Project C-19: Collaboration across boundaries
The Nelson Whakatū community is no stranger to a Civil Defence Emergency.
Hit by severe weather and floods in 2018, devastating bushfires in 2019, and now, Covid-19.
Within days, a new collaboration between community-led initiatives and organisations dedicated to helping the most vulnerable was formed. Project C-19 is a collaboration between Volunteer Nelson and Neighbourhood Support Nelson, both very active and visible community organisations in the region and funded by Nelson City Council .
Grow from shared local visions
The goal was clear; to support the organisations working with the most vulnerable in the community. To predict which needs might arise and be most crucial, the Project C-19 team developed a work exchange survey to help identify those gaps and needs, as well as to share their strengths, resources, and capacities. This evidence saw the organisations quickly self-organise and reassign their shared capability to respond directly to what they had identified: an increased need for food and housing support, as well as for strong and direct communication – not only between the organisations themselves, but also to the community so that the right source of support can be found for everyone’s individual needs and questions.
C-19 Project Manager Dawn Gauthier says she was amazed how immediately Nelson’s active support networks kicked into action:
“The organisations were so well equipped that within days, helping hands were reaching out to those who were stretched. The proactive and empathic approach of community organisations like Age Concern was impressive.”
AgeConnect: looking out for our older generations
“This is not just about nice fluffy stuff, this is about health and wellbeing.”
Caroline Budge, Manager of Age Concern Nelson Tasman, is passionate about giving a voice to the growing older population of New Zealand.
Based in Nelson, she heads up the region’s branch of the nationwide organisation.
“Nelson is up there in terms of its ageing population. Its climate and quieter pace attracts people for retirement.”
According to international, as well as national, research social isolation and loneliness has a huge impact on physical and mental wellbeing. ““There’s research to suggest that chronic loneliness is akin to smoking 15 cigarettes per day. Think of the impact that’s having on people’s wellbeing and on our health system. Ultimately the goal is to keep more older people away from the doctors and hospital because we can do something about it.”
Caroline and her team are doing exactly that.
“It started with companionship. We offer a visiting service using volunteers to go to people’s homes. Mostly they are people in their 80s and 90s who are stuck at home. But a couple of years ago we started thinking about those who feel disconnected in some way but who aren’t maybe old, or who want to be connected and out and about in the community.”
Caroline explains that loneliness isn’t something that happens just for older people – it can happen at any age. However the options for younger people to seek help and integrate into their communities are much more accessible.
WORK WITH DIVERSE PEOPLE & SECTORS
“So we ran a test. We asked our community what they thought, and we had a huge response.”
Reaching out to local health professionals, councillors, community leaders and business owners, Caroline and her team were hoping to get a wide range of interest and input into what Age Concern Nelson Tasman could do next.
So huge was the response to the first invite-only meeting, with a turnout of 60 people, that they hosted a second meeting – this time opening it up to the wider community. That meeting attracted 100 interested people of varying ages and occupations.
GROW FROM SHARED LOCAL VISIONS
“From there we figured out who was really interested in getting involved, identified our top issues to address, came up with themes, and set up working groups. Then we realised it was enough work to create a new job. We funded and then recruited a position to help support collaboration and make things happen. Therefore AgeConnect Nelson Tasman was born. At the time we had no idea what this person was going to do but knew that it was about working with others to tackle social isolation and loneliness and that some exciting innovations would occur.”
LEARN BY DOING
With people on board and ideas in hand, the team’s priority was to put things into action. One of the first initiatives to get off the ground was Tea & Tech – a regular learning session between residents of a local retirement village and teenagers from the Nelson Youth Council. The idea was to help older people on a 1:1 basis with their digital devices – smartphones, tablets and PCs. They could ask practical questions that would be answered by knowledgeable teenagers, who would in turn get to practise their training and explanation skills.
“When instructions say ‘just go to our website’ it becomes a huge barrier for anyone who doesn’t know how to use a website. We hoped it would be practical learning for everyone involved but what we found was that connections were made and bonds were formed. The teenagers showed real leadership and commitment, and older residents got much more than digital skills out of it too. Often what the older people want is something really simple – they might not really know what wi-fi is, for example, or how to share photos. The results are quite magical.”
BUILD FROM STRENGTHS
Two years on, AgeConnect is busier than ever – facilitating new initiatives and encouraging the community to take on ‘doing the doing’. Tea & Tech has now been taken up by three local high schools, two other retirement villages, with plans to run them in the community as well.
Pet Connect is another initiative that has been very successful.
Mostly it’s dogs that their volunteers take in to visit the residents, but there has been a surprise superstar. “Tyson the Clydesdale horse, whose owner is a local woman who’s happy to volunteer her time, seems to be able to sense something in people. He’s huge, but he walks down the corridor of the rest homes. It’s amazing. He gently nuzzles people and seems to know who needs the most attention.”
For some residents of care homes who’ve spent their lives on a farm, and are now living in the city with next to no animal contact, Caroline explains how this initiative has brought incredible joy to those who’ve missed the smell and presence of animals in their lives.
“It’s moved people to tears. It’s just a short few moments that they get with Tyson but the joy it brings to some residents is medicine itself.”
Something else that was able to be put into action quickly was the connection between the need for community transport for older people, and the number of existing vans and volunteers who were available to help. This has been a quick win-win for all involved.
GROW COLLABORATIVE LOCAL LEADERSHIP
Caroline says it’s been incredibly encouraging to see the way in which the wider community has embraced these and other initiatives.
“The idea behind what we’re doing is to get initiatives off the ground and help facilitate them, then we work with the community to take charge and run with them.”
As well as focusing on specific initiatives such as Pet Connect and Tea & Tech, AgeConnect also developed what they call AgeConnect Champions – anyone in the community, whether an individual, group or business – who are doing their bit for older people.
“This might be a sticker on the window to let people know they’re age friendly, or a chair to sit down on while they wait somewhere. Things that aren’t mainstream, but that make all the difference to someone’s day when they’ve made the effort to venture into town.”
They have also established an annual awards ceremony for nominated Champions, recognising things such as being physically accessible, offer great customer service, or promoting intergenerational activities. Just recently they recognised 150 Champions at their Awards, sharing stories of kindness and examples of great community work.
By encouraging local businesses to get on board and be recognised for their efforts, Caroline says it has begun to instil an expectation that local businesses should be prepared to do what they can for the region’s ageing population.
Not only to encourage inclusivity among the retail and service industry, but to ultimately have a positive impact on someone’s life.
AgeConnect is a concept that is now being picked up by other communities and Age Concern branches which, given New Zealand is home to many communities that are similar to Nelson, is a brilliant example of community-led development in action.
30th May, 2016
I’ve been Director at Victory Community Centre for 8 years now, since our inception and the almost 3 years leading to it being here.Over time we’ve transformed ourselves into a thriving community where people feel connected to a wide range of services and support, especially our own Be Well Community Nurse Penny, a programme of fun, social and recreational opportunities, and we’ve established a community garden with support from DHB and their Nutrition and Physical Activity Plan. We have adapted the projects and initiatives to ensure that we can sustain the momentum.
Some days the work does generate the feelings “how do we keep going, when it feels we are swimming against the tide with funding”, and “are we really making any difference?” So what has and does sustain our organisation, our CSO (Civil Society Organisation)?
We have been blessed by having really stable, highly professional staff with an appreciation of the strategic relationships to support the vision and mission of Victory Village as well as genuine and high capacity for the day to day realities – i.e. not afraid to muck in with whatever it takes. This staffing quality and stability has enabled continuity of care and a sense of genuine relationship building.
Our first three employees have been here for the duration – we are now a team of five part-timers. Recruitment and retention is a big factor in sustainability. The approach I take as Director is closely supported by a particular philosophical approach with managing the centre. I actively work in terms of staff with the SCARF model. Short version of this model: It articulates our social needs at work, which I believe if met, contribute to stability and sustainability of the staff. SCARF stands for Status; Certainty; Autonomy; Relatedness; Fairness. (Check it out in more detail here.) If we actively discuss ways to meet these needs, and structure the job descriptions and systems of our work, and our ways of working as individuals and teams accordingly, then these needs will be met.
The second big factor for sustainability is financial stability. I use what is called the “6 -7 Key Streams” model. I learned this from Kerri Tilby-Price at an Exult workshop. As a financial manager, all income is coded into 6 or 7 streams (the 7th is membership, and some organisations don’t work on that basis). I code all income and expenditure so that we can track where and what, comes and goes. Using that as a percentage of all income, it becomes visible where the potential lies to bring better balance into all the streams. Relatively simple, and yet very effective from my experience and creates some clear targets and focus for activity in our organisation.
I am keenly aware that the third main contributor to sustainability is about relationships. A colleague once said “The currency of business is money and profit. The currency of CSO’s is relationship”. Every relationship we have, whether it’s to support us, or for us to support others, contributes to our vision and mission. And every one of them falls into all or part of the continuum:
Partnership – Collaboration – Cooperation – Networking – Co-existence
With some organisations, like our relationship to the school here, we actively work across the whole continuum. Being clear on where on the continuum this piece of work is occurring helps establish the nature of the relationship. It may be that you want to move a relationship from networking, to becoming partners. What will help that happen, and why, are good things to clarify before you invest time and energy.
The last factor that I believe contributes to sustaining momentum is being open to opportunities. Being welcoming, warm, nimble and accessible to people and their contributions, can be game changers on a day. Being willing in the moment to say “YES” to offers of support or connection, and then figuring out the “how and when” is generally our first response. So being willing to take a manageable risk given your experience and intuitive sense of how much you can trust a new relationship or connection, can take your organisation into new and exciting opportunities that we might not have considered. This generates creativity, and possibility and keeps hope alive.
By Kindra Douglas
There’s a lot more about Victory Village at the following links:
Our Door is Always Open – At The Heart Module 4 video.
Finding hidden treasure in Nelson
When Nelson resident Marcia Griggs heard about the idea of a community treasure hunt at an Inspiring Communities training workshop she got excited and thought, ‘ I could do that!’
She’s not the only one. More than 20 community treasure hunts have now been held in Kiwi communities. The success of treasure hunts has been hugely assisted by Violence Free Waitakere who have created the Our Amazing Place website and an online toolkit to support people wanting to organise their own local events. They also support on online community of ‘treasure hunters’ to ensure resources, ideas and learning is shared and advice is readily at hand!
Community treasure hunts see local residents of all ages following a trail in their local community, stopping at a number of stations where a fun challenge, activity or task is completed and traded for a stamp for their ‘passport’. Treasure hunters then head to a final destination, like a local park or school for a shared picnic/BBQ and prizes. It’s all about having fun, connecting with others and discovering local treasure – special people, landscapes, resources, projects, facilities, groups, and services.
For Marcia, organising a community treasure hunt was a way to connect up and profile the many diverse community groups based in her community known locally as The Wood. “When I stopped to think about it, I realised how just many treasures we had tucked away that local residents might not even know about – like the Wood Turners Club, the Squash Club, the Bands Room, the Geneologists.”
Marcia shares her experience of organising a Treasure Hunt for 180 fellow neighbours earlier this year.
How did you get started? I looked up the Our Amazing Place website and spoke to others who had organised Treasure Hunts before to get a sense of what was involved. Then I went for a walk to map out a potential route and also discovered places I didn’t know existed though I’d lived in The Wood for 30 years. My original loop took about 1.5 hours but I had to cut that down so it would fit into the one hour walking timeframe.
Who helped make it happen?
I talked to others in my community who thought the event sounded like a great idea and everything just fell into place. I approached lots of organisations to see if they wanted to be part of it and nearly everyone said yes! I advertised for some help on the Volunteer Nelson website and the local Z Service Station owner responded straight away with 3 volunteers. My family were also great – my daughter designed the poster for the event, they helped out with registration, taking pictures and helping everyone get fed. 5+ a day gave us 300 pieces of fresh fruit and Fuji Xerox jumped on board and photocopied all the flyers.
Who came and what did they do?
I expected about 20-30 people and was totally surprised when 180 people turned up. Our trail had 13 stations and saw people having a go at squash, kite flying, trumpet blowing, 3 legged races, obstacle courses on bikes, and there were even water pistol wars at the local kindy. One station was also a photo booth and that was really popular! We all met back up at Results Gym at the end of the afternoon and there was a treasure chest draw for box of sponsored local prizes.
How did people find out about the Treasure Hunt?
Promotion happened through the local schools newsletters and we put up posters all over The Wood and dropped flyers in letter boxes. The local paper ran a great story prior to the event and we set up a face book page which was a great way to share pictures from the day and to thank everyone who’d helped out. Neighbourhood Support also helped spread the wood via local street coordinators in The Wood.
What was your highlight from the Treasure Hunt?
That everyone had so much fun – both station organisers and participants. There was such a buzz created and the feedback was incredible, the Wood really is an amazing place. Everyone wants to do it again next year!
While it was hard work, I learned a lot and that’s been helpful in planning another Treasure Hunt in the Victory Community of Nelson where I’m working.
Victory Village Forum, Nelson
First published on 24th March 2016
Here’s a rundown of the 2016 Victory Village Forum: a collaboration between Victory Village, the Families Commission and Inspiring Communities.
This community, once characterised by high levels of crime, high numbers of families moving away, low school achievement and low access to health care has transformed itself within a decade. It is now a community that thrives, with students achieving very well, high levels of safety, a settled population that remains similar in make up to 10 years ago and, to top it all off, it was the winner of the 2010 Community of the Year.
This is what we learned about at the Victory Village Forum in Nelson, 27 – 29 July 2016. We also learned about other communities with family-centred, community-led initiatives that are thoughtfully and energetically building on the strengths of their communities to achieve tangible changes.
Download the post-forum report below:
Read the research report:
Watch the video about Victory Primary School:
Read about Victory Village winning New Zealand Community of the Year in 2010.
Drawing on footage from the Forum, we developed a community resource about family-centred community-led development. Watch the video here.