Charles Sturt University’s Vision for a New Theological Campus

A symbol of a world worth living in.

“We want to explore the space where the circles overlap.” Paul Dowler, CSU CFO  

2021 recap: Two schools of Theology came together to develop the shared vision for a new centre for interfaith encounter that celebrates Muslim, Christian and Indigenous spirituality. A new building that embodies a strategy for being different is a step change for all stakeholders. When this kind of building is the product of iterative engagement with people about what needs to change, and how that should be realised, then the design process is a powerful tool for shaping new behaviours.

ProjectCharles Sturt University North Parramatta Vision, 2016
ClientCharles Sturt University, Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation, Uniting Church Centre for Ministry
TeamCSU Steve Butt, Maree Neary CSU
Soft Build ServicesStakeholder engagement, Project vision

Charles Sturt University provides tertiary qualifications in theology through partnerships with groups such as the Uniting Church’s Centre for Ministry and the Islamic Studies Research Association. With demand for formal qualifications in Islamic Studies outgrowing the capacity of the existing tenancy in the heart of Auburn, CSU was looking to support ISRA’s expansion through a new building adjacent to the Uniting Church’s existing Centre for Ministry in North Parramatta.

CSU wanted a planning process that would bring the two groups together to develop a shared vision that would guide the development of the heads of agreement and initial project planning.

The process devised and facilitated by The Soft Build began with discovery sessions held at each site with a large group drawn from across all areas of the organisation. These workshops prepared the group’s core representatives to anticipate the challenges and risks of a new collaborative partnership. For the project team, these introductory sessions acted as a deep dive into the history, operations and culture of each group. The results were captured in images, text and charts that were used as briefing materials for the other organisation.

We pray in lines but we teach in circles.

A half-day shared vision workshop then brought everyone together on the site of the proposed new building to discern the way forward for the new collaboration. Small group discussions focused on themes that emerged from the discovery workshops. The founding partners shared similar challenges around teaching theology and shaping faith community leaders.

“The thing we were most proud of was looking past our differences to see our similarities. Ultimately we hope that this building will help to heal the current divides and paranoia in Australian society.” Vision workshop participant

The aspirations agreed on the day set out a series of guiding principles for a new centre, and Identified key success factors for planning, design and future operations. The process was captured in a vision document that drew on both the collective insights and personal reflections around change.

The Soft Build is a strategy consultancy that helps people use buildings as a scaffold for organisational change.

Follow for updates: