The redevelopment of a community funding strategy that supports Council vision and targets where need is greatest has been a big focus of the Hutt City Council’s Community Funding team. Philanthropy News spoke to Melanie Laban, Divisional Manager Community Projects and Relationships about the new strategy and what was involved to get it underway and ready for its first funding round in July.
In 2017 Hutt City Council put the new five-year, $3.7 million community funding strategy in place. The goal was to help ensure their overarching vision of the ‘Lower Hutt being a great place to live, work and play’ is true for all residents.
Key drivers for the new approach came from a shared understanding that the previous strategy could better align with the Council’s objectives. It had been in place for over 15 years and needed attention to meet the changing social environment.
“The previous model was very broad, making it difficult to maintain direction and measure impact. We knew we could do more for the community if we took a more targeted approach,” says Melanie.
The strategy redevelopment began 18 months ago, following a unanimous decision across the Council to focus investment on improving equity across the city where it was needed most.
“First there were a lot of conversations with our Councillors around what a new funding model would look like, the consequences and the impact that it might have. It was through their input and leadership that we’ve got this far,” says Melanie who attributes keeping communication channels open at all times as key. “It’s important to bring the decision-makers in the waka from very early on in the journey.”
When they were given the ‘green light’ the strategy work got underway. The Community Services team gathered the evidence and support they needed to shape the strategy direction engaging in research, community consultation and seeking expert guidance.
Through the community consultation and research, they identified three key areas where the need is greatest:
1. All tamariki in persistent poverty and or who are vulnerable. Especially, very young children, Māori and Pasifika children; and/or children in sole-parent families
2. All rangatahi not currently in education, training or employment
3. All kaumatua who are experiencing loneliness and social isolation
Community consultation indicated there was desire for a more strategic approach, measurable impact, sustainable practices, accountability, and fair distribution of funding according to need; and key research came from trusted sources such as the Office of the Children’s Commissioner’s Where is help needed most? guide; the Sustainable Business Council’s report All In: A New Zealand Inc. approach to solve youth unemployment; and Age Concern New Zealand’s loneliness and social isolation research.
They referred to models of established philanthropic organisations which considered these areas like the Vodafone NZ Foundation, Todd Foundation and J R McKenzie to help guide their strategy and Melanie says that the support of philanthropic adviser Kate Frykberg was invaluable throughout the process.
Another key message that came through from the community consultation was that the application and funding process needed to be clearer and simpler. This helped inform their three-stream funding model which aims to encourage innovation, improve relationships and foster longer-term partnerships.
1. Kākano Fund – Seed funding for new ideas
2. Mahia Atu Community Fund – for up and running projects
3. Mahia Atu Partnership Fund – for well-established and impactful community initiatives
The applications are processed go through Council and the information on the funding decisions are made publicly available—making the process transparent to applicants. When it comes to assessment, Melanie says they’ll be continuing roundtable reporting.
“Roundtable reporting provides us with some meaningful engagement with those who have received funding. This can lead to an enhancement of what they’re achieving as groups and can provide opportunities for cross pollination between organisations. While we’ll be working to safeguard ratepayers’ money, we’ll also be working on a high trust model where we focus on building stronger relationships.”
Melanie says it’s been a big process and there’s still more work to be done and tweaks to be made, but they’re excited about the new, strong focus on improving equity across the three target population groups.
“With the new strategy we are basically directing our funds to those who need it most in a way that’s going to create a better future,” says Melanie.
“Together we will empower our tamariki for brighter futures. We have been given a great opportunity to see the impact that a local authority can have when it’s working genuinely alongside community and in partnership with others, whether it’s community groups, corporates or central government. I think all councils could be moving this way. It just take a bit of courage—ma-hia atu!”
To find out more about the Community Fund see:
This article was originally published in Philanthropy News Issue #74, August 2018