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

Easter Bunnies and other important things

Easter Bunnies and other important things

Here in the Webb family household, we had a great Easter. Lots of sunshine, lots of ‘laxing out, lots of work around the house, lots of family chats and discussions about things important and unimportant and lots of eating with not too much chocolate. And down on the Strand things were going much the same, along with lots of music and laughter. It’s got to be the best time of year ever.

And now we’re turning our minds to the next big thing for SociaLink, which in my book is the launch of our major research project – Mapping the Social Sector. You’ve provided the information and we’ve done the hard yards, so now its nearly time to reveal all. Monday 14 May is a day to mark in your diaries because its more than just a ‘reveal all’ event. Its your information and we want you to see and understand what it means. And we want to understand your perspective on what the information means to you too. So mark out most of the day – 10am -4pm and join us to hear, discuss and understand. We will listen to your views, feed you, make you laugh (just a little) and hopefully give you a wider understanding of what this information means. Look out for more information in our newsletter soon.


March madness … in the Social Sector?

Is it just me, or do our workloads feel particularly stressful at the moment?

In the business sector, this time of year is commonly referred to as March Madness due to the end of the financial year.  The end of the financial year for a social sector organisation means that not only are we completing our end of year financial reporting, but we are also required to have the next annual budget signed off, alongside the annual work plan.  If you are lucky (note sarcasm here) you are also in the midst of reviewing your overall Strategic Plan, which also means developing the way in which you evaluate and measure your impact.

Now, for those of you that know me, you know that I am a bit of planning and evaluation nerd and actually love the strategic thinking side of our work, BUT, as a sector we often do not do this well, and all due to the age old complaint of ‘time-restrictions’.

BUT… time and capacity limitations for planning is very real for our sector, not to mention a presumption that we have access to expertise to lead the planning process, and then the expertise to write it all up so it can be easily understood.  In large organisations, this is not as much of an issue with greater staffing numbers to share the load, and usually access to expertise is readily available.

HOWEVER… for smaller organisations, it is somewhat different and this is the case for the majority of the social services sector.  Let me use SociaLink as an example.

SociaLink, has seven staff members… this seems pretty good as an overall number right?   The actual FTE is shared among the seven staff.  We have two staff members that are pretty much full time, our manager has part time hours, and the other four staff share an FTE together.  So, it works out that we have approximately 4 FTE.  One of those staff members is our manager; and one is responsible for the build of our beautiful new building.  That leaves 2 FTE for project work (shared across four people) for which we manage training programmes, organisational needs assessments, facilitating community collaborations, promotion and publications, research, advocacy, policy, and pop-up projects (which pop up all the time).  This is fairly typical for the social sector in the Western Bay of Plenty.

So how do we manage the March Madness and the planning cycles?

e tend to rely on the generous (voluntary) support of our Boards of Trustees, and generally we all cram everything in, work overtime, reduce our project meetings, start attending ‘after hours’ planning meetings, and pretty much spend a lot of time steering at a light filled square box typing like crazy.

How can we get better at this?

  1. Do we explore ways of supporting the planning cycle for the social sector where we can resource the expertise across the sector so that this does not become a burden for individual organisations?
  2. Do we explore creative strategic think tanks in December each year to help prepare the social sector for the planning cycle?
  3. Do we create an over-arching social sector strategic plan that we all align to whilst retaining the uniqueness of our own visions?
  4. Do we look at ways of sharing expertise between clusters of organisations?
  5. Do we just grin and bear it, and know that it will pass like it has done in previous years?

I can’t help but think that there has to be a happier way to work and if anyone has the answers then please share… for now I will return to developing our evaluation framework (it’s due at the end of March)!

Jodie Robertson

When it comes to people, 1 plus 1 rarely equals 2

I’ve been working in the community service sector for almost 8 months now and in my brief time alongside those at the heart of social service, among the many, many wonderful projects undertaken everyday with the needs and betterment of people placed very much at the core, there’s one thing that has struct me more than most.

That is that it seems the methods by which funders, be that central government, or local philanthropic organisations, determine the success and or failure of a given service can be very different from those of the sector themselves.

The sector, driven by a desire to ensure that whatever happens, whether the need be socio-economic, physical or emotional, views that the service supplied and the vision of the success of that service, must be driven by the people concerned. In short, it’s about people and wellbeing, not about money.

Whereas all too often and in an increasingly worrying trend, funders seem to have a need to quantify success in simple numeric terms. How much does it cost to get to the point where the individual or organisation no longer needs help, is the all too often simplistic, broad brushstrokes view of those with the purse-strings firmly tied.

Now it would be too easy at this point to dive inexorably into a political maelstrom. It would be too easy simply to blame right wing economic constructs. Too easy to present evidence of societal theory dating back to the 1980s that may or may not have lead to the point where the 12-year-old kid with a physical disability struggles get a diagnosis and the appropriate treatment before he’s left home for a job downt mines. No, as much as I desperately want to launch into that rant, it won’t address the issues of people on one hand and money on the other. At least not immediately.

My own view is unequivocal. I believe that when it comes to human health and wellbeing there can be no price tag attached. I’ll argue to the end of my time on this earth that everyone, regardless of age, demographic and personal wealth, should be afforded the same right to that health and wellbeing regardless of cost. Health is not and should never be a matter of how big your bank balance is.

I think though, and this is the crux of the matter, that all to often confusion develops in the understanding of accountability and finance. You see there’s nothing wrong with accountability. Knowing and understanding that whomever one has asked to accomplish a task is doing that appropriately and having an effect is crucial.

You’d want to know for instance that Barry, who you’ve paid $1million to fix the local dual lane highway does exactly that and isn’t off in Rarotonga enjoying the beach on a golden throne. You’d want to know that the funds you’ve allocated to aid the delivery of social service haven’t been handed mysteriously to Sergey, the dodgy Russian from down the road with an odd interest in the importation of talcum powder. But there’s a huge difference between ensuring accountability in an organisation and presenting an image that suggests the distribution of funds is based on a numeric version of what a funder may see as success.

What’s the solution, I’m not sure? Having spent a career, prior to the point I understood the challenges faced by the community service sector in business leadership, I understand the need to ensure funds are being spent in a manner that most efficiently creates the result one looks to achieve. But now, well now I see that in community service it just can’t come down to dollars and cents, we’re worth more than that.

Bottom line is that when it comes to people, 1 and 1, rarely equals 2.


So it’s been a rather taxing week…

  • Physically as my body fights to bounce back from an infection;
  • Professionally as I try to be in two places at once and answer multiple phone calls while I’m moving between destination A and destination B; and,
  • Emotionally as my eldest son moves out of home and to the other end of the country to start his University adventures…

And yet despite the week I am having, it is actually a pretty normal week for me.  As I wake up this morning, get the kids ready and pack a healthy lunch for the school bags (whilst trying to live up to my expectations as a mother and ensure that there isn’t too much sugar and just the right amount of protein in the lunch box), the first of my calendar reminders ping from my phone…  BLOG is due today!  And as easy as that it slipped from my mind as I rushed the kids off to their different schools and got stuck in the never-ending traffic jam of Maungatapu.  But so far so good, there was actually a car park waiting for me today, I am here on time, I have a coffee, my inbox awaits clearing, and everything is looking up… let’s get stuck into that blog!  And just like that, it slipped from my mind as I got distracted in a riveting discussion with a colleague, and the phone rang, and new emails arrived (which meant I still hadn’t got to the old ones)… but, never mind, I can do the blog after my lunch meeting (because even lunch has become an opportunity to squeeze a little more into my day).

As it turns out, my lunch meeting was so fantastic we spent two hours exploring opportunities and getting inspired by what the future might hold from our newly formed connection, it is indeed a good day!  As I wrap up the discussion I realise I have exactly 5 minutes before I need to leave to start the school pick ups for the day. I quickly pack up with velocity and power walk to my car, which brings on a new onset of overheating.  I manage to sing my heart out all the way to school (sorry if any of you happened to hear me at the lights).  Another success – I made it in time for the bell, and with a quick power walk back to car listening to school time stories I might just make it home in time for a round of snacks, quick dinner prep, and back out the door for hip hop training, swimming practice, and roller derby team trials.

Oh no!!! I forgot the BLOG.  I wish I could say that this is an unusually busy day, but if I’m being honest, this was a relatively easy day for me.  Some may call this madness, and in rare moments, and on some days, I would agree with you wholeheartedly as I collapse into bed every night willing a solid sleep to arrive.  But as I reflect on my life, I don’t think I could have it any other way.  I choose to be a working mum, so my kids are resourced, educated, healthy, motivated and living a full and happy life.  I choose to be a really involved mum, which does mean I tend to take on a lot of ‘extras’.  But it’s all part of a stage while I have young children.  Sooner or later, they will all leave home like my eldest, and that will be my time to live life differently.

The blog got done in the end… but so did meetings, dancing, swimming, roller derby and whole lot of laughter and fun!  For now, my life is not balanced, it is a little mad, BUT… it’s just right!

Jodie Robertson

The TECT Proposal

Welcome back everyone to 2018!  I hope you got to enjoy the amazing weather we’re having, being a Vitamin D addict I am in my element (ask my staff, if the weathers good we hold our meetings outside in the sunshine) but perhaps for some the heat has been a little less welcome.
2018 is starting off with a bang with TECT’s proposal to completely change the way in which they distribute the money they receive from their investments.  If the proposal is successful it will have a significant impact for the social sector and the communities you work with.
SociaLink is really keen to hear from the social sector about your views on this proposal and really encourage you to ‘have your say’  TECT are also keen to hear if you have any other ideas about what they should do.  The biggest challenge TECT faces is apathy, if people and organisations don’t have their say you may not get the result you want.
I encourage you to get informed about the rationale for the proposal, the process TECT will use to make a decision and the details of the proposal.
You can do this by:

  • attending any of the meetings to be held at the Historic Village theatre on Thursday 1 Feb at 11,1, and 3pm, or
  • go along to one of the meetings TECT is organising, or
  •  check out their website www.tect.org.nz.

It takes only 2 minutes to support or oppose the proposal online (you or your organisation need to be a TECT consumer), it closes on Thursday 1 March.

Liz Davies
General Manager