Community Scoop

Why bother?

Gabrielle O’Brien
Chief Executive  OfficerGabrielle OBrien
Birthright New Zealand

One of the things that I love about my job is the diversity of things I get to think about.

Today I have been contemplating big global initiatives (Open Government Partnership), statistics (the latest Families and Whanau Status Report from SUPERU) and a range of comments and reaction to articles we post on our organisation’s Facebook page (often focussed on the challenges but also the resilience and triumphs of those parenting alone).  This is, of course, sandwiched in between existential domestic conundrums such as “How is it possible for a nearly 15 year old to lose not one but two named school jerseys in less than 6 months???”

On first glance it wouldn’t appear that Open Government Partnership (OGP), statistics on families and the range of issues relevant to families led by one person have much in common.  Bear with me though, there’s a theme there!

Living in New Zealand we take democratic processes for granted.  We pat ourselves on the back for living in a progressive country where we can have our say on issues that interest us. This doesn’t mean it is always easy to do this though and when opportunities come along to move beyond what we currently have, we need to take them.

It seems me that the OGP planning process is one of those opportunities.  You don’t need to start too many conversations with community organisations before you hear concerns about achieving real and meaningful engagement with Government.

In our roles in the community sector, we have a responsibility to articulate the knowledge we gain from the communities we are part of and an obligation to ensure we are taking every opportunity to build understanding of the issues that impact on those we have a responsibility to represent. We need to be thinking about not just what would be nice to have but also what is not negotiable.  This includes the expectations we have when working with Government and the accountabilities that go with that. The more that we can articulate those expectations and build evaluation of whether these are being met into processes and protocols the more we can achieve.  If making the effort to engage in the process to develop the next Open Government Partnership Plan results in a framework that I can harness in my day to day work of raising awareness of the issues impacting on families led by one person, then that’s time well spent.

So although opportunities like the OGP process can feel a step removed from our day to day workload, they are also a chance to improve those day to day realities.  When it comes to OGP, I’m going to bother and I hope you will too.  I’m not sure how it will help with the case of the missing jerseys but here’s hoping!

Gabrielle O’Brien is the CEO of Birthright NZ.  Birthright works to strengthen and enrich the lives of children and families.  They specialise in working with families led by one person.

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.

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