Putting communities in the driver’s seat

September 14, 2018

Wesley Community Action and Deloitte have  released a report which celebrates the creative possibilities of giving communities the opportunity to come up with their own solutions to the problems caused by poverty and high levels of debt.

The report, Making Good Sense: Evidence and Lessons in Community Innovation, looks at several initiatives developed in Cannons Creek in response to concerns about the growing number of people using Wesley Community Action’s food bank.

These initiatives include the Good Cents financial wellbeing programme and the Wellington Region Fruit and Vegetable Co-op.

Wesley Community Action director David Hanna says the partnership between Deloitte and Wesley Community Action has resulted in a valuable document on community-led innovation grounded in Cannons Creek.

“This report demonstrates just what can be achieved when the community is in the driving seat,” he says. “It shows that communities can do wonderful things when the ‘helping’ organisation changes the way it works and lets go of old ways of thinking – from a ‘doing to’ approach to one of ‘working with’.”

He says over-used negative statistics about communities like Cannons Creek are only part of the picture. These communities also have the skills, knowledge and resources to find local solutions to local problems.

In Cannons Creek, the Good Cents initiative was developed by the local community to meet local needs. It’s not a budgeting course, where a professional budget advisor decodes a person’s financial situation for them. Instead, participants lead their own journey, taking ownership and control of their financials. More than 300 people have now taken the 8-week course and built a new, healthy relationship with money.

Mr Hanna says the Wellington Region Fruit and Vegetable Co-op started as a pilot project in Cannons Creek in 2014 to provide cheap, healthy produce in an area with no local supermarket.  With support from Regional Public Health and many other partners, the co-op has expanded throughout Wellington.

“Now it’s New Zealand’s largest community fruit and vege co-op with 10 packing hubs which distribute 9 tonnes of affordable fruit and vegetables into 1400 homes every week.”

Mr Hanna says Wesley Community Action is still learning how best to work with communities in ways that make it possible to find their own solutions to problems they may be facing.

“We remain convinced that it makes good sense to shift the focus and power to the people in the communities we want to thrive. “

Download a copy of the report

Read our director David Hanna’s thoughts on community-led development.