Community Matters - Government or community led development?
Some people would say the government should stay out of community development and let communities get on with it themselves. Others might say if the government provided better education, more employment, affordable housing and timely healthcare, then we would have less need for the community to fill the gaps. So a new programme provided by the government aimed at assisting communities to achieve their aspirations might well be met with suspicion.
The Ministry of Social Development has funded community organisations and groups in the past to improve community and individual care and wellbeing. More recently their focus has turned to targeting those deemed to be vulnerable citizens – children, youth and adults, rather than whole communities.
Another government department, The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) has continued to fund some community initiatives through Lotteries Grants Board and Community Organisation Grants (COGS). A lot of these are ad hoc however, and leave community groups competing with each other for limited funding, and not knowing what other groups may also be looking to achieve in their communities.
Over the last five years the Department of Internal Affairs has been carrying out pilot community development programmes in four NZ communities – Whirinaki in South Hokianga, Mt Roskill in Auckland, Mangakino in South Waikato and North East valley in Dunedin. The projects have included river restoration, healthy warm homes and a skate park project.
As a result of a review of these pilot projects a new programme has just been launched called the Community-Led Development Programme, supporting community led initiatives. Their hope is that selected communities across New Zealand will identify community aspirations, then partner with DIA, other government agencies, local government, private funders, businesses and local iwi to achieve their goals. The language in their briefs has moved from community empowerment to community partnerships and collaboration.
To be selected, communities will need to show a readiness to participate, and demonstrate they can adopt this collaborative approach. Communities will need to determine what services or activities already exist in the community, what community needs are not being addressed, and why, and what the community has identified as its aspirations. Support will be available for up to five years to pay for community development workers, promotion of community leadership, community engagement and development of measurable action plans that will support progress towards the community vision.
Advisors at local DIA offices are able to provide information about existing services and activities within the community, conduct a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis, and show groups how to gather information and assess the needs within their communities.
Groups can check out communitymatters.govt.nz for more information or contact the Whangarei DIA office (09) 430 2205 and see whether this programme could help support their community initiatives. Expressions of interest will be requested from September 2016.
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.