The community sector needs a collective voice more than ever

Together We Create words on a wall
Sandy Thompson photo by Sandy Thompson, Co-Chair, Hui E! Community Aotearoa It has been well over a month since it became very evident our personal, organisational and community reality is being turned inside out. Hui E! has shared with you the need to surf a riptide of change, filter information, make sure our staff and volunteers are safe, and put systems in place for organisations to tread water. All in a context where we are not quite sure where and when the wave will crash. While it feels like we can take a breath right now, the reality is we are still learning to work in a virtual world and do need to address the challenge ahead of us. It is the challenges ahead of us that Hui E! is contemplating.

What does our new future look like?

The absolute bombardment of emails and notices, relentless social media from around the world and mainstream media has highlighted the need for centralised, trustworthy information to make good decisions. Hui E! has worked during the lockdown to ensure information relevant to the community sector can be accessed in one place through our COVID-19 Updates page. We are being reassured by the New Zealand Government that they will support community groups through this “crisis”. However, many organisations are not feeling reassured and have an impending sense of doom about what’s ahead as we phase into a “new normal” for community and business. It is vital that the community sector is proactive to ensure we are front and centre in consultation when both the philanthropy and government sectors are making their decisions. With other stakeholders partners, Hui E! has committed to do this.

It’s time for a collective voice from the community sector

Now is an important time for civil society to unify together. A key role of civil society is to hold government to account and to make sure, even in a civil emergency, democratic processes are maintained. Times of crisis require assertive and confident leadership. There is a danger, however, that as a sector we become complacent. Yes, it is an uncertain environment we are operating in and making decisions in a vacuum is not easy, but we should not stop questioning and ensuring everyone is acting for the benefit of all. Activism should not be curtailed to sit within the comfort of someone else making the decisions for us. Our community sector is facing a significant disruption. The way we think about organisations and how organisations operate is being challenged. Siloed thinking, closed boundaries around organisations, and single delivery focus are going to be impediments to communities thriving. Now more than ever we need to be collaborating and taking a system approach to address and eliminate social and environmental issues. Community organisations need to climb to the top of the dune and scan the whole ocean. The social marketing message “You’re not in this alone” also applies to organisations – find your tribe so together, we can all ride the wave ahead of us.

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