Reconnected - Social Capital Conversations, Sydney
The Hon Dr Andrew Leigh MP - Member for Fenner
Shadow Assistant Treasurer | Shadow Minister for Competition and Productivity
Shadow Minister for Charities and Not-for-Profits | Shadow Minister for Trade In Services
Social capital conversations – Redfern Town Hall
On 18 May 2018, a group of charities based in the Sydney electorate joined Labor's Tanya Plibersek and Andrew Leigh to discuss successful strategies for building social capital and community engagement.
The small group conversations generated dozens of ideas and observations, some of which are set out below.
Please note that this list does not reflect Labor policy, but the ideas that were proposed by the charities and not-for-profits in attendance.
Local area and planning
- Local community collaboration and consultation that identifies priority issues for bottom up collaborations will draw in collective resources
- Local government authorities should be planning community infrastructure to facilitate cross-fertilisation
- Sharing facilities – making school / university / council buildings available to community groups
- Soft entry spaces are critical in creating places and opportunities to build relationships and lay groundwork for trust (ie local schools as social hubs).
- We need a national public awareness campaign on the benefits of volunteering for individuals and society.
- To generate more innovation we need to provide spaces for it and funding for it and an appetite for it (by publicising success stories for example).
- Provide leadership training to enhance skills of volunteers and providing pathways to become employees.
- Charities would benefit from a central independent accelerator hub – providing info about grants, approaches, best practice, and a meeting place for organisations looking to collaborate.
- National bodies need to work with place based committees to get benefits of localised vantage while avoiding duplication of functions and planning.
- Activate the charity commission databases to foster connections between charities and create networks of common interest or need.
- Research local organisations or companies you can partner with – propose reciprocal arrangements to offset access to space, skills and other resources.
- Culture of collaboration and shared purpose – more sector-based forums
- Acknowledge and reward volunteer co-ordination – provide tools to enable co-ordinators to give structured training and experience to volunteers.
- Good volunteer managers, with appropriate training and skills, increase satisfaction and retention of volunteers and increase the capacity of charities. Generic modules and hubs for sharing information could assist for organisations that don’t have specific resources for volunteer management.
- Community projects, with concrete local goals, are good focal points for generating new involvement.
- Volunteering can be a pathway for people to develop skills and experience and grow – especially within migrant communities. Outward looking organisations draw on innovations from overseas and different ways of doing things that are already working in other countries.
- Meetings are less appealing as a first encounter for new members or volunteers – events and workshops (with food) `provide more social and less formal introduction.
- Recruit volunteers through community leaders with good connections in their community. Invest time in ambassadors – train leaders from target groups, give them skills and confidence to encourage and invite collaborators and participants.
- Base recruitment on an ask for “skills” rather than ‘volunteers’
- Recruit volunteers by framing their role as helping the community, not your organisation.
- Share agency and authority with volunteers – provide more board and committee opportunities for young people.
- To give volunteers an opportunity to use and develop existing skills, create job roles rather than stand-alone tasks.
- Provide proper support structures – ‘code of conduct’ and ‘risk management’ and skills checklists for incoming volunteers.
Better Tools and Resources
- The ACNC should provide guidance and training to charities and not-for-profits on innovation, assessment or processes. This could include a bank of resources on innovation for charities to access.
- Give people an entry point to deal with a larger social issue, alongside institutional support, ie Mental Health Neighbourhood Watch.
- Smaller and resource strapped organisations need help identifying key questions to ask about their operations, and with testing and exploring solutions (like Oxfam Skunkworks program)
- Create an innovation fund for generating social capital, like Innovate UK.
- Community centres can draw on community resources to provide access to equipment and skills in the local area / population. Ie. Just Brass, community providing instruments and teachers for disadvantaged families.
- Establish a Not for profit register of projects – allow diverse, spread-out sector to connect and co-operate (allows networks to grow and reduces waste and duplication).
Structure and Governance
- Micro-financing models can help organisations be self-sustaining
- Develop an ideal model or template for groups to collaborate with other service providers (corporate governance and resources).
- Develop light touch compliance agreements for small organisations seeking grants and relationships with public institutions (insurance, contracts, permissions etc).
Role of Government & Funding Systems
- Government should advocate to charities and NFPs about the services they can draw on, or provide state peak bodies with resources to communicate with the sector about their services.
- Government can support collaboration by removing barriers that are written into funding arrangements and contracts
- NFPs and charities need a champion / representative in every government to give the sector access to decision making conversations.
- Systemic challenges keep the NFP, charity and community sector working to grant models, this is an innovation to innovation and lasting impact.
- NGOs need solid government investment in social policy that supports change for disadvantaged people
- Funding models require accountability for cost. To be innovative, organisations need some freedom to fail, but funding accountability creates need for maximum demonstrable success.
- For an organisation that’s reliant on cyclical and ongoing grant funding for viability, there is little flexibility to experiment with change.
- Evaluation models could be expanded to allow developmental evaluation during the process rather than basing measurements on outcomes which may not be apparent or available in the short term.
- Need to establish standardised measurements across organisations and government jurisdictions that give an accepted value to social capital.
- Better measurements should be geared to conveying the way in which charities make an impact.
Community Business partnership
- Create incentives for corporate support of social capital initiatives. Corporates should be drivers of social and cultural development.
- Need to create a sense of social compact between government, business and NFP sector – poicy settings to encourage matched contributions / tax deductions / avenues for businesses to share resources with NFPs without creating admin or bureaucratic burdens.
- Strategic plans should look at opportunities for external collaboration as well as internal efficiencies.