Shanti Des Fours
Shanti Des Fours

Since graduating with a Master's degree in Communication for Social Change in 2014, Shanti Des Fours has been working in Participatory Community Development roles in the Byron Bay region. She is currently coordinating a community microfinance program at the Byron Community Centre. We caught up with Shanti to find out more about her work and experiences putting CSC principles into action. 

Tell us about the community microfinance program you're coordinating…

In a practical sense what we do is fairy simple: we offer small loans with no interest, fees, or charges to community members living on a low income for the purchase of essential goods and services. We’re a kind of 'outpost' offering these loans under the national organisation Good Shepherd Microfinance.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

Our program is essentially strength-based community development; people defining their own economic wellbeing in their own words, on their own terms. My role is to create an empowering environment for people to achieve what they aspire to, in accordance with their own vision of their own future. After many years studying these kinds of programs it feels great to be down here on the ground level just getting things done.

What have been some challenging aspects?

Time! We’re run on a bit of a shoestring, so a lot of the work I put in is on voluntary hours. Finding the time to pause and evaluate policies has been a massive challenge – one I have not yet overcome.

What are you most proud of?

Our impact! The program affirms people’s dignity – I’m so proud to be a part of it.

Are there factors that are unique to the Byron Bay context that you need to consider in your work supporting people with low incomes?

Absolutely, we’ve got an incredibly transient population due to our high cost of living and limited employment opportunities. We’ve had to adjust our program quite a lot from the national ‘norm’ to factor in the financial ‘shock’ this place can have on new arrivals. We've done a lot to ensure the program’s policies are locally relevant.

What are some of the key CSC skills that you have been using in the job?

The CSC philosophy really underpinned my approach to redeveloping the volunteer component of the program. At present I coordinate ten volunteers who essentially run the show. I know there’s still a lot I can learn about coordinating volunteers, but CSC helped me start out on the right foot. Ensuring that everybody in the group is empowered with the knowledge they need to do their job well and that everybody has ownership over their part of the program, this struck me as essential. I’m not sure it would have been quite so glaringly obvious without my CSC background.

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