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Reports On Meetings And Events

Educating political parties to help the community sector

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Wednesday 10 June 2020

A webinar brought together six Members of Parliament and political party members to discuss their policies, priorities and responses to the needs and challenges of Aotearoa’s community and voluntary sector.

For a summary of the discussions visit the Hui E! Community Aotearoa website

You can read the full webinar summary compiled by Hui E! Community Aotearoa here

Minority communities gaining equitable access

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Snap, Crackle and Pop breakfast for MPs and the community sector

25 September 2019, focus: Supporting minority communities to gain equitable access to meet community need

Read the following commentary from Vanisa Dhiru, President, National Council of Women NZ

New Zealand is now home to more than 230 different ethnic groups speaking in excess of 160 different languages. To service and engage with such diversity is a challenge – not only for the public sector but the community sector as well. This was the back drop for the ComVoices Parliamentary breakfast held last week in Wellington where supporting minority communities to gain equitable access to meet community need was the focus.

Post the terrorist attacks of 15 March, racism, social inclusion and the diversity of New Zealand has been very much in the public discussion; and how we can all adequately deal with such issues. The lack of capability to understand and effectively respond is one of the many areas community representatives have highlighted in the past months.

Panel member Tayo Agunlejika, Executive Director of Multicultural New Zealand underlined the absence of ethnic diversity in governance roles in NGO’s, local councils and leadership roles in the public service. Even when such representation is sought, there can be resistance – such as recent racist letters that have been sent to ethnic women running in local body elections, defacing of campaign collateral, and bias appointment processes.

Inspector Rakesh Naidoo from Police National Headquarters shared his experience of an organisation building the necessary language and cultural skills to reflect the communities they serve. Without such essential skills, organisations such as the NZ Police would not be able to professionally service their communities and retain trust and confidence. He spoke of our nation’s connection with the Asia Pacific region, and our close cultural and economic connections with this part of the world. He shared the need to think globally when we act locally.

Equitable recruitment, diversity of boards, governance succession planning and partnering with tangata whenua were highlighted as some immediate solutions that could be implemented to address access.

Attendees observed the lack of representation around the discussion tables, given the broad services they provide to our diverse communities. I reflected on my own journey of being a manager and leader in the NGO sector and how few ethnic leaders there are.

The saying “nothing about us, without us” is important to reflect on when we are developing service provision, and have an inclusive workforce that reflects the communities we serve.

NZ born Indian Vanisa Dhiru lives in Wellington and has held a number of paid and volunteer national leadership roles across the community sector. She is a member of the AsiaNZ Leadership Network and Global Women NZ.

Surprising discoveries and critical friends at a Parliament Breakfast

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Snap, Crackle and Pop breakfast for MPs and the community sector

6 March 2019 , focus on youth wellbeing.

Read the following commentary from Rod Baxter, Director of Impact, Prince’s Trust New Zealand .

When I first received the invite for this event, I had this preconceived vision of a fancy lavish breakfast with mountains of gourmet cuisine. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Instead, the breakfast was described as “light”, which is evidently a euphemism for “insufficient”. It’s actually all my fault however, as I was too busy talking to interesting people and missed the vegetarian option. I enjoyed three slices of fruit.

It turns out I was never there for the kai; something more powerful was happening.

Jane Zintl, Ara Taiohi’s CEO, opened in a grounded and balanced way, simultaneously acknowledging a sobering reality for young people with appropriate humour. Jane celebrated our Ministry of Youth Development and connected an undervaluing of this Ministry is an undervaluing of young people. Jane also introduced the Minister for Youth as a “youth worker” and I wished he was wearing the jandals and Warriors shirt referred to.

There’s something very profound in this interaction. It’s the first time in a long time that the youth sector and Government have demonstrated this type of relationship. I heard it once described as a “critical friendship” in a dual sense; it’s critical the sector and government have a partnership and we critique each other in a friendly way.

The Hon. Peeni Henare was similarly and refreshingly grounded in his aspirations for diverse young people. The Minister personally named taiohi in the room and seemed genuinely interested to hear their voices. The forthcoming panel certainly provided space for this.

Esme Oliver started the panel with spoken word. Esme is a young youth work student who shared two raw, honest and processed experiences: first with a foster brother struggling with mental health and secondly one of the most comprehensive bicultural analyses I’ve heard in a while. Praxis are clearly doing a fine job training the incoming generation of youth workers.

Laura O’Connell-Rapira summarised Action Station’s ‘Nga Hauora’ research into youth wellbeing and concluded with a timely challenge about student protests about climate change as demonstrable active citizenship.

Finally, Simon Mareko from the Ministry of Youth Development integrated his extensive youth work experience with his new adventure as a public servant by personalising the Youth Development Strategy Aotearoa (launched in 2002) with relevance for our contemporary challenges and with more humour and interactivity.

Collectively, there was a sense of unity connecting the Minister’s desire for up-to-date thinking, Esme’s experiences, Laura’s research, Jane’s sector perspective and Simon’s formal announcement about the YDSA review. And that was the most pleasant surprise: unity. There was an overwhelming humility during dialogue between MPs and the community, together searching for the best ways to serve Aotearoa’s young people.

Personally, I grew up in Wellington and Government has always felt accessible. I notice now that there are added barriers and a greater distance for young people who want to have a say. During the weekend of Te Matatini, I strolled past the Beehive with my cousins and their kids. Reon’s Year 9 and Brooklyn is Year 8. They asked me where Jacinda works and “can we go in for a visit?” At this breakfast, I’ve realised the answer is yes. And we’ll all be better off for it if more young people do.

Although they need to get in quick to the kai, so they get more than three slices of fruit! No taxpayers dollars are wasted! Which is another pleasant surprise.

Snap, Crackle and Pop – a report on the first of the ComVoices Breakfast series

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The background

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!

Meeting with James Shaw Greens Co-Leader

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ComVoices briefed James Shaw on key issues from the State of the Sector Survey 2016.  He was told that the sector is not averse to change, streamlining, identifying  need and demonstrating outcomes, but the sector is finding it difficult to engage with Government – the rhetoric is separate from the reality. In the lead –up to the general election, James said that the Greens will be focussing on inequality, the environment and structural elements in the economy.  James’ view was that people don’t vote on policy, and so the Greens will be focussing on the Green’s vision, values and social identity.

Parliamentary Breakfast

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Parliamentary Breakfast – Shreya Basu, Open Government Partnership Regional Civil Society coordinator for Asia Pacific

Grant Robertson, MP for Wellington Central hosted this parliamentary breakfast for guest speaker Shreya Basu. Her topic was NZ and the Open Government Partnership – what should you know, and why should you care?  More than 80 people attended the event which was generously sponsored by the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies, Victoria University (IGPS).

Meeting with the Hon Peter Dunne, Minister for Internal Affairs

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A productive meeting was held with the Minister who fundamentally agreed with the two propositions that ComVoices wanted to discuss: the establishment of a more formal relationship with Government; and the potential for a Social Values Act (SVA) similar to the UK model. The Minister thought that some form of accord or standing agreement could be developed that spelt out the levels of responsibility between the sector and Government.  He said that ComVoices needs to form a good relationship with the Government through the Minister of Finance who is thinking about where we go in the long term.  If we were able to get the Minister’s engagement then we would get traction on our concerns.

Meeting with Marama Fox, Maori Party

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Ms Fox said that the party combines strategically with the Hon Peter Dunne and David Seymour.  On many things the three parties differ, but on the legislation and issues they agree on, they work together and can wield significant influence.  Topics discussed with Marama were: influencing Government, prioritisation to the neediest to prevent people becoming vulnerable and how to make ComVoices heard with Government. At present, Government sees the sector as “Government Providers” working in its own interest.  It does not recognise the sector’s purpose and mission and that perception has to be changed.

Meeting with David Seymour, Leader of ACT NZ

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Views were shared around the funding relationship with government, the British social value act, the relationship with Government, how to build on our shared interests, public advocacy, and the case for sector umbrella groups. While holding only one seat, David said ACT could leverage off that and that in the future, ACT will grow substantially putting it in a better position to make more demands of government. In closing David said he has limited capacity, but we are always welcome to write and we will certainly get a reply.

Meeting with Andrew Little and Poto Williams

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Meeting with Andrew Little, Leader of the Labour Party and Poto Williams, Community and Voluntary Sector spokesperson

Topics covered in the meeting were the funding relationship with Government, a more formal relationship with government, gender remuneration inequality in the C&V sector and the two current bills affecting the sector – the Policing (Cost Recovery) Amendment Bill and Public Collections and Solicitations (Disclosure of Payment) Bill.  Poto assured the meeting that the sector can feed its thoughts on current issues and policies to her as the coming year is about developing the relationship and ComVoices has the opportunity to influence Labour’s thinking.