The Western Bay of Plenty has a proud social service heart.
At its core, in the western Bay of Plenty approximately 240 organisations work daily to improve the wellbeing of individuals, families and our society. Many of our fellow New Zealanders struggle with isolation, poverty, mental illness, addiction, housing, food insecurity amongst other issues and each one of the good folks working in the social service sector are dedicated to the task of making life that much easier and better for everyone.
The Western Bay of Plenty has a rapidly expanding population and as a result, the social service sector is experiencing an ever-increasing demand for its services.
A range of issues impact on social services including difficulties associated with a degree of fragmentation within the social services sector, challenging communication and not least, an uncertain and difficult funding environment.
Over the years, those at the heart of social service delivery have expressed a feeling of being undervalued, often stymied in being able to provide all that they would wish to their communities because of there being few connected voices in what seems a burgeoning environment.
A major challenge to the delivery of social services in the Western Bay of Plenty has been finding a method by which the sector can connect, can work together, can collaborate with appropriate resources designed to aid in the delivery of smarter, more efficient services.
In response to these challenges within the social service sector, 2014 saw the inception and registered charity status of The Social Sector Innovation WBOP Charitable Trust, or the slightly sexier title ‘SociaLink’. The aim of this new organisation was to provide a structure for research, innovation, collaboration, information, networking and advocacy for all involved in the sector throughout The Western Bay.
Today, SociaLink operates with the aim of “A thriving social and community sector improving Western Bay of Plenty communities”.
The idea is that only in providing an environment where social service is valued by all, where social services are fully connected and that organisations are able to take full advantage of every collaborative effort, can we as a people create a society where all are cherished and respected. Okay, so now we’ve got the big stuff out of the way, what does SociaLink do?
To achieve SociaLink’s aims, three strategic themes were identified:
- Build a thriving and connected social service sector
- Empower that sector to success
- Serve the sector to ensure the delivery of the first two.
SociaLink achieves its vision in a number of ways.
- SociaLink undertakes a range of researh to better understand the local social sector and highlight social issues t enable discussion by the sector and to advocate to funders and stakeholders:
- Organisation of training programmes, forums and educational workshops
- Regular communication including an informative newsletter intended to inform of relevant training, new policy and legislation
- SociaLink is to manage daily operations at The Kollective, The Western Bay’s new co-working community service hub where collaborative effort and connectivity are key to success.
- In a combined effort with other strategic WBOP organisations SociaLink seeks to ‘map’ the social sector to better understand the organisations and services that comprise the social services sector in the Western Bay of Plenty. This involves meeting and collecting information from social services, of which it is estimated there are 221 social services.
- Assist social sector providers to work together on social issues e.g. organise and facilitate meetings, apply for funding, act as a fund holder etc.
- Assist social sector agencies to work together e.g. networksc share information, partnerships etc.
- Work with the sector to advocate on issues of relevance to them e.g. prepare submissions etc
- Work with Māori providers to see how SociaLink can best add value to their mahi.