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Network News – November 2018

Network News – November 2018

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Network News November 2018

Community Networks Aotearoa is an umbrella organisation for local community networks. Our goal is to empower and strengthen the community sector by supporting community networks across Aotearoa.

We:

  • Provide advice and support to members
  • Connect community networks nationally
  • Use our collective voice to advocate for policy change and raise awareness of issues affecting the community sector

To find out more visit our website here.

This newsletter covers topical issues in the community sector. In this newsletter:

  • Update from CNA Executive Officer, Ros Rice
  • Meet the Members – Southland Interagency Forum
  • CNA AGM and Hui
  • Have your say: ComVoices state of the sector survey 2018
  • Why we must stop intellectualizing and take more actions
  • On Air
  • Government reforms/consultations
  • To blog, or not to blog
  • Things to note before you go…..
  • Special offer for members

Update from CNA Executive Officer, Ros Rice

Tena Koutou Katoa

As the year begins its wrap up I hope things are not too hectic for you, I know things are continuing at full pace here!

CNA has just had its biannual Hui – every second year we hold a hui to give members an opportunity to learn more about key issues affecting the community sector and to connect with others (in the year in-between we hold a national conference). It was a fantastic day, you can read more about it below. For those that attended you’ll have seen in your packs a CNA poster and magnets, building a national profile helps to strengthen our collective voice so we’d really appreciate you putting these up. If you didn’t attend the Hui or need more, just get in touch.

You’ll also see a link to a ComVoices survey – if you’re from a community organisation I strongly encourage you to take part. The information from the survey is used to talk with politicians and decision makers about the sector and what’s needed. Therefore it’s crucial we have as many organisations as possible involved so the results paint an accurate picture of the sector.

In this issue we’ve also reprinted with permission a blog from Vu Le in Seattle, USA. His blogs are incredibly entertaining, and include lots of useful insights and advice on the not for profit sector – and while Vu is American many of the insights apply equally here. I encourage you to have a read of his blog.

And lastly, as always, remember we’re here to help. If you’re a member of CNA and have a problem or issue, or just need some information, please don’t hesitate to contact me on (04) 472 3364 or eo@communitynetworksaotearoa.org.nz.

Meet the Members – Southland Interagency Forum

The Southland Interagency Forum began in the mid/late 1980’s when Southland experienced a serious rural downturn. Sheep farmers were walking off their farms, suicides increased dramatically, and farming women began driving long distances to access off farm paid work in towns and cities.

The Southland District Council employed the first of what is now a network of six rural community workers. This worker was encouraged to come into Invercargill once a month to meet with the staff of government agencies to discuss issues, make referrals and gather hard copy pamphlets for use out in the community.  How things have changed over thirty years!

The Southland Regional Support Group, as it was called in 1989, formed  so that the rural workers could come to one place  and meet with all the people they needed to see and everyone could share and connect.

Today there is a new name which better reflects the strategic direction of the organisation. The membership of the Southland Interagency Forum includes community workers employed by six rural community committees spread across the Southland region as well as staff from non-governmental organisations and central and local government services.

Services represented by member agencies are predominately social services but also include the disability sector, sport and recreation, arts and culture and members of parliament.

Monthly meetings are attended by on average 25 – 30 member organisations.  Reports are circulated before the monthly meeting so those attending can come ready to discuss the topics and issues outlined.  Topics to explore are identified by the membership and guest speakers are invited to attend and speak on those topics. Some meetings are simply for networking when each member organisation can present for 3-5 minutes on the services they offer and issues they are grappling with.

The Invercargill City and Southland District Council’s provide administrative support, meeting rooms etc.  Our organisation does not have any paid staff; tasks are either done by the Council staff or by a member on a voluntary basis.  All decisions are made by the membership.

CNA AGM and Hui


CNA has just had its biannual Hui – every second year we hold a hui to give members an
opportunity to learn more about key issues affecting the community sector and to connect with others (in the year in-between we hold a national conference).It was a fantastic day filled with lots of insightful kōrero. We were masterfully guided through the day by our MC Benita  Jean Tauhuri, and thoroughly entertained by our two speakers Len Cook and Michael Macaulay. Len spoke about the importance of holding government to account and factors impacting on the policy environment. Michael talked about collaboration and how people can create and sustain collaborative relationships. Their presentations will be uploaded to the CNA website.

In the afternoon Karen Stockman skillfully guided us through a market place where attendees set the agenda and participated in discussions that most interested them. There was lots of interesting kōrero, with topics ranging from messages for Government to housing issues.

Importantly, earlier in the day we held our Annual General Meeting – at this meeting the new CNA Board was elected:
  • Andrew Beyer – Andrew is an executive member of FRANCOSS and MECOSS in Auckland
  • Tess Casey – Tess is the CEO of Neighbourhood Support NZ
  • Jo Taylor – Jo is the General Manager for CAPS Hauraki
  • Denise Lormans – Denise is the Manager of Southland Community Law Centre
  • Holly Snape – Holly is the CEO of Community Waikato
  • Chris Glaudel – Chris is the Deputy Director of Community Housing Aotearoa
  • Liz Hawes – Liz is the new Kaituiora for the Social Equity and Wellbeing Network in Christchurch
  • Liz Graham – Liz is the Chairperson of Tairawhiti Community Voice
You can read more about the Board members here. Welcome to our new Board members and farewell and thank you to the outgoing member Christine West.

Have your say: ComVoices State of the Sector Survey 2018

The ComVoices biennial survey on the state of the community and voluntary sector in New Zealand is now open. First run in 2014 and then again in 2016, the survey has become a key source of information about the wellbeing of community organisations working across a broad range of community issues and interests.Previous reports show the sector is under increasing strain with reducing or static funding, increasing complexity of client and community issues, and challenges managing the impact of increasing compliance and contracting expectations. Nicola Sutton, chair of ComVoices said, “We are keen to see what has changed in the past two years. How are community organisations faring and what might that mean for the people of New Zealand?”

The reports from the first two surveys were widely used by sector organisations and ComVoices to talk to members of parliament and government agencies. Sutton says that ComVoices is dependent on the sector providing the data and so encourages community organisations of all shapes and sizes to complete the survey. “We need data from local groups run by volunteers and local fundraising just as much as we need data from larger organisations with paid staff and government contracts,” says Sutton. The 2018 ‘State of the Sector’ report, due to be published early 2019, will include comparative data from earlier surveys and a commentary on current issues and trends facing the sector.

The survey, which takes around ten minutes to complete, closes on 19 November 2018.

To complete the survey click here.

Why we must stop intellectualizing and take more actions

We’ve reprinted below a blog from Vu Le in Seattle, USA. Vu is a writer, speaker, vegan, Pisces, and the Executive Director of Rainier Valley Corps, a nonprofit in Seattle. His blogs are often entertaining with lots of interesting insights – you can check out his blog NonprofitAF here.We want to share this particular blog with you as the issues it touches on are things we often hear people talking about in community organisations. Thank you to Vu for allowing us to reprint his blog.

I am in a crappy mood, so my apologies in advance for the tone of this post. I am distraught and disheartened over the Supreme Court, and I know many of you are too. I want to provide some encouraging words, but I don’t really have any at the moment. This is horrible, and no amount of “we-are-in-this-together-and-remember-that-the-arc-bends-towards-justice-and-rainbows-and-unicorns” bromides is going to be enough this time.

Honestly, I am really tired of the constant intellectualizing we do. Nonprofits and foundations in general, but progressive ones in particular. It has actually been contributing to the situation our society is in. Two years ago, after the elections, some colleagues and I helped gather a bunch of funders and nonprofit leaders of color in the Seattle area to discuss how to work together to respond to the urgent needs. We spent three hours together, sharing stories and brainstorming solutions, which included funders providing rapid-response funding for immediate needs, multi-year general operating funds for ongoing needs, and removing as many barriers as possible so nonprofits on the front lines could continue to focus on their work protecting families. Everyone left optimistic.

Then…nothing happened. Or not much happened. It took several more months before one or two funders released some rapid-response funding. And it was competitive and for tiny amounts, requiring nonprofits yet again to spend hours trying to justify their work and then waiting for decisions while people’s lives were destroyed. It was demoralizing. That hopeful discussion of 50 or so program officers and 50 nonprofit leaders did not lead to insignificant change in the power dynamics and inefficient grantmaking processes.

A year later, we had a follow-up summit, and it was just as well-attended. Same thing: We discussed what we each could do to respond to the horrors inflicted on our community. And I also have yet to find anything that actually changed after that gathering. The planners and I got together to discuss the third annual convening. But what’s the point? What have these things done except give everyone the illusion that they actually did something useful?

This is a problem, and it is pervasive across our sector. We love having gatherings and summits and discussions and endless meetings. We love strategic plans and white papers and logic models and theories of change and think tanks. They make us feel smart and productive, like we’re actually accomplishing things. We as a sector feel proud to spend thousands of hours thinking and talking about issues but we always find ways to avoid taking bold risks and actions that might actually make a dent in the issues we’re trying to address.

I always joke that if MLK Jr. were here and he said “I have a dream…,” the response would be “Your dream is great, but where’s your data? Do you have a track record? Are you scalable? What’s your theory of change? Where’s your logic model? Have you run a double-blind controlled experiment to prove that your strategies would achieve this dream? Do you have a strategic plan? Where’s your development plan? What percentage of your board donates to the organization? Are you diversifying your funds? How will you sustain this ‘dream’ when our support runs out? It’ll take us 12 months to do our due diligence to determine if you align with our priorities.”

It was funny before. Now it is just disturbing.

And it is not just foundations who sit there thinking about stuff while civilization burns. A colleague told me that the staff at her organization wanted to release a statement and join the protests to condemn the cruel and inhumane forced separation of immigrant children from their families a few months ago. But her board vetoed it, saying it was too “partisan” and might offend some of their conservative supporters. I hear stories like this all the time. They are sickening. Sure, let’s spend endless amounts of time intellectualizing about equity, diversity, inclusion, and social justice, but let’s stop short of actually DOING something meaningful that might lead to those ideals.

This is getting out of hand. While we nonprofits and foundations are not responsible for the cruel, incompetent, and corrupt administration, nor for the Apocalyptic dumpster fire that is our social and political landscape, the way we have been operating has not been helping things. We did not confirm Brett Kavanaugh’s place on the Supreme Court, where he will probably be for the next terrifying 50 years, but our wishy-washiness and lack of actions as a sector probably have laid a brick or two on his path there. Our constant intellectualizing while failing to take substantive actions will continue to place our society on the destructive path that will put more babies in cages, kill more people through the denial of climate change and immunization science, further embolden those who spew misogyny and xenophobia, and otherwise roll back progress that millions of people have worked and sacrificed over decades to make possible.

We have had enough time for “thinking;” we need actions. Meaningful actions. Funders, I know you are probably just as distraught as nonprofit leaders, but please don’t write a blog post or think piece intellectualizing about what’s happening with our society and how we must not lose hope, blah blah. We’re seriously sick of those. How about you double your annual payout rate? Instead of convening meetings of nonprofits to strategize or whatever, how about you make sure all your funds are significant multi-year general operating from now on? Instead of continuing to waste nonprofits’ time, how about you simplify your grant and reporting processes and follow the principles of Trust-Based Philanthropy and let us do our jobs? Instead of commissioning another useless white paper, how about you release some rapid and unsolicited funds right now to some organizations led by the communities on the front lines of injustice? Right NOW, like within this month. Please stop waiting for your “next cycle;” injustice does not operate on your schedule.

I was exchanging emails with a well-respected leader in the field about philanthropy’s pervasive addiction to intellectualization, and she wrote “Real people are harmed and struggling while philanthropy convenes and strategizes and designs. Let’s do stuff and see if it works and then fix it and make it better. Some stuff will be a terrible failure—but then you know it and figure out a new way to go about it.” I have to agree completely.

Nonprofits, sorry, we don’t get off the hook either. We are equally guilty of overthinking and talking for ages about stuff when we should be acting. We have had more than enough meetings to discuss what “resilience” means or what “equity” looks like or something; how about we now spend time mobilizing people to vote? Instead of whining and complaining about unfair funding practices, why don’t we challenge them so we have the resources to act? Instead of worrying about whether we’ll piss off some people, we accept that we need to piss off some people if we are to do this work well, and just go ahead and piss them off? Instead of wringing our hands over whether or not we might lose some donors if we take a stand on basic human rights, we drop those donors and stand up for the individuals and communities who depend on us? Instead of paying token service to the idea of collaboration by attending meetings and then changing nothing, how about we actually support one another by sometimes giving up funding and attention to and proactively lifting up the organizations that are taking actions to mobilize communities?

Jan Masaoka, in her thought-provoking essay about the dangers of the over-professionalization of the nonprofit sector, wrote “new executive directors can write personnel policies and grant proposals while practicing self-care, but they don’t know how to get 5,000 people to a protest demonstration or 50 parents to a city council meeting.” This is something that should seriously concern us all.

The constant thinking, theorizing, and otherwise ceaseless intellectualizing in our sector hasn’t been working so well, has it? We far outnumber those who are anti-black, anti-immigrants, anti-women, anti-science, anti-globalism, anti-diversity, anti-LGBTQ, anti-disability, and yet they keep on winning, keep installing more and more horrifying people into power. This is probably because they don’t spend years having endless, useless meetings, and their funders don’t take ten months at a time to decide whether or not to give them a tiny one-year grant that cannot be used to pay for staff wages and can only be used to buy dry-erased markers or something.

I am angry and despondent over a country that I love and have called home now increasingly resembling a dark, dystopian society. I’m frustrated that we have so many brilliant and talented people in our sector, yet we are constantly paralyzed by risk-aversion, fear of failure, and excessive thinking and planning.

But I know there are many amazing organizations and foundations that are out there taking bold actions every single day. There are incredible leaders who refuse to give into the despair, who fight daily. Thank you for all you do. You give me hope. Last week in New Orleans, I met a foundation program officer who told me she pushed her trustees for general operating funds, and actually succeeded.

Another thing that cheered me up significantly is a tour I took of VAYLA, a progressive multi-racial organization that empowers youth and families. The ED, Minh, led me down the hall of his office, and I peeked into their phone banking room and saw several kids on the phone. “Our youth leaders are calling people to remind them to vote,” Minh said, “They will be doing it every day until the mid-terms.”

If the determined young leaders at VAYLA are any indication, and I believe they are, there is hope. They are our present and future leaders, and they are doing precisely what we must do more of as a sector: Taking bold, consistent actions, and mobilizing communities. And there are thousands more organizations across the US doing that.

A strength of our sector is that we always try to be thoughtful and deliberate. But the pendulum has swung too far, and it is critical for us to swing it back toward concrete, substantive, IMMEDIATE actions.  It is not hopeless. I still believe the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice, but we need to stop doing so much intellectualizing about how it will bend and start doing more bending.

Click here and listen to Ros interview Rata Kamau from IRD.

You can also listen to previous interviews, including Alfred Ngaro, National MP, Minister Peeni Henare, Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector and Paul Barber from the NZ Council of Christian Social Services.

Government reforms/consultations 

        Current consultations

  • The Welfare Expert Advisory Group is consulting on the future of the welfare system (consultation closes 9 November). More information is available here.
  • The Government is consulting on its Child Wellbeing Strategy. The Strategy will commit Government to set and report on its actions to improve the wellbeing of all children and young people. For more information click here. The closing date for submissions is 5 December.
  • The Protected Disclosures Act is being reviewed. The Act protects people from losing their jobs or getting mistreated for speaking up in the public interest. For more information click here. Consultation closes Friday 7 December.
  • The Safe and Effective Justice Programme Advisory Group – Te Uepū Hāpai i te Ora – is visiting towns and cities across New Zealand to hear what people want from their criminal justice system. Find out more here (including a list of public forums).Other reforms to note
  • The Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector has announced a review of the Charities Act 2005, for more information click here.
  • The Tax Working Group has released its interim report. Final recommendations are due February 2019. For more information click here.
  • The Local Government (Community Well-being) Amendment Bill has had its first reading in Parliament. This Bill seeks to restore four aspects of community wellbeing in legislation (social, economic, environmental and cultural). For more information click here.
  • Formal submissions have closed for the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction. In a recent update the Inquiry thanked everyone who submitted, they received around 5500 submissions and over 2000 people attended 26 public meetings. They have now moved on to the deliberation stage, with their report due 31 October 2018. For more information click here.
  • The Government is considering the establishment of a sector-level bargaining system. This would enable unions and employers to develop Fair Pay Agreements that set minimum terms and conditions for all workers in an entire industry or occupation.The Government has established the Fair Pay Agreement Working Group to make recommendations on the design of this system. The Working Group is due to report back with its recommendations by November 2018. For more information click here.
  • The Government has announced a review of the New Zealand Health and Disability Sector. An interim report is due by July 2019, and a final report by 31 January 2020. For more information click here.

To blog, or not to blog…

Here are the links to the latest ComVoices blogs on Community Scoop. We recommend a browsing through these blogs. They are fascinating reading as always…

Things to note before you go ……

  • NZ Government Procurement within the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, runs an annual business survey to understand suppliers’ and community service providers’ experiences of government procurement. The results of the latest survey can be found here.
  • The External Reporting Board is an independent Crown Entity responsible for accounting, auditing and assurance standards in NZ. The organisation provides a regular update aimed at registered charities and other not-for-profits. The update provides an overview of recent External Reporting Board activities – new or revised standards, other news and financial reporting matters you may find useful. To subscribe or find out more click here.

Special offer just for members of Community Networks Aotearoa and their networks – because we think you’re great!

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This is a package specifically created for community groups and organisations, with extremely discounted rates.

We are pleased to offer this opportunity not only to our member organisations but to their members as well. If you, or one of your network organisations, are interested in receiving an obligation free quote, please contact us for the special code you will require and Rothbury’s contact details.

Photo: Jason Pratt