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Reports On Meetings And Events

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.