Just Change is an initiative to explore a more effective, more authentic and more relational way of supporting grassroots change, led by the people seeking the change.
The core concept is to connect a group of innovative, grassroots community initiatives from the Wellington region with a group of people concerned about social justice who have a moderate amount of money to donate, and for everyone to learn together about what works.
Just Change is an initiative from Te Hiko, our newly formed Centre for Community Innovation.
Background to Just Change
Over many years Wesley Community Action (WCA) has learnt that the most effective change comes from grassroots initiatives created and led by the people seeking the positive change, and with stable support available. However these innovative projects are also often the hardest to find funding for – for example they may they lack a formal legal structure, often don’t fit the standard funding tick-boxes, are frequently located in low-income communities, are usually led by people who are less “visible” and “connected” to key support systems, and they usually involve taking risks.
This lack of support for grassroots community change needs to be addressed, particularly as the global pandemic and economic down-turn has shown us just how important locally-led solutions are. A pure charity response will not help change the systems that deliver inequitable outcomes. We need to build on the existing skills, passions and capacity in our local communities.
During the Covid-19 lockdown, with supply chains, businesses, schools, employment and other infrastructure disrupted, we saw first-hand the need for local food security, for isolated and vulnerable people to be supported, and for finding ways to better connect and share our skills and resources. Community-driven initiatives provided resilient, adaptable, effective and necessary solutions to these needs during the crisis. They also demonstrated that the ‘economy’ and the ‘community’ are actually one integrated human system dependent of the natural environment.
This forms the starting point of Just Change, which is about exploring a more effective, more authentic and more relational way of supporting community-led change. Just Change draws from the insights and wisdom offered by three focus groups involving potential donors (people who can provide funding and other resources) and doers (people involved in grassroots, community-led change initiatives). It also incorporates new and different approaches to philanthropy, including aspects of Participatory Philanthropy, Angel Investment and Giving Circles.
Who is Just Change for?
Just Change involves the following groups:
Doers: These are people involved in initiatives developed in local communities that address the root causes of poverty, inequality, violence and ecological destruction. Initially these initiatives are connected to Te Hiko, WCA’s Centre for Community Innovation. Examples include: local food cooperatives; Good Cents financial wellbeing initiatives; savings and loan pools; local leadership courses for Māori women; Gang whānau camps (this builds on previous positive camps that promote positive family connections) and ageing well networks for vulnerable older people. Criteria for initiatives joining Just Change include:
- based in the Wellington region
- active leadership from the people seeking the change
- open to measuring impact, keen to learn and adapt
- endorsed by Te Hiko as making innovative and effective community change, or having good potential to do so.
Donors: These are people who care about positive effective change and have money and other skills they can contribute to grassroots initiatives. Donors are invited to contribute financially to Just Change, with a suggested contribution of between $5,000 and $15,000 per year, for an initial period of two years. Donors may also wish to offer their skills and expertise. Criteria for donors joining Just Change include:
- non-judgemental and open to learning
- able to develop honest, reciprocal relationships
- value a social justice stance that seeks solutions and initiatives driven by the people seeking the change
- As noted in our focus group feedback, not being “paternalistic, overbearing, fake or obnoxious”!
Te Ara Tangata and the Māori Caucus of Wesley Community Action: These groups oversee and support WCA’s journey as a Kaupapa Te Tiriti organisation, and will provide guidance to help ensure that Just Change embodies the spirit of partnership, respect and reciprocity that underpins Te Tiriti.
Facilitation: The Just Change Project is facilitated by Wesley Community Action, who will vet doers and donors, host the matching process, oversee finances and facilitate learning together. Key people are the director David Hanna, WCA Director, Kena Duignan, WCA Community Innovation Lead and Kate Frykberg, independent facilitator
Time banks: Time banks are community-run entities that turn volunteered hours into tradeable time-credits. All contributions to Just Change by non-paid WCA staff will be recorded in the timebank credited to the person offering their services. Our purpose here is to move beyond charity and volunteering and help create a local economy that facilitates the exchange of skills and time. Donors can choose to join the Porirua, Hutt or Wellington time banks, and time credits can be donated on if they are not required.
How will Just Change work?
The first stage of Just Change will be a two-year pilot involving co-creation, learning and adapting as we go. Here is the first cut of how things might work.
- Open this process to review and refinement from focus group participants and Te Hiko and Ara Tangata teams in WCA.
- Identify a first cohort of Just Change doers and donors, probably starting with 5 to 7 initiatives and 10 to 20 donors. Doers and donors will be identified by word of mouth and will be a good fit to the criteria above.
- Host a workshop and shared meal for doers and donors in Waitangirua. This is an opportunity to meet and learn more – about each other, about community aspirations, about the community innovation process and about the Just Change initiative. This “relationships before resources” approach provides donors and doers a chance to explore whether this feels like a good fit before becoming more involved. It is also an opportunity to check and confirm the values and way of working.
- Donors who wish to commit to Just Change would then be asked for the first of two annual donations into the Just Change Fund, with the aim of creating a shared funding pool of at least $100,000. Contributions would be paid into a separate Just Change account, administered by WCA. The total amount in the Just Change Fund and how it is used will be transparently available to both donors and doers, however the amount of each individual donation would be private. Donors may also choose to be anonymous if they wish. Additionally, 10% of the fund will be used for shared services, for example communications, admin, impact measurement and evaluation.
- A matchmaking and funding evening would then be held. This may involve:
- A mutual pitching process – what are we doing, what do we want and need, what can we offer?
- Decisions on how the Just Change Fund should be shared between the Community Change Initiatives, based on each initiative providing a high – low estimate of how much money they need, and the group then deciding how the total pool should be split.
- A matching process so that each initiative is paired with 2 – 3 donors with aligned interests and skills.
- We will then arrange regular, optional learning circles, possibly quarterly, where doers and donors connect, learn together, and facilitate any non-financial support that might be available and useful. These catch-up sessions would combine a large group updates with time in small groups where the donors and doers can connect more deeply on the initiative they are partnered with. There may also be zoom meetings or other communications in between times.
- Everyone involved will record their time spent in Just Change in a timebank, e.g. the time spent by a donor attending workshops would result in time credits, which could then be used either personally or donated to other timebank users.
- Just Change will involve on-going learning and adaptation. In particular, after one year there will be a process to reflect, review, adapt, recommit and grow Just Change.
- Just Change is committed to transparently sharing everything learned. Assuming Just Change proves useful, it is hoped that the concept will grow in the Wellington region and can also be adopted and adapted by communities, Iwi, organisations and regions nationwide.
- Review and refine the plan above
- Register your interest in becoming involved by contacting David Hanna (email@example.com) or Kate Frykberg (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Hold first workshop in October 2020