Update: Recovery and long-term sustainability for the Community Sector

by Rochelle Stewart-Allen

Hui E! Community Aotearoa and Volunteering New Zealand are committed to facilitating joint work across the tangata whenua, community and voluntary sector to build the recovery and long-term sustainability of our sector.

This follows on from our work with Philanthropy New Zealand and the Centre for Social Impact on the ‘Time to shine, time to take stock, time to shape our future’ survey where 1,400 community organisations shared the impacts of COVID-19 on their mahi.

On 3 August, Hui E! Community Aotearoa and Volunteering New Zealand joined with researchers from the Centre for Social Impact to present the results of this survey. On that webinar, we presented our recommendations for a way forward.

We started by dividing the recommendations into ‘Recovery’ – immediate ‘quick wins’ to be gained in the next 3-6 months, and ‘Systemic Changes’ – work to be done to shift some of the long-term challenges the sector continues to face.

It was certainly tough to synthesise a 70-page document down into a set of twelve recommendations, but we focused on initiatives where we knew we could make traction in the short-term and selected bigger goals for systemic, long-term changes.

As part of our conversations on the webinar last week, we issued a call for community leaders keen to take ownership and work together to drive these changes. This resulted in our first online meeting on 10 August.

Our first sector discussions

Hui E! Community Aotearoa and Volunteering New Zealand presented the recommendations to the group and shared background around why we had chosen these specific suggestions. The group then shifted into breakout rooms to discuss the recommendations – if they were the right ones to focus on and whether they needed rewording to accurately reflect where best to concentrate our energies.

We certainly acknowledged that our group couldn’t fully represent the sector but we will aim to be as transparent as possible as we move forward. We welcome other community organisations’ input as we go forward and if you would like to participate in future discussions, please email

I’ll be blogging about our discussions along the way to provide clarity around our work to both the sector and other interested stakeholders.

The general consensus from the group was that the recommendations provide a good focus, with some suggested rewording to provide clarity around purpose. We have updated the recommendations with this feedback and provided additional descriptors which are available to view here.

Recovery recommendations

The reworded recovery recommendations and discussion points were:

  1. Paid community representation on all recovery and funding design and decision-making panels – support for this
  2. Free or low-cost advisory services available for 12 months – tapping into pro-bono and volunteer support. Volunteering has gone up since lockdown but there is still a missing link in connecting them with organisations needing assistance. The Chamber of Commerce is well-funded to support SMEs – opportunity to broaden their mandate to include not-for-profits. Building relationships with business can bring both immediate pro-bono support, and longer-term resources, funding and visibility
  3. Increase recruitment and onboarding of volunteers – it’s important to reference how we engage volunteers in organisations and how we onboard them. It needs a holistic approach. How we talk about volunteers matters
  4. Funds have 20% set aside for operational and salary costs – definite support for this
  5. Funding distributed through a regional, place-based model – how can we best support place-based collaboration and link it into national collaboration? We need to strengthen up local responses and networks and work out how to best utilise these groups
  6. Contracted government services are funded at 100% funding of programme costs – definite support for this.

Improving the system recommendations

The reworded systemic recommendations and discussion points were:

  1. Government fund cross-sector collaboration at a national & regional level – government is resourced to fund this collaboration in a way that the sector isn’t, however our sector is well-placed to lead this mahi with our place-based and wide collaborative expertise. Government will also be able to successfully bring senior government officials and business to the table
  2. Government produce accessible and open data on community need – data about our sector is sitting in government but needs to be released to enable us to provide evidence-based practice. We need to be resourced to be able to utilise the data
  3. Develop a set of best practice funding principles for funders and the sector – the principles need to be applicable for both funders and sector organisations
  4. Re-establish the Office for the Community & Voluntary Sector – what it might be called or how it might look doesn’t necessarily have to reflect what it was beforehand at MSD. Important to make it a Treaty-based design. This will be a tool to get the sector’s voice heard throughout Government which is essential
  5. The Minister for the Community & Voluntary Sector sits within Cabinet – this was considered vital to successfully enhance the mana of such a large sector and provide visibility directly into Cabinet. Discussion was had around other Ministerial positions for small portfolios which showed this was a realistic expectation
  6. Sustainable funding for core national umbrella bodies to support representation, consultation & information sharing – need to clarify who the core national umbrella bodies would be and define how they would feed into the regional umbrella organisations. There’s currently minimal visibility around who the Minister is meeting with in the sector.

Other issues raised

“Our sector needs money, people and support”
  1. Focus on local, mana whenua and Treaty connections – the importance of strengthening relationships with Tangata Whenua must be prioritized
  2. Recognition – the work we do is not ‘nice to have’, it’s absolutely essential. The sector needs to be regarded for the work we do and get the recognition we deserve. Fix the dynamic around how we are regarded, and other solutions will fall into place
  3. Language matters – we need to be mindful about how we talk about the sector
  4. Broadness of the sector – the broadness of the sector needs to be reflected in who we engage with
  5. Respect and recognition – these are equally as important as resourcing for our sector
  6. Good relationships count – where there were good relationships in lockdown, there were better outcomes
  7. Innovation – even during lockdown the sector was innovative and responsive. We need to resource this going forward to ensure we’re consistently shifting with the needs of those we serve
  8. Timing – our sector needs to continue reimagining and holding onto the lessons we learnt during lockdown. Now is a unique time to enact change
  9. Launching a Prime Minister’s Advisory Council – this idea from Inspiring Communities was generally supported.

Next steps

Next up, Hui E! Community Aotearoa and Volunteering New Zealand will be bulking the recommendations into similar pieces of mahi and providing opportunity for community leaders to join the relevant group.

A reminder that if you would like to participate in rolling out these recommendations, you can contact us at