Recently, ComVoices hosted the first of a series of breakfast events that aspire to create a new kind of relationship between Parliamentarians and the community sector, through wānanga style breakfasts that explore areas of mutual interest. We hope that through shared learning, we can build a different kind of conversation and relationship between our sector and MPs.
ComVoices is a Wellington based network of national community and voluntary sector organisations. Collectively we represent a vast and diverse range services that span Aotearoa’s breadth and support communities across the country. We’re a broad network, and as a network we work to our many strengths, collaborating in the knowledge that we each bring something important from our sphere within the wider sector to the table. We identify issues of common interest, share insights and work to make great things happen.
Late last year we canvased the idea with around 20 Members of Parliament from across the political spectrum. With resounding support from the crew we spoke to at a conceptual level, we planned a first breakfast with a special guest, some evidence about our current state, and some co-design of topics for further events. Poto Williams, a fabulous Assistant Speaker of the House, agreed to host. ComVoices members invited along people who are delivering services on the ground. And early one morning in very late March, with the first real southerly of the year blowing cold round the Beehive, we gathered for kai and kōrero and talked about what awesomeness would look like in the relationship between the sector and Parliament.
What we talked about
People talked about busting silos, more information flowing between the buildings of government and the community sector, relationships rather than transactions. Everyone present wanted a better understanding between decisionmakers and the people delivering on the ground, based on open, honest, trusted and interactive relationships.
There was also a common desire to establish personal and professional connections, and through these connections generate what is needed to permanently change the conditions for New Zealanders for the better- rather than fixes shaped by the electoral cycle. Breakfasters wanted to be equal partners in a cohesive system, for the system to create shared solutions and participatory and accessible modes of communication.
The road map for future breakfasts
Having outlined what awesome would look like, there was even more snap crackle and pop as we designed a road map through topics for exploration at future breakfasts. A collection of these, in no particular order, follow:
- Taking a community sector topic – like mental health or homelessness – and analysing it from a wellbeing perspective, using the living standards framework that Treasury have published in draft form
- Creating conversations around ‘tricky’ issues and work it through to the point of action
- The contracting/commissioning landscape for services across the country
- What’s the shape of leadership in the sector?
- Hearing the voices of the sector- being heard
- A session focused on young people…
This last suggestion is the first one we’ll be picking up – ComVoices are cooking up a special breakfast where young people working in our sector will give their views of the future of our democracy, our economy and our communities.
Watch this space!