What can we do?

I have been wracking my brain about how Socialink can best tautoko or support our Muslim community at this horrific time.

Tears well up regularly and I expect they will for some time as I hear the stories emerging of what happened and how people and communities are responding to what has happened.

We cannot deny that there is an under current of hate and discrimination in our communities, whether that be targeted at Māori, LTGTBQIA community, Muslim, Jewish, the list goes on and it exists here in the western Bay of Plenty.

Events such as what happened on the 15th of March emerge from this dangerous under current and must be challenged.

These are hard conversations to have and this is, I think, how SociaLink can contribute, not just now but for years to come. Let me start today.

I am a Pakeha, middle aged (hard to face up to but true L), middle class, heterosexual woman which is a common demographic group in the workforce of the social sector.  By virtue of being born into a middle class Pakeha family I have benefited from the colonisation of Aotearoa and being a part of the dominant Pakeha culture.

I have benefited from and had access to New Zealand’s schools and health services and have not experienced discrimination because of my race or sexuality.  Not only this, the schools and health services are delivered according to my cultural frame of reference and at a cost that was affordable to a middle class family.

This is not the case for most Māori who still suffer from the impact of colonisation, including being the victim of terrorist events in the 1800’s.  Māori and other minority groups have not had the same level of access to education and health delivered in a way that understands and reflects their culture nor in a way that is affordable.  They have also suffered as a result of systemic and unconscious discrimination.  The suicide rates, high levels of incarceration and poorer health outcomes are a testament to this.

So what do I do.  For a start I own and acknowledge my privilege and do whatever I can to redress the power imbalance.  I continue to learn and will continue to do so for the rest of my life about Aotearoa’s history, te Ao Māori , te reo Māori as well as about other minority groups and use any opportunity to raise awareness.  The more I learn, the more I realise I don’t know, like peeling an onion, as I learn about one layer I discover ever more layers.  I think this alone is one of the most important things that we can do, the dark under current of discrimination and hate thrive in ignorance which then cultivates fear.

I do my best to pronounce Māori names correctly.  I challenge discriminatory views or acts whenever I hear or become aware of them.

As I go on this journey, I can assure you I don’t get it right all of the time, it’s a work in progress.  I would like to thank my friends and colleagues who take the time to teach and advise me about their culture and their experiences so I can better understand life from their perspective.

I challenge you to reflect on and think about how you expose, challenge and ultimately eliminate the under current here in the western Bay of Plenty.  I challenge us to think about how we tap into the huge outpourings of aroha at the moment and foster this so it remains and becomes our ‘new normal’.

A plethora of news!

Haere Mai to our new staff members!

Liz Stewart has taken on the role of Research, Policy and Advocacy Advisor, Liz brings decades of experience in undertaking social research, particularly in drugs and alcohol and mental health.  Please contact Liz if you want to access the findings from the Mapping the Social Sector project, assistance with undertaking, using or accessing research or in undertaking advocacy on issues close to your heart lizstewart@socialink.org.nz.

Anneke Grogan has started an internship with SociaLink as part of her degree in Health and Society, Psychology and Physiology and Health Management and is assisting Liz Stewart in her work.  It’s great to be able to offer a student an opportunity to learn about and contribute to the social sector.

Dale Johnson is taking on the role of Māori Engagement Advisor in late June to help SociaLink build relationships with Māori social service providers, iwi and hapu and look for opportunities to add value to the great work of Māori providers.  Dale brings a lot of experience in the social sector, particularly the disability sector, strong networks with local iwi and hapu and a passion for improving Māori social outcomes.  To contact Dale email Dale@socialink.org.nz.

Mapping the Social Sector

On the back of the launch of the Mapping the Social Sector findings we are out and about sharing the findings with the social sector via presentations to local networks , funders and stakeholders to encourage discussions and find ways to enhance the social sector.  Get in touch with me if you would like SociaLink to present the findings to your organisation or network.

We are delighted that we are getting requests for organisations wanting to use the findings, please contact Liz Stewart if you want to access the findings.

We are diving deeper into the findings, in particular looking in more detail about sub sectors e.g. health, disability, Māori providers etc.  As this information becomes available we will post them on our website.

Ever thought about the link between trees and improved health and wellbeing?

Research recently released of 50,000 New Zealand children suggests that living in greener areas with more exposure to native plants and a wider variety of vegetation may reduce the risk of being asthmatic.  A report by Toi Te Ora – Public Health Services identify many more social, health and educational benefits of living near trees and plants.  Read the research https://www.ttophs.govt.nz/vdb/document/1973

Our friends in the environmental sector, Envirohub, are obviously tree huggers and have many trees available for you too to embrace.  Got room for a tree, a space to plant trees to realise the many benefits of trees? Don’t have space? Envirohub will find space to plant them.  Go to Envirohub’s website https://envirohub.org.nz/buy-tree/ to purchase Pohutukawa trees for the low price of $11.50  per tree.


Launch of Mapping the Social Sector

Thank you so much to everyone who came along to the launch and participated in the workshops.  We were rapt with the turn out, over 130 people, great to see so many social services interested in learning more about the social sector as well as being a great networking opportunity!

I’m looking forward to all the feedback you provided at the workshops, I suspect you’ve set SociaLink’s work programme for years to come!  This feedback will be posted on the link below at the end of next week.

For those of you who did not attend please go to our website for the full report, summary and information about how to add or update your organisation’s details.  The more organisations that participate and the more up-to-date the information is the more useful the database will be for the social sector.

We also launched ‘From the Frontline – Social Services Improving Lives’ to demonstrate the huge impact an organisation can have on someone’s quality of life.  Please also download this (same link as above) and share it with service users and your communities – this helps tell the story to our communities of the immense value and contribution social services make to people’s quality of life.

Labour MP Jan Tinetti made a great speech to launch the project findings.  This is also available on the link above.  It clearly signals where the Labour-led government is heading, very heartening to hear the strong focus on people.

We are keen to get the findings our as far and wide as possible, we are happy to present the findings to your organisation or any networks you are involved with and to have conversations about what these findings mean for the social sector.

Supporting Māori Leadership

For those of you in the western Bay of Plenty district (e.g. Katikati, Te Puke, Maketu and Waihi beach) you will be aware that residents have been asked to vote on whether or not to establish a Māori ward at the Western Bay of Plenty District Council (WBOPDC).

What does this have to do with social services I hear you ask?  Many of you will see on a daily basis the results of Māori faring less well on pretty much any measure you care to mention – health, abuse, violence, addictions, housing, equity etc.

Guaranteeing a Māori voice around the Council table is one way of empowering tangata whenua to tackle these issues.  The WBOPDC- Tauranga Moana/Te Arawa ki Takutai Partnership Forum iwi and hapu members strongly endorse the establishment of a Māori ward.  For more information click here.

As much as anything this speaks to equity, SociaLink believes that we do not all start on a level playing field, so rather than treating everyone the same (equality) we need to be aiming for equity in outcomes.  This is perhaps best depicted by the following diagram on the right.

For these reasons SociaLink strongly supports a Māori ward.  I encourage you to learn about Māori wards and spread the words to your service users, and most importantly, vote by 19 May 2018.

Growing Pains

How are you grappling with the ongoing influx of people choosing to make Tauranga and the Western Bay of Plenty their home?
Are there increasing numbers of people needing your services? Are you spending more time in your car to get to and from work, attend meetings or visit clients?  Whilst it allows for a bit of down time listening to the radio it can also increase stress levels when you’re running late.

For me, I’m either leaving home early (7am) to try and beat the traffic or increasingly I’ve started scheduling meetings from 10am so I can work from home then drive to work.  I am lucky and highly value this flexibility, ,I can be around for my family and spend less down time in the car.  My staff also enjoy this flexibility , not only to avoid clogged roads but to enable them to be available for their family and other commitments and I have no doubt that they work harder for it going by the number of emails I get late at night.

I am very privileged to have highly skilled and independent staff which means I can focus on the outcomes of their work rather than counting the hours they work or when and where they work which can lead to ‘presenteeism’, they’re at work but aren’t necessarily being as productive as they could be…. think Facebook, sudouku, TradeMe..  Not to mention, if all my staff did want to work 8 to 5 in the office, we wouldn’t have the room!  Although this will change when we get to enjoy the brand, spanking new co-working space – The Kollective later this year.

I’m also indebted to technology which allows this flexibility – a mobile phone and lap top – I can pretty much work anywhere at any time.  This is a blessing, but can also be a curse, I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that it also means you’re available 24/7 so it can be hard to switch off (excuse the pun).

Being able to work when and where you want, within reason, is highly valued by many people.  Given our lack of funds to pay staff as much as they deserve, offering flexibility regarding when and where they work can be a significant benefit to staff.  Of course this is limited to staff who aren’t required to be always present during office hours and requires a level of trust between the manager and staff members.  Which raises the question, are standard office hours the best way to deliver services for clients and staff alike?  Mobile phones means many clients have the ability to contact staff 24/7.  I suspect the social sector is already ahead of the game in being flexible to meet the needs of clients.
How can we improve the accessibility of our services and save our clients time sitting in traffic by using technology and being more flexible in the way we work?  How can organisations benefit from flexibility for staff and in turn increase how much time we have to work with clients? This also raises the need for organisations to have the necessary digital infrastructure, a common need identified by many organisations, as reported in the For the Greater Good – Mapping the Social Sector project (watch out for the release of the report at the launch on 14 May).

Growing waiting lists, increased demand for services as the population grows and more time spent sitting in cars is increasingly compelling us to review the way we work.  As I write this at home, I am incredibly grateful that I’m not having to navigate the right hand turn into SH2 to join the unrelenting traffic heading into Tauranga, happy days.

Liz Davies

Diversity in our Community

By Stefan Doll of NZ Institute for Diversity and Wellbeing.

People are different. I am not only talking about visible differences like age, gender or ethnicity. I am also talking about different needs, fears, habits, backgrounds, values, and different ways of thinking. No one is the same. The diversity in our communities continues to grow with an increase in global migration. How can a Not-for-Profit organisations best cater to the needs of our diverse community? How can we effectively engage with them and do our work in their best interest and the most efficient way?

We will have to overcome falling into some common traps:

Trap 1: We assume that people are similar to ourselves and neglect our differences.

Trap 2: We are holding stereotypes and assumptions based on the differences we recognise.

Trap 3: We are biased towards a person based on very little, often irrelevant information.

Trap 4: Unconscious bias is impacting our actions, often against our conscious believes and intend.

Differences among people are a fact of life and we cannot resolve them by trying to make everyone the same. If we deliver our service always in the same way no matter who we provide it to, the chances are high that this works well for some clients and not so well for others. So how can we stop falling into those traps and understand, acknowledge and appreciate the differences between people instead?

If you are interested in a one day workshop on how to successfully engage with our diverse community, reduce bias and unconscious bias in ourselves and others, please register your interest by emailing kathy@socialink.org.nz