By Charlotte Van Doorn (Collaborative Practice Coordinator, SociaLink)
As we all know, the last two and a half years of living and working with a pandemic in our midst has been challenging in many ways.
Change is never easy and when change is ongoing it takes its toll. We all know friends and whānau who found lockdowns, public health measures, extended periods of social isolation and job losses a struggle to navigate.
Never in recent times has the role of the social sector received as much media attention – celebrating our essential and front line workers who responded to a huge increase in demand for support.
Aided by Covid funding, many of our local organisations pulled together and found innovative ways to work together and share those precious resources.
Alongside the appointment of Ministry of Social Development Community Connectors across the Western Bay of Plenty, a new service was also established, based on the model established in Tokoroa.
Here to Help U came online in the Western Bay of Plenty in 2021, providing an online portal that links people seeking support with an appropriate support agency.
This streamlined referral process means that clients do not need to tell their story multiple times.
Recently, Here to Help U completed its first year of providing their service in our rohe. Its success is underpinned by a collaborative approach with other community connectors and providers of social services and like all great collaborations require
strong relationships and trust.
Just like the community they serve, their work was
also affected by isolation requirements. While phone calls and Zoom meetings can go some way towards achieving connections, there is no substitute for meeting in-person.
After several postponements due to Covid, an informal celebratory gathering of 15 social connectors from Here to Help U, Ministry of Social Development, iwi and other social service organisations was finally able to take place. It well illustrated the benefits of meeting up.
It was an opportunity to really connect, meet each other perhaps for the first time, share their mahi of the last 12 months and celebrate some of the great outcomes they were able to achieve with whānau and individuals that required support.
Under trying circumstances community connectors were able to support people to access housing, food, transport, mental health support, financial assistance and much more.
In my work with a number of collective groups across the social sector, collaboration can take many forms and will fall somewhere on a continuum which in a simple form will move from communication, to cooperation, coordination and finally integration.
While often the greater purpose of cooperation and coordination are required for busy social services’ staff to attend meetings, when collectives review their progress, the opportunity for networking (communication) remains an important function of the collaborative process.
This points to a real human need for building personal relationships/whanaungatanga between organisations which in turn increases the
likelihood of successfully achieving the larger goals set by the group.
At the end of the meeting, connectors’ comments included “We need to meet again
–soon”, ”Can we meet on a regular basis”, “I will definitely be in touch to discuss….”,
“What a wonderful get together – great to meet others doing similar mahi”.
As a result, a follow up meeting is to be held on 22 November 2022, where the connectors will set the agenda for discussion of what is important to them and strengthen the relationships that have now been built.
Perhaps this is the start of an ongoing collaboration that may move to Cooperation, the next stage of the
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