He Manawa Māori – A Māori Heart
In February 2022, Victor Walker (Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti) was contracted by IC to help the organisation with its Treaty honouring journey mahi.
The intention was to have conversations with Māori who have established relationships with IC and CLD to learn about their experience and what value, if any, Inspiring Communities has been, explore how they see Community-led Development aligning, intersecting, or supporting Hapū, Iwi, Māori development and to gather ideas and insights on the most useful roles, steps and mahi for others are in this space. This report is the result of those conversations, including key observations and recommendations for next steps.
19 interviews were conducted with Māori in CLD leadership positions. The conversations allowed Kaikōrero an opportunity to review the progress of their personal, Whānau, Hapū, Iwi and Māori community development over three – four decades to the present.
All speakers spoke candidly about the issues and challenges that had been, and in some cases still are, obstacles for them, to set goals for the coming decades and to consider a vision for future generations. Kaikōrero were also very open and expressive about the neat, innovative, and powerful and influencing mahi that they were involved in. They were quite free and frank about what needed to happen if they were to experience the ‘tino rangatiratanga’ and ‘mana motuhake’ they saw as essential to their success at a multiplicity of levels.
Inspiring Communities thanks Victor, and all the contributing Kaikōrero for their mahi and insights.
Enabling Local Wellbeing
Megan Courtney is passionate about making changes that devolve power and support communities to be part of designing and delivering wellbeing, in place. And so is taking a keen interest in the current Local Government Review process, recently contributing to a Local Government NZ webinar on wellbeing.
With a lens of place based, community-led development, she shares her perspective on what is happening in this space, how the reforms can support TRUE collaboration – sharing power and resources to best fit the needs and aspirations of the people in each place.
I totally support local government having a stronger role in wellbeing – in fact it’s essential.
But I don’t automatically equate ‘greater local government delivery of wellbeing functions and services’ – with local government doing or providing more services.
What I’m proposing here are small, intentional steps to better enable local wellbeing outcomes.
I’d love to see a new wellbeing development grant offered – say $150k to every Council (which they’d match from their own funds, or a proportion there of) to support development of local wellbeing action plan and processes – that would be supported improved capability and capacity in local councils as mentioned earlier.
The first task would be to bring people together to collectively gather local aspirations, priorities and sources for investment and effort. We need to bring all the wellbeings (social, economic, environmental and cultural) to the table. Lots of this information already exists and working out what the next phase of each local collaborative process might look like, needs to build on the strengths in places. Think Local Wellbeing Summits – that go on to catalyse and support new local action, with people coming back together to reflect, learn, share and determine next steps at regular intervals.
In many places, including my own in Nelson Tasman, I observe that economic development plans and networks continue to sit separately to social development, environment and climate aspirations and plans. We have to keep knitting across local silos, which is best done by doing some small things together – from there, trust and confidence grows.
No doubt districts, cities and regions need some flexible putea to try new things, as well as mandate and support to do some things differently. Within this, finding ways to resource and strengthen whanau, hapu, iwi and community leadership and participation is critical. There is a need to build community capacity in many places across the motu before organisations like Councils can partner with them.
Let’s also wrap strategic learning and facilitation support around a new wellbeing approach so that Councils and local partners have a pool of potential people, tools and resources to support them in this journey. Let’s document and share everyone’s learning by doing so we can adapt things in real time as we see what’s works, how and why. This process for me, is significant to enabling broader systemic change and will be key in enabling wellbeing processes to be more than ‘one offs’. It’s mindsets we need to change, as well as practices, investment approaches and collaboration cultures. It’s no accident that Australia is moving to set up a new federally funded national centre to support place-based collaboration.
In some places, it may be that new wellbeing planning processes have to start from scratch – but in other communities, it might be a matter of bringing together existing leadership tables and plans – for example in education, safety, iwi development, social and community services, violence prevention, regional tourism, climate change – and co-deciding next steps from there.
We also need to also think more laterally across the wider pool of wellbeing investors, beyond just tax or rate funding to community trusts, foundations, philanthropy, locally funded bonds too.
In Aotearoa, there’s huge untapped capacity in communities to support wellbeing. Collectively we’ve bought beaches, in Invercargill they’re building an amazing new charity hospital, Acorn Community Foundation in Tauranga has $41m in funds for local reinvestment and local farmers in the Hauraki District where I’m from, have purchased two multi-million-dollar farms to support farming employment pathways for rangatahi and to ensure the local high school has all the resources it needs.
As part of rethinking wellbeing collaboration, we also need to look at international best practice in collaborative governance. Putting it plainly, top-down governance models which continue to frame a lot of local government affairs, just don’t fit new collaborative contexts.
So what’s emerging in terms of best practice? The focus of senior leadership tables isn’t on detailed decision making – it’s more about system stewardship and oversight, with leadership devolved or distributed to collaborative action groups. These collaborative action groups are also supported by dedicated coordination and communications resource so that things are integrated and joined up. Moving forward then, elected members need to be up for some new ways of working and being too.
The future for wellbeing needs to be framed within a collective lens – a local systems approach – where everyone has something to contribute to activate positive change. This includes local government, alongside communities and iwi too. The last thing I want to see is big central government replaced by big local government. If we’re seriously talking about decentralisation and distributed wellbeing leadership, we need to see who else within the local system could take on more, and what kind of extra support they might need to do that effectively.
If we want iwi and wider communities to be partners and active participants in wellbeing – central and local government partners need to be prepared to give up some power, sit in discomfort and work things out together. It will be messy and challenging, but it’s work that needs to be done. And done well, with the right relationships in place, then the possibilities for wellbeing really are as wide open as our collective imaginations.
Collective Change Kōrero 2
Taking the time – having the space to stop, reflect and then converge with other changemakers when there is so much else to be done – is the perfect time to join a kōrero to think about what we are currently doing and what could be possible to make space to create change.
This was one of the many insights that popped to the top of the second Collective Change Kōrero held online recently.
An assumption is that all of us want things to be better – we are working in many different places and sectors and we have a collective sense of the complexity. We are noticing and are inspired by activity that is creating change, while also noticing the scale and pace of activity going nowhere. We need a collective space that enables us to take time to be part of what will emerge from Collective Change Kōrero because ultimately that is what will add value to our networks, our roopu, our iwi and hapū. It is up to all of us to pick up the conversation to be creative, collaborative, and effective in this.
While hard to do this justice, as there was so much richness, experience, practice and ideas offered in the 2-hour hui, here’s just some of the whakaaro shared by the 15 changemakers present.
Noticing what is happening is always a good place to begin, and is the genesis for starting this conversation – and there is a lot of noticing of what is happening. Over 50 thoughts thrown onto the jamboard: so much positivity – neighbourhood-scale action, place-based initiatives, there is effective mahi happening. People have a desire for self-determination, however this requires a well navigated transition and those with power will need to act with a more equitable approach. Investing time into more intergenerational, intercultural, and inter-disciplinary collaborative initiatives. Lots has been learned over the past two years – it can’t be wasted, and while there’s mostly optimism, healing unresolved trauma as well as underlying cultural change is required. More co-governance, changes to leadership, in particular the political and public service approaches.
There is an opportunity to collaborate on a common language, to call out rhetoric over action to drive and create the changes going forward together. Who doesn’t like a good powerful question that lends itself to thinking about the future? It is worth noting the themes that emerged in this session were very similarly future-focused. The future starts with whānau and hāpu. With indigenous ways of doing things that enable varied pathways, imagine a Te Tiriti house next to Parliament…imagine a future where people, place and planet are the triple bottom line, where Papatūānuku is nurtured and regenerated, that there is stronger, better resourced local governance, a world in which we all slowed down, had more time for relationships – a future with more autonomy over our lives.
Reflecting on te tāwara, the buzz of the conversation, in this hui:
People enjoyed the time thinking collectively about growing a shared language and common vision
Sharing and hearing from everyone who joins in, a desire to tap into this collective wisdom more often, to join up on each other’s existing mahi making it more impactful.
Imaging and planning for all of us to be thriving in ways that bring everyone into ‘enough’. People like the energy for a better world, the optimism and belief in our resilience to weather the coming storms. Building momentum in ways that are equitable, decolonise and regenerate.
How can we kōrero with others who are not like us? People who are doing well in the current system and who hold some of the power to block change? And there was a desire from some to come up with actions we can do together, how can we work as a group?
There is a solid commitment from those attending to continuing the conversation. This approach is about connecting a ‘collective of collectives’, it’s not about creating another initiative or network and it is not set in must dos or shoulds, instead held in whanaungatanga from where magic will emerge.
The coordinating team of this hui have agreed to meet and develop what surfaced. However, as this Collective Change Kōrero is not held by any group we would like to share the roles, we would love to hear from you if you would like to be involved in coordinating the next hui. It doesn’t take much and offers more opportunities to connect and kōrero. Please feel free to have a chat with any of us.
If you were unable to attend but would like to contribute your thoughts, or read more of the contributions, jump on the jamboard – it’s a living document.
Arama, David, Jade, Rachel and Rochelle
June 2022 Coordinating team
Arama Mataira firstname.lastname@example.org
Jade Tang-Taylor email@example.com
Rochelle Stewart-Allen firstname.lastname@example.org
Rachel Roberts email@example.com
David Hanna firstname.lastname@example.org
So who is we? Here’s a list of those participating in the Collective Changemaker Kōrero to date:
Field Catalyst Thinking
MEGAN COURTNEY, CLD COORDINATION AND PRACTICE LEAD AT INSPIRING COMMUNITIES
10 June 2022
Earlier this year, I was struck by the Tamarack Institute’s paper on their role as a Field Catalyst and how they’ve accelerated social change in Canada. Field catalysts bring together the best of ‘bottom up and top down’ approaches and contributions to help strengthen social change on a national scale. Both local and national levels need to work hand in hand if community transformation potential is to be realised and sustained.
Tamarack’s report and accompanying webinar explores the many different kinds of roles intermediary organisations like Tamarack and Inspiring Communities (and many others!) are playing to enable place-based social change. Internationally, the important role of field catalysts is gaining attention, with key roles and tasks including:
• Bringing profile, language and legitimacy to an approach or issue
• Documenting, harvesting and sharing emerging learning, effective practice and practice-based evidence and research
• Making connections and strengthening relationships at multiple levels
• Building capability of change makers at multiple levels
• Influencing system changes (eg. funding and policy approaches) to make it easier for local level collaboration and innovation to succeed
I would argue this key national level social change infrastructure is largely unrecognised, undervalued and certainly under-invested in here in Aotearoa. We also need to talk about who or what kind of organisations are best placed to fulfil these roles and functions.
I suspect many government agencies would argue that they are well placed to be effective field catalysts and do this role now. I would respectfully disagree. A key part of the field catalyst role is navigating the ‘spaces in between’ different levels and stakeholders. It demands skilful looking and listening through multiple lenses to help make sense of what’s emerging and what’s needed to strengthen collaborative change processes underway or required next. Building this capacity outside of government or funder systems is imperative.
Aotearoa has one of most centralised forms of government in the OECD. The pandemic has demonstrated how difficult it is for central systems to share power and resource in ways that truly sustains and enables collaborative locally-led change. For many, working with government remains inherently difficult and slow, with vested interest in retaining the status quo significant – especially when new ways get challenging.
That said, calls for greater investment in community-led responses to some of our most pressing issues – family violence, housing, biodiversity, child poverty and climate change – continue to grow. This is the opportunity then. Rather than just funding individual community-led initiatives across the motu, we need to make sure that aligned resourcing for sector field catalysts is also part of the innovation investment mix.
This way, we can enable and scale greater impact for all our communities.
Note: Tamarack’s Field Catalyst paper is part of a Stanford Social Innovation Review series celebrating and sharing learning from 10 years of Collective Impact. If you’re working in collaborative contexts, it’s worth a look!
Embracing Te Tiriti O Waitangi, Fostering Community.
Exciting seismic shifts are happening in New Zealand’s cultural political landscape. The regular use of Te Reo, recognition of Te Ao Māori, and a growing understanding of Te Tiriti o Waitangi demonstrate a movement with the potential to radically re-orientate Aotearoa New Zealand to be a better place for all.
Community-led development (CLD) is one strand that can support this movement achieve effective and lasting change. By fostering connections between diverse groups, we can help shape the aspirations of local communities, grow local leadership and support new relationships that are inclusive and restorative.
CLD views communities as adaptive, complex systems. Communities are living social groupings that are critical in shaping the wellbeing of people and the environment. CLD recognises and affirms the talents and resources that people already have and has a default setting that backs people to contribute to their own wellbeing and development.
Inspiring Communities (IC) is a network of CLD practitioners with a deliberate focus on ‘place’, understanding that transformative change becomes more possible when contributions of all those who have an interest or connection to a place are activated.
This naturally brings into the conversation mana whenua, the people who are of that place, along with the history of what has happened between the many groups connected to place.
We must foster the respect and understanding of all groups, including, where feasible, opposing groups. This isn’t easy. But by hosting conversations between people with diverse backgrounds and views we help foster healthy and resilient communities and facilitate a deeper appreciation of our diversity – as well as what we hold in common.
Globally there is growing interest in locally led change. The challenges of inequity, climate change, racism and environmental restoration are renewing interest in the key role local citizens hold. This is reinvigorating the old concept of the Commons – those resources or parts of nature that one cannot own. These trends reflect emerging fields in science that flow across many disciplines and emphasise a more inter-connected, relational and natural world view. This ‘new’ thinking within ‘western’ science circles has similarities with indigenous knowledge systems that have been passed between generations and survived the challenges of colonialism.
This ‘freeing’ up of knowledge from narrowly defined Eurocentric world views enables indigenous knowledge like Mātauranga Māori to claim its rightful place in helping shape more just and sustainable ways of living.
Whananaki on the east coast of Northland is an example of this approach in action. Locals have set aside many years of the ‘us and them’ mindset to bring the best of both worlds together for the betterment of their place. The community is noticing that shift and say their place is much richer for it.
A number of initiatives have flourished; from development of the marae, to planning a local community hub, a youth-led social enterprise project working to produce natural and Māori medicinal plant-based balm and bath bomb products, to the development of a large-scale native nursery. An indigenous lens has been applied to pest and weed eradication. Previously, contractors from outside the district did the work. Now, the contractors key role is to teach locals the skills so that the community develops self-reliance practices. While it will take longer, the expertise will remain in place with the community.
Whananaki local Pam Armstrong says the adoption of community-led development approaches sitting alongside Mātauranga Māori has firmly shaped their vision for a culturally connected caring community. You can read her full account here.
This bringing together of different world views is not a new concept for Aotearoa. In 1840, Te Tiriti o Waitangi brought together two markedly different world views into one document – albeit with numerous versions. Mātauranga Māori met rational European science and law.
The shared intent of both parties entering into the agreement was a desire for an agreed framework to guide the on-going boundaries and relationship between all parties. Unfortunately, a great opportunity was squandered by the colonial mentality of European controlled governments.
By 1840, Māori had already demonstrated their adaptive capacity to integrate European technology into their tikanga. Imagine what could have formed if Pākehā demonstrated the same openness to integrating Te Ao Māori at this historical juncture?
To arrive at an agreement, Māori debated and interpreted Te Tiriti’s value and meaning from their indigenous body of knowledge and the significant evidence they had accumulated on the relatively new arrivals. In contrast the overarching British approach was informed by over three hundred years of conquering and colonising and the legal and political frameworks that had been established to maintain their global empire.
The resulting power imbalance and the brutal suppression of rangatiratanga (chieftainship) meant the opportunity to jointly shape the interpretation and application of Te Tiriti was radically diminished.
From a Mātauranga Māori perspective a ‘deal’ between different groups requires ongoing work from everyone that is party to it for it to maintain value and aliveness. Clearly for the majority of New Zealand’s Pākehā history this didn’t happen. The current Te Tiriti movement is addressing this fact, as one party to the agreement plays catch up. Community-led development and its related tools provide helpful resources to address this neglect and support bringing life to the vision it established.
And what of the role for government and its institutions? A current trap is their failure to appreciate how their way of working reflects dominant Eurocentric assumptions. Communities as living systems are not well served by either market-driven or state-driven responses. Non-financial transactions are invisible and not considered in policy solutions.
Policy analysis has become a craft that minimises the deep wisdom and insights of people experiencing the issue and their capacity as actors in driving solutions. Open participatory conversations in communities are different to government hosted consultations.
If government maintains the same operating system, then it risks the outcomes being simply a new Treaty veneer – lacking the necessary deep systemic change required to do justice to our foundation agreement. Too many command and control or paternalistic approaches erode the connectedness between citizens and the Crown.
Te Tiriti is not a problem to be fixed or conversely the answer to all our problems but must be valued as a resource to guide on-going innovation and renewal.
Crown leadership, exercised correctly, is essential to honouring Te Tiriti. CLD necessarily extends the range of leadership styles. It values community leaders as hosts and brokers of relationships. This contrasts with our common expectation for leaders to have all the answers. CLD places an emphasis on open processes, sharing of information and hosting conversations. On-going learning and adaptive approaches are encouraged as opposed to rigidly sticking to set plans and timeframes.
While not a speedy process, it has potential to deliver more lasting solutions (which ends up being the quickest route to the desired destination). Inspiring Communities practitioners know well the wisdom of moving slowly to go far!
Rather than placing the sole responsibility on a narrowly defined Government to fix the problem, local communities’ step into their leadership and become part of on-going solution seeking and sense-making processes. What evolves may look different in each place with unique local context and history shaping different priorities.
CLD can embellish the current Te Tiriti o Waitangi movement. It can help reenergise citizens and is able to hold the diversity and contradictions that exist in our complex world. This shifts Te Tiriti from being seen by most Pākehā as a ‘Māori’ issue, to it being a special and unique resource for all citizens to pave new approaches. In doing so, we can strengthen the vitality of local communities, strengthen democracy, foster connections between diverse groups, develop leadership and affirm the strengths and taonga already within our places.
Collective Change kōrero
Mā mua ka kite a muri, mā muri ka ora a mua
Those who lead give sight to those who follow, those who follow give life to those who lead
This whakatauki speaks to the importance of working together – acknowledging the importance of both the leader and the followers, for both are essential and co-dependent.
This mātauranga is what motivated Inspiring Communities to convene a collective change conversation. There is growing recognition of the need for significant shifts in how we live and work, and a growing range of initiatives developing and testing new approaches, but the risk remains that these threads are not connected in this ecosystem, they are not amplified and thus remain undervalued.
Part of what Inspiring Communities does is notice, and as best as is possible given the often-multifaceted nature, name what we observe. We are noticing lots of pockets of marvellous mahi around the motu (check out Inspiring Communities’ magnificent manaakitanga summer series). Strong new leadership prioritising collaboration; greater use of indigenous knowledge to shape the mahi, more investment in initiatives developed by whānau or community groups and growing openness in some government agencies for a more effective approach to navigating complexity.
Our collective experience working with that complexity tells us developing a grand master plan is futile, rather, an organic approach that will allow for the spontaneity, self-organising and fostering connections between actors that can, if the need arises, transform into partnerships. This was the intent that led Inspiring Communities to collaborate with a group of agencies to curate the Collective Change Conversation.
Starting small, Inspiring Communities, Hui E! Community Aotearoa, the Innovation Unit and TSI’s Co-Design Lab invited about 30 people from across the country into two conversations; the first in Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington) and then Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland). These conversations allowed for everyone to hear from each other, notice what is taking place, why and how. The group didn’t claim to be representative of the full diversity of actors but it did represent a stake in the ground – a starting point to explore from. There were people from the Community and Voluntary sectors, Whanau Ora, rural and community-led groups, co-designers, social entrepreneurs, small businesses, educators, intercultural educators and public servants – really this just names half of the experience and expertise that was in the ‘rooms’.
The energy vibe was in situ – ideas, expertise and stories flowed. We did some mapping, explored how to paint a picture of what is happening, asked what a good life means, whānau-ora, wellbeing that is informed by a shared framework or key pou. Eclectic indeed.
Here’s a sample of the insights, as you can but imagine they barely touched the surface. We just thought we’d offer you a taster, so you get a bit of an appetite for what is possible as we explore this commitment to collective change:
Paul Dalziel, on behalf of the Wellbeing Economy Alliance notes collective change necessitates that the voices of civil society are heard in conversations, since wellbeing is ultimately about people leading lives they value and have reason to value.
Michelle Kitney, Kaihautū – Chief Executive of Volunteering NZ says the value of this kaupapa/kōrero is in itself the essence – connected, collaborative and community building. The process has huge potential to be a catalyst for creating connections and change.
Helen Leahy, Pouārahi – Chief Executive of Te Putahitanga o Wai Pounamu speaks of how they are transforming lives because all their mahi is centred on the philosophy that whānau must be placed at the centre of service design and delivery, to realise their own solutions. Such potential if more faith was placed in families.
Arama Mataira, Intercultural Facilitator and Director of Walk Together NZ shared her thoughts about the potential of working with equity as a process, rather than as an outcome, which acts as an acceleration and elevation strategy towards equity/justice in the various realms we work within.
Nicola Patrick, from Flaxroots and Thrive recognises that coming together with a broader network of people working towards a common purpose is energising because while some of us are connected already, the huge number and meeting new people is further support to continue.
Rochelle Stewart-Allen, Pou Kaiārahi (General Manager) at Hui E! Community Aotearoa says it’s time to take our learnings and really drive some long-term, systemic changes. We can only do that together.
Jade (Poh Gaik) Tang-Taylor, Director of Innovation & Partnerships at the Innovation Unit believes holding this collective change kōrero is just the start of the mindset shift we need to see. If we’re ever to solve some of these complex “wicked” problems, we’re going to need new ways of working, of doing and of being in this world.
Richard Whatman, Kaiaki, Te Tūāpapa Kura Kāinga – (HUDs) asks what if all parts of the system embrace holistic approaches and put te ao Māori and Pasifika knowledge in the centre of that?
There is no doubt a space has been created from which good things come, already bi-lateral discussions and initiatives are underway but more than that as we head into 2022 starting with loose but regular kawhe and kōrero sessions, magic will unfold because when you curate and commit to collective change magic happens.
We welcome others to step into our collective changemaking space – if you are interested, and want to know more
- get in touch with Inspiring Communities’ Rachel Roberts
- get in touch with Innovation Unit: Jade Tang-Taylor
- feel free to add to the OPEN Jamboard
So who is we? Here’s a list of those participating in the Collective Changemaker Kōrero to date:
What does it mean to be a leader? Traditional notions of leadership include the idea that leaders are to know and carry everything on their own. We believe it is time to turn this notion on its head, break down what we know and re-learn leadership from the ground up. This is an important role in our community so it is equally important for us to question the assumptions that we have.
When reevaluating leadership, we can approach it with three intentions:
1. Change of mindset – Can we let go of the idea that the definition of leadership is the authoritative leader? Can we instead, move towards this notion of a ‘leaderful’ person, or the leader in everyone. An individual that exhibits humility and seeks to serve others rather than power for its own sake means that conditions can be set in place for everyone in the community to play a part.
2. Pay attention to the micro-interactions – The little things that make a difference in a community-led context can have much larger, positive consequences. Constant engagement and invitation to participate, means those micro-skills within the community can help to foster leadership in not just yourself but others too.
3. Staying hopeful in the face of complexity – Community leadership can be messy and intricate. The scale of the issues that organisations and communities face are beyond the scope of the traditional notion of what a leader can handle on their own. As a community, we need to learn to awhi this messiness, not become disheartened, stay hopeful and work with the polarities of an ‘and/and’ situation – not the ‘either/or’. By doing so we can foster collective responses to complex issues.
As individuals, it is possible for all of us to lead at different times. Whether this is at work, with our families, playing sport, in the marae or church. To build local leadership we need to involve the whole community, hapū or iwi, drawing on these leadership skills of the individuals and develop these strengths in order to work together.
Instead of a single leader who carries the wants and needs of a community on their shoulders, it is time to focus on weaving the contribution of everyone connected to a place/whenua.
Our upcoming Community Building Block: Leaderful Communities, facilitated by myself, Anna Parker, and Chris Jansen from Leadership Lab, is a collaboration to explore leaderful practises. It is not a roadmap for leadership, rather some pointers to a reflective practise designed to help you reimagine what you believe leadership is, providing you with tools and insights to support the leader in everyone.
Evolving Collaborative Governance – by Megan Courtney
I agree with Liz Weaver when she says that “a lot is written about collaboration and collaborative work but relatively little that identifies the nuts and bolts of collaborative governance.”
I suspect it’s because we’re still in a place of evolving what happens next in this space what that needs to look like. This is essential as our traditional forms and understanding of governance do not easily lend themselves to the diverse collaborative and/or community-led contexts we’re all increasingly working in.
In practice, these aspects can so easily undermine other key ingredients of effective community-led change we understand to be critical – distributed leadership, shared ownership, active participation, democratic empowerment, decentralised action, movement building and real-time iteration and adaptation.
Given the hugely diverse range of collaborative working arrangements emerging as different groups, sectors, organisations and communities come together, it’s not surprising that things are in flux. This context requires us to be open to adapting ideas, concepts and practices from a number of sources to find the ‘best fit’. Just replicating others’ models has the potential to bring more risk than add value.
I’ve always been an advocate for doing things with others, and as things grow, then work out what you need to do next with enough structure and form to hold, rather than control things – context, purpose, relationships, values and function must lead form in my book. While I’m an obvious fan of more lightweight structured, constellation-type governance models, they’re also not the answer for every situation.
Here in Aotearoa, honouring Te Tiriti is also challenging us to innovate and find new ways of enabling and embedding both co-governance AND Te Ao Māori within collaborative efforts. This could take us beyond current existing practices of two house models and having dedicated tangata whenua seats on steering and working groups. Some of the resulting challenges experienced by Māori are well articulated below:
This is clearly a critical emerging space here in Aotearoa and one in which I suspect we will need to keep learning from our doing for some time to come yet.
I look forward to joining my Tamarack colleague Liz Weaver to explore new thinking, examples and emerging challenges associated with collective leadership and governance online on September 22nd 9am -12.30pm . Hope you can join us!
A Movement in Action – by Megan Courtney
Something’s definitely changed. I look at the diversity across the 250 people, places, groups, sectors and organisations signed up to attend our Stories of Success and Change webinar in August 2021. And similarly, how people from the far North to the deep South met up in Tāmaki Makaurau last week to learn and workshop how to make sense of the community-led change happening in their places.
I also see the words ‘community-led development’ now pepper potted in strategies and policies of many funders, Councils and government departments. Some hapū, iwi and Māori organisations are looking at how mātauranga CLD can also support their own self-determining aspirations.
So when I think back to 2006, something tells me that things have fundamentally changed and are changing. Inspiring Communities is no longer a few people wondering about how to grow a social change movement – it’s alive and happening in different ways. We’re not a lone nut. Collective community action is happening at multiple levels and across multiple sectors to enable transformation – for example in criminal justice , predator eradication, and whānau ora/family wellbeing.
While our focus, principles and start points may all be different, I also sense there’s much in common across our diverse approaches such as:
- a belief in the power of people to make and lead positive change
- a deep commitment to working aspirationally, in relationally rich ways
- seeing solutions as multiple, emergent and evolving, requiring us to learn and adapt as we go
- working collaboratively to leverage diverse strengths and contributions
- embracing interconnections – between people and planet, and between the economic, environmental, cultural, social and cultural aspects of wellbeing.
On the hard days, when I’m being stretched in multiple directions (because they’re all potential change levers!) and feeling overwhelmed by the messiness (the reality of community-led mahi!), it’s easy to feel like nothing has changed. But it has and is. There’s something about a growing collective consciousness of how to do things differently that is bigger than any political party or new national strategy. That’s why our work in Inspiring Communities is about us, and not about us! It’s what we all do that matters.
Being Human, Systems-focused, and Learning.
There are no quick fixes to complex issues such as reducing inequality or responding to the long-term social and economic effects of Covid-19; areas where the Todd Foundation aims to make an impact.
How do we embrace complexity, learn from it, and continually improve the way we serve the leaders in our communities who are driving change? How can we best work collaboratively to catalyse and support longer-term social change in Aotearoa?
These are questions Todd Foundation staff and trustees continue to reflect on, alongside our community partners and other funders. To help with the answers, last year we began formally capturing what we are learning as a foundation and using it to improve the way we work.
To guide our reflections and discussions, we’ve developed a learning framework, using insights from researchers at Newcastle University Business School and Collaborate in their 2019 report, Exploring the new world: Practical insights for funding, commissioning, and managing in complexity.
In this report, Toby Lowe and Dawn Plimmer identified three common features of funding and commissioning work that embraces the complexity of social change: Working in a way that is human, prioritises learning, and takes a systems approach.
Each month, our Todd Foundation team asks: To what extent are we being human, using learning to improve, and looking after the health of systems? And what are we learning about how to do this well? We’ve also added another question specific to our foundation: Do we have adequate resource to do these things well? And at each Foundation Board meeting, our trustees contribute their reflections.
Todd Foundation Learning Framework.
Over many years we’ve learned that; when our relationships are trusting and honest; when our processes are simple; and when we can provide multi-year, flexible funding, the groups that we fund can focus their energy on achieving their vision rather than filling out application forms, writing accountability reports, or competing with others for our funding. We trust the groups we fund to know how best to use our funding and to adapt their activities as their needs change. A key challenge for Todd Foundation staff has been having the capacity to dedicate enough time to build and maintain quality high-trust relationships. We are working on how to resolve this.
Peoples’ lives are complex and the issues that we’re concerned with, such as homelessness, food insecurity, health, and systemic racism are interconnected. We cannot expect individual programmes or interventions to be the ‘silver bullets’ that will fix these issues. Delivering better outcomes for people takes whole networks of people and organisations.
As a result, we have taken the pressure off individual organisations to prove their impact. Rather, we believe that creating cultures which encourage reflection and learning will drive adaption and result in better outcomes.
To reflect on our own funding practice, we hold regular learning sessions with colleagues at Inspiring Communities and upskill ourselves alongside other funders such as J R McKenzie’s Peter McKenzie Project and the Vodafone New Zealand Foundation. We also learn about how to contribute more effectively to social change while participating in communities of practice and the networks we support, such as The Driving Change Network. Having open and honest conversations about our challenges and what we are learning, helps us to do better together.
In 2020, starting in lockdown, we invited our community partners to join us for fortnightly Zoom hui to share what we were learning and noticing about food insecurity and how that was playing out during the Covid-19 pandemic. We learned the critical role that relationships played in getting food to where it was needed, tailored specifically to different family needs and circumstances. The group shared a common desire to move beyond a crisis response, ensuring that we paid attention to supporting whānau to access healthy, nutritious food in the long-term: To have access to land, to have enough income, to grow their own food and enterprises, and to build resilient local food systems. We continue to learn and work together.
We have identified the need to share what we and our community partners are learning more widely and more often, to shine a light on what is working and to be upfront about the challenges involved in transforming our systems and communities for the better.
At the Todd Foundation, we’ve been reflecting on our role in supporting longer-term social change. Where we’ve landed is that our role is to work alongside others to set the conditions for healthier social systems so that they produce better outcomes for tamariki, rangatahi, whānau and communities. Systems we’re currently trying to influence include housing; digital equity; youth employment; food security; diversity, racism and inclusion. Rather than fund individual programmes, the foundation invests in networks that bring change-makers together, support the capacity and skills of people who work in these systems, and invest in Māori and community-led solutions for change. We aim to be effective influencers, convenors and advocates.
We’ve found that investing in relationships within social systems helps build momentum and sustains our collective work over time. We have also found that it’s critical to keep learning about the complexities of each system, and to use this information to make better collaborative decisions.
In 2020, we found that taking a human, learning and systems approach was invaluable, not just in responding flexibly to the immediate challenges of a global pandemic, but also as we invest in longer term change through our Fairer Futures systems change project and other collaborative work.
We’d like to thank all our community partners and philanthropy colleagues for the learning journey we are taking together.
Ngā mihi ki a koutou.