! In the world’s history, a lot of transformative leaders and creatives have been introverts. Studies estimate that a third to a half of the population are introverts, so there’s a lot more of you around than you might think!

According to Susan Cain, introversion’s not about shyness, which can resemble fear of social judgement, but is rather about how you respond to social stimulation. Ok, it’s not an absolute science but extroverts favour stimulation, whereas introverts feel at their best when they’re in quieter, more low-key environments.

You must understand that being an introvert is not a barrier! You do have things to offer to create a connection with a fellow human being. The key is to be in the right zone of stimulation and to understand the implicit rules of social interaction.
How do you make friends as an introvert?

To build relationships, we need to have a positive social engagement, which is always easier if you’re in a valued social role.

“Social roles locate people in social space, structure the ways a person who makes a particular contribution usually shows up and acts and signal what others can expect from them in that role.

Social roles identify the different ways that people relate to one another, belong to each other, count on each other, and are responsible to each other. They point to the ways a person can contribute and make a difference in other people’s lives.”

We all know it’s easier to be in a comfortable social setting, but have you already asked yourself why you feel comfortable or uncomfortable in a given social situation?

The keys to social interaction and overcoming social isolation

You’re much more at ease when you’re in an environment where you can share your passions, interests, knowledge and abilities.  That’s because you’re interacting around something you value. You being interested makes you interesting!

  • Let’s say you are crazy about Friends. You going to a quiz night around the TV show’s great because you’re knowledgeable about it. You can throw around some Friends inside jokes to fellow fans! Isn’t the best way to start a friendship?                                                                             
  • On the contrary, if you go to a chess night and know nothing about the game, it can be harder to talk about it with players for example. You might need to make more efforts to understand what’s going on and adopt the expected behaviour. You might find yourself in a situation when you’re just an observer and you’re not participating. And that’s not something you want to happen! 
Find local events that you’ll love and will suit your interests, even if you feel socially awkward!

If you ask yourself where you can go, don’t worry any more! Befriend’s got you! You can find our events on Facebook and on our website. We’ve got a bunch of different events from crochet knitting to scavenger hunts!

If you don’t find anything interesting there, why not become a host and propose your own event around something that you’re passionate about?!!