Our team brings together leaders in the fields of community engagement and applied social research to meet the unique requirements each project.

Our approach is consistent with our values of working collaboratively with our clients, delivering quality research and delivering community processes with integrity.

Over the past twenty years Collaborations has built a reputation for creative and strategic thinking, the development of innovative and workable approaches to social research, facilitation, community planning and engagement, and in the words of a valued client, “the provision of fearless advice.”

Michelle Howard
Managing Director

Michelle HowardB.Ed., Grad Dip Urban Policy and Planning; Masters Social Science (R.M.I.T); Fellow of the Planning Institute of Australia; Accredited Facilitator with International Association of Facilitation; member International Association for Public Participation; co-convenor Victorian Facilitators Network.

As Managing Director of Collaborations, Michelle is renowned for her inclusive and practical approach to community engagement. She brings to this role 25 years experience of working in groups with diverse interests, issues and communication needs. This breadth of experience includes working with community constituencies, technical experts, peak organisations, elected representatives and policy makers to support informed decision making and effective change management. Michelle’s skills have been drawn on by all levels of government, to manage processes of conflict and change. She has professional accreditation with the International Association of Facilitators and has training and experience in a wide range of consultation and facilitation methods. Over the past 20 years Michelle has established a unique approach to planning and research designed to ensure that planning theory and best-practice models respond to stakeholder needs and aspirations. Her extensive practical expertise is supported by post-graduate studies in Urban Policy and Planning and a Masters of Social Science. In both 1992 and 2005 Michelle undertook international study tours to investigate models for inclusion of communities in planning and decision making processes. Michelle plays an active role in a number of professional networks including the Planning Institute of Australia, the Australian Facilitators’ Network and the International Association of Facilitation. Her Masters of Social Science thesis explored processes of community engagement to build stronger relationships between communities and technical ‘experts’.


Michelle Howard

Sue Loukomitis
Research Director

B.A (Political Science – Public Policy) (UMelb); B.A.(Hons) – Psychology (SwinU); registered psychologist; full member Australian Market & Social Research Society

Sue is a highly experienced social researcher and psychologist specialising in research that informs public policy and social marketing. Sue’s 17 year research career commenced as General Manager of the Centre for Local Government Research. She subsequently acquired 50% ownership of the company and as a founding Director established Auspoll, a highly-respected research company with a particular focus on research informing policy and supporting communications strategies for clients primarily in the public sector as well as membership associations. Sue also set up an industry-accredited call centre as part of that business, training field-staff beyond the base requirements to ensure Auspoll projects met the highest possible standards in data collection. Since selling that business in 2007, Sue has undertaken research projects with a heavy emphasis on social and community planning, education, program evaluation and social marketing. These projects are often complex, requiring creativity in the design of methodology to ensure reliable, valid data collection. Her background also includes 10 years working in human resources and contract management for local government reporting directly to CEO level. She has an in-depth understanding of what drives perception, attitudes and behavioural change and applies this expertise and her technical training to the development of research methodologies and analysis of findings to ensure clients are provided with highly usable recommendations.


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Key to the success of Collaborations’ facilitation and organisational development services is our flexibility to work with diverse interests and stakeholders from a position of respect, enabling us to manage challenging issues and environments.

We bring to our facilitation work experience in a range of tools and approaches without being wedded to any particular technique. Our approach with each client is truly collaborative and we design and implement group processes at all scales from small team meetings to large conferences and forums.

Collaborations has developed a reputation for supporting group processes that are efficient, inclusive and respectful.

Michelle is accredited with the International Association of Facilitation and co-convenes the Victorian Chapter of the Australian Facilitators Network. She has undertaken skills development work in a number of organisations to build facilitation capacity with key staff.

See project examples including; Fishermens Bend Strategic Plan Facilitation, Inter-Council Aboriginal Advisory Committee, Placemaking Conference, Department of Transport Central City Transport Plan.

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People and Services

Community Engagement and Consultation

The relationships between communities, constituencies and decision makers are complex and challenging. Experience also tells us that productive relationships between decision makers and those who are impact by decisions can lead to exciting, positive and workable outcomes.

However, when these relationships breakdown processes can become combative and outcomes can be compromised or put at risk. A key to success is establishing clear objectives and parameters for any engagement program with stakeholders and community interests. This includes managing expectations in relation to the ability to influence future options and decision making processes.

Having worked in diverse setting and on projects of varying scope and scale, we pride ourselves on ‘going the extra mile’ to truly engage with the diverse interests of any community. We offer an informed and efficient approach to the design of the consultation and engagement tools and the experience and confidence to work with a wide range of groups and formats, including culturally diverse communities.

The examples below outline some of our recent experiences, including Reservoir Structure Plan and Maribyrnong Defence Site Vision, Boroondara Neighbourhood Character Study.

Engagement Challenge

Identify and understand the key influences on the health and well-being of newly arrived migrants to inform Municipal Public Health Planning.


Work with community leaders to build local networks and, utilising a buddy system, host small group discussions in accessible local venues. Discussion groups using image based techniques and interpreters to explore health themes.

Understand the housing needs of Greater Dandenong’s disadvantaged communities including; homeless youth, boarding house residents, Sudanese and Afghani refugees, single parents on low incomes, to inform the development of Council’s Housing Strategy.

Use a wide range of local networks, community groups and face to face recruitment to access the targeted communities and undertake discussion groups and interviews (with interpreters where needed).

Inform and engage young people in strategic planning for central Reservoir.

Introduce big planning themes through selection and discussion of images at local skate park and other venues where young people feel comfortable. Build relationships and skills for participation in broader community forums.

Facilitate feedback from residents across Boroondara on detailed recommendations for 69 precincts across the municipality.

Design and promotion of on-line feedback mechanism, including ‘training and information’ sessions with local residents and organisations to support participation.

Understand the open space needs of families (residents & visitors) in the central city.

Design and implementation of quantitative (survey) and qualitative (small discussion groups) research to explore aspirations for and use of open space in the city.

Engage users of homeless and social support services in North Melbourne, in local planning project.

Provide informal ‘on-street’ breakfast with visual information and one-to-one discussions.

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Policy and Planning

Collaborations offers specialised research products and services tailored to the requirements of each client and project. We bring best practice methodologies together with out industry experience to develop the most appropriate solution for each research challenge.

This integration of complementary research methodologies means that our clients operate from a position of strength – multi-layered and comparative research outcomes are vital for truly informed decision-making.

Supporting and augmenting Collaborations’ specialised research services is a range of cultural, community and social infrastructure planning applications. Recognising the potential for proactive planning which responds to community needs and aspirations, Collaborations had developed targeted yet flexible planning applications designed to capture and optimise local expertise and industry best practice.

See project examples including; Brimbank Housing Strategy, City of Melbourne “Our Community Engaged’, Auswind (now Clean Energy Council of Australia) & Australian Council of National Trusts, Corio Community Infrastructure and Urban Renewal Project.


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People and Services