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Hang together, or hang separately!

Peter Glensorphoto of Peter Glensor
General Manager
Hui E! Community Aotearoa

After three years of work in talking about, then setting up Hui E! Community Aotearoa, I’ve decided it’s time to move on. In early November I’m finishing my time as General Manager – and am glad we have a national entity that can link together the whole community sector.

I can now look back at 45 years of engagement in the community sector – and reflect on the many changes that have taken place since the late 1960s when I first became involved in Church, Boys Brigade, VSA, Corso and many other groups.

The sector has kept much of its identify – a place where people can live out their passion, their ideals, their dreams.  A place where people can give support to one another, and to the wider community.  A place where people have a base – a sense of identity and purpose.  We call it “the social glue that binds communities together”.  And the latest statistics show that New Zealanders remain a society of joiners – over 114,000 is the official count – including 27,000 registered charities.  Even though there is so much change, people are still interested in “joining” – and that helps us stay strong as communities.

What is changing is that groups providing services are expected to be more professional, and more focused only on the service they are paid to undertake.  When I began as a community worker 30 years ago, we would meet regularly with the local Plunket nurse, the District Nurses, the staff of Housing NZ and the DSW, and with local City Council community development staff.  These days, either those jobs no longer exist, or they are very tightly prescribed about how many visits each week must be made to how many homes, with very specific criteria.  The chance to work with others on community-wide issues is much less.

What we need in our Sector is to recover a sense of pride and confidence in the unique contribution we make to building strong healthy communities.  We are not government departments – responsible to a Minister or a plan drawn up by a department.  We are not a private business – producing goods or services which must show a profit.  We share with government in trying to serve the common good.  We share with private business in being nimble and responsive – adapting to new situations and willing to take risks.  But we are ourselves – the community sector.  We are driven by ideals and passion.  We are efficient because there isn’t any extra money.  We are effective because we are committed to doing the best for our community.

I’m proud to be part of this sector, but we need to look and act like a sector.  As someone famously said, “If we don’t hang together, we will hang separately”.

This blog has been contributed by a member of ComVoices

ComVoices  actively promotes the value that community sector organisations and their people, both paid and unpaid, add to New Zealand’s economic and social wellbeing through information, and political advocacy and dialogue.

Click here for our website:  http://comvoices.org.nz/