Just Change: A learning circle of doers and donors

August 23, 2020

Just Change is a learning circle of doers and donors committed to addressing inequity together. It was launched in late 2020 through Te Hiko, the Centre for Community Innovation based at Cannons Creek.

The core concept of Just Change is to connect a group of “doers” (people leading innovative, grassroots community initiatives in the Wellington region) with a group of “donors” (people who are concerned about inequity, understand the importance of community-led change and are willing to contribute financially).  

The group aims to work collaboratively with pooled funds to learn about how to build relationships across different communities and take collective action to address inequality. We will do this by making allocation decisions together, identifying and negotiating barriers between donors and doers, and sharing and reflecting on impact and challenges occurring.  We balance a focus on learning with a focus on impact.  

A “learning by doing” approach is key, as is acknowledging the limitations of what we each know.  Over time it is expected that Just Change will adapt and evolve..

How does Just Change work?

  • For doers: People involved in local community initiatives committed to growing local capacity and creating new approaches to addressing inequity, poverty, violence and ecological destruction. Initially all initiatives have connections to Te Hiko Centre for Community Innovation, with a focus on Porirua and Hutt Valley communities.  Current initiatives include: Aging Well Naenae, Common Ground Taita, Good Cents Naenae / Taita / Pomare, Porirua Fruit and Vege Co-op, Porirua Timebank, WhānauFluence and the Whānau-led Enterprise Network.
  • For donors: People with connections to communities in the Wellington region who are concerned about inequity and are open to contributing and co-learning can be part of Just Change. Just Change donors understand the importance of Community-Led change and are willing to contribute financially.  Initial contributions are in the range of $2,000 to $15,000, ideally over 2 to 3 years.  Donors may also wish to offer their skills and expertise into specific initiatives.   As at February 2021, the Just Change funding pool was $66,000 (with $79,940 pledged)

Together as a circle we:

  • value being respectful, honest, non-judgemental, working together in a way that is open, consensus-based, community-centred and Te Tiriti o Waitangi honouring
  • support effective systems change by active reflection and learning, encouraging the ripples of the initiatives and challenging the norms and mental models about funding relationships and how providing social support should work.
  • seek to build community together through our differences

How funding is decided:  We are still experimenting with the best way to share the available funding between initiatives; however, we aim for a consensus process based on an honest assessment of what each initiative needs in order to flourish, and which initiatives will help us learn about Just Change – noting all the limitations of time, money and knowledge.

How impact is tracked and shared: With the help of Te Hiko Centre for Community Innovation, we will track impact and share “warts and all” progress of what is working and what is struggling. We will track the impact of the Just Change community initiatives but will focus the majority of our learning conversations on the Just Change process overall.  The aim is to develop shared understanding of what the feedback and data means and what ‘success’ actually looks like.

How the learning circle works in practice: The Just Change Learning Circle gets together in person three to four times a year over a shared evening meal in Waitangirua or other community venue, with ongoing communication and engagement opportunities between times.

Why are we trying this approach?

The core kaupapa of Just Change is addressing inequity.  In particular:

  • Just Change addresses the financial inequity in different communities / whānau by bringing people from different socio-economic communities together to share financial resources in an authentic, relationship-based way.
  • Just Change is also an attempt to address funding imbalances in the philanthropic system. In particular, initiatives that actively involve local whānau in building new and just systems are usually the hardest to secure funding for, while ‘expert’ led programmes with a bias towards predetermined outcomes based on narrowly defined problems tend to attract the funds.  Just Change intentionally avoids funding solutions imposed from the ‘outside’ the local community.

Who is involved?

As at February 2021, Just Change consisted of:

  • 7 community-led initiatives
  • approximately 15 people working on these initiatives (doers)
  • approximately 15 people supporting the initiatives financially (donors)
  • a small support team: David Hanna – WCA Director; Kena Duignan – WCA Community Innovation lead; Janie Walker – project coordinator; Kate Frykberg – facilitator.

Overhead costs for supporting Just Change are met by WCA.

Find out more:

Download a 1-page Just Change Q & A (pdf)

Download the Just Change Handbook (pdf).

Or contact David Hanna, dhanna@wesleyca.org.nz, 021 403377