Community organisations and groups, while working in the same community, can often work in isolation from each other. Time, volunteers and resources are usually limited, and it may seem that there is little chance to stop and reflect on where the group is heading, and what could help them to get there.
Some organisations have field workers who are out and about meeting with clients or spreading a message, others are based from home or other offices. In rural or small communities these groups and individuals can be quite spread out. So the opportunity to get together to share with others may be seen as a luxury.
Working in isolation and getting on with the job has its benefits – more work can get done with less down time, there is less need to communicate with others before making decisions etc. It also has its down sides – workers and volunteers can get overloaded, become stressed and burnt out. They may not be keeping up with changes in the community, in funding provider’s requirements, and other members of the group can feel left out and lose interest. We are social beings and the opportunity to meet with others doing similar roles can be refreshing and recharging.
Community agency meetings are run in many areas for this very purpose. In our area Coast to Coast Health Care have facilitated quarterly network agency meetings over several years. They are for community agencies to keep each other informed and share ideas and concerns. Mangawhai meetings are not being held currently, but Maungaturoto continues with the next one being in May. To add your, or your group’s, name to the email list, or for more information contact Dianne Dawson email@example.com.
The new initiative in Mangawhai, the Tamatea Community Trust, is a local community response. The purpose is to have information about different agencies centrally in one place, for the benefit of those providing and receiving services. This is another way for agencies and community groups to work together, ultimately for the advantage of those they serve.
Many funders, especially government funders, want to see organisations working together and collaborating on projects or sharing their efforts. It is not always possible to do this, and the effort of getting two or more groups together to apply for funds can seem more effort than it is worth. It can however be useful to talk with other similar or complementary groups, so as not to be in competition with each other for funding. It may be that rather than putting together joint proposals, you can at least agree that one group will apply to local funders this month and another organisation will apply next month. The limited pool of money can then be spread across the community. That is a good start at co-operation, and you never know where it may take you.
n Libby Jones is involved in many community organisations in both paid and volunteer roles. She has experience in social services, health and education including governance, funding, research, clinical and management roles.