Parting reflections from Simon Cayley, outgoing Co-Chair Hui E! Trust Board
Having completed the two terms allowed under our Trust Deed I finished my time as Co-Chair of Hui E! Community Aotearoa at our AGM held on Monday 21st October. This brought to a close my involvement with community sector umbrella organisations that has been an exciting journey lasting nearly a decade. This journey has involved name changes, new partnerships, the creation of community hubs, winding up organisations and founding new ones within a constantly shifting political and funding context, but always with the aim of strengthening our voluntary and community sector and ultimately enhancing the wellbeing of our communities.
My journey began on 22nd September 2010 when I was voted onto the Board of what was then the New Zealand Federation of Voluntary Welfare Organisations (NZFVWO). Even then the minutes of the AGM included reference to the ongoing process to create a new name and identity for the NZFVWO – and not just because its name was such a mouthful! The name change process being undertaken by NZFVWO was happening against a backdrop of recognition among the governing bodies of the various community sector umbrella organisations that enhanced collaboration was needed and that umbrella organisations needed to review what they offered and how to be sustainable and relevant into the future. In July 2010 the Chairs of various bodies had agreed to a formal resolution about collaboration between umbrella organisations, stating: “That we enter discussions with other umbrella organisations to consider a) working more closely together, and b) possible mergers”.
Not long after I joined the NZFVWO we became Social Development Partners (SDP) to better reflect where we saw the role of the organisation and the outcomes we wanted to achieve moving into the future – and I became Vice-President and then President and so began a leadership role that has been both challenging and energising! However, refreshing what was the NZFVWO with a new name and purpose did not diminish the appetite for greater collaboration within what was now SDP. This was reflected in the Chair’s report to the 2012 AGM which included the following statement: “The Executive Committee is clear that if the demand and need for SDP services diminishes or if differently configured organizations better meet the needs of the sector we serve then we will talk this through with you our members and if required merge or take whatever action is necessary.”
This commitment led to a partnership process between SDP, the Association of Non-Governmental Organisations of Aotearoa (ANGOA) and Volunteering NZ (VNZ). During this process all three organisations mapped their visions, aims, objectives and dreams, compared their resourcing now and projected into the future and discussed where partnership could maximise the outcomes being achieved. This open and energising process ultimately led to a formal partnership agreement that was signed on 4th April 2013 by the Chairs of SDP, ANGOA and Volunteering NZ. Within the partnership agreement the three organisations reinforced that while they had individual visions and objectives there were a series of shared objectives that were best achieved through partnership.
From within this partnership SDP and ANGOA immersed in an even deeper process of reflection and engagement that explored thoroughly and transparently the proud and effective history of both organisations, but also began to acknowledge that with small resource and capacity the impact of both organisations was at risk of dwindling. Both governing bodies and the organisations’ staff leadership committed to a thorough exploration of what a new entity might look like that could be born from the winding up of both SDP and ANGOA. Known as the Joint Oversight Group members of both organisations spent 2014 engaging in this process and were eventually able to issue a joint statement across their memberships which included the following introduction: “This is a proposal to amalgamate our two organisations and form a new entity – known for the moment as Working Title Aotearoa. We are proud of the successful heritage we each bring to Working Title Aotearoa, and we are excited about the new possibilities of a sector-wide, nation-wide umbrella entity.” You will all know that Working Title Aotearoa was eventually launched as Hui E! Community Aotearoa.
At its AGM on 18th September 2014 the SDP membership bravely backed the call of the Board to endorse a series of recommendations that would set in play the process that would create what was to become Hui E! and ultimately end the 45 year history of SDP (previously NZFVWO). The ANGOA membership did the same and on 21st October 2014 Hui E! Community Aotearoa was officially incorporated with an inaugural board made up of members from both SDP and ANGOA on staggered terms to enable swift and constant change over the initial 3 years to ensure fresh board members came in alongside the wisdom of those from the founding entities.
Yet that was not an end, instead it was another beginning and the board of Hui E! set about responding to the opportunities before it while at the same time seeking to take the very best from what had been within SDP and ANGOA and refresh this for the future. During my time as co-chair of Hui E! we have reset the organisation twice and we are about to appoint our 3rd leader. I think some people found this surprising and thought we would launch Hui E! in perfect shape, but in reality we had founded a start-up – albeit one with amazing parents whose histories were long and impressive! Hui E! is proving itself and will continue to do so as it evolves and reshapes, its start-up years are behind it and it is moving into a space where it can achieve its true potential.
This is a very short precis of what was a very long journey! I could fill pages and pages – but who would want to read that! But what have been the themes of this journey of change and evolution? Firstly, change is essential, our world is changing at an ever faster pace and organisations that try to remain the same year on year are at risk of allowing themselves to become less and less relevant. We should all learn from the past, but we should do so to help shape the future, there is no need to simply hang on to the past because it feels comfortable and we don’t want to let it go. Don’t expect change to be easy though – it’s a long process full of twists and turns and often dead ends! Change also needs to be led, but that doesn’t need experts it just needs people – amazing people, yes, but so often ordinary people too! I was proud to work alongside all of those involved in the processes above because they understood this, painful as it was at times, and were brave enough to open themselves and their organisations up for reflection, critique and change. There are many people that should be named, but to do that would risk forgetting many more! Everyone involved knows who they are and we should celebrate that they were committed to their leadership, to embracing change even when it would lead to the end of their roles, and that they believed in partnership and wanted to help create a new future.
I wish the team at Hui E! (and our other sector umbrella bodies) every success – but remember to keep moving forward, don’t stand still for too long or society will have left you behind!