Pacific Capacity Partnership

By Analiese Robertson, ACE Aotearoa PD and Networks Manager
ACE Aotearoa has long had a focus on building the sector capability to better deliver quality learning to learners. And we have been doing it one educator, organisation and community at a time.

We define capability as being whatever is needed to take an organisation to the next level of maturity so that they are effective now and in the future. Google says it’s the power or ability to do something. Wikipedia defines it as the ability to perform or achieve certain actions or outcomes. The key words are – the ability to do.

In a capability building approach, we are helping organisations move from focusing on compliance, or what their contract requires them to do, to development, or what the organisation needs to do to improve learner outcomes.

Because many of our community learning organisations are small, run by people with a passion and with varying experience in governance and management, we often find our role is to translate and develop skills.

There are two parts to our approach: the resources and workshops we provide for the sector, and a special Foundation North-funded project working to build the capability of Pasifika organisations in Auckland and Northland. And as we look to the future we will be making sure that our approach aligns with the Tertiary Education Commission’s (TEC) new capability framework.

Building capability in the sector

We have worked with our providers and communities to develop a number of resources including the ACE quality assurance toolkit and our teaching standards resource. We also offer workshops on topics like governance and developing a social media strategy, as well as the usual annual PD opportunities at our Hui Fono and ACE Sector Conference.

We know that our resources and events have filled a gap for many smaller groups which had little or nothing in terms of written processes about how to run an organisation – from policies for the board, to lesson plan templates and everything in between.

Everything we do is about helping the sector to improve what we do, using an assess-to-assist approach. It’s all about aspiration with an attitude of continuous improvement.

Pacific organisations in Auckland and Northland

ACE Aotearoa has a contract with Foundation North to deliver a three-year Pacific Capacity Partnership for 20 Pacific organisations in Auckland and Northland. Pale Sauni is the Lead Facilitator and I am the Project Manager.

Many of the groups’ members have day jobs and are juggling work, family and social obligations whilst coordinating a community group voluntarily on the side. Others have inherited the responsibility, and are now required to meet governance, management, and financial accountability requirements overnight. Most have landed in positions with good intentions and passion, but not always with the necessary skills, experience, prior training or relevant qualifications behind them.

Originally the project responded to a need to support groups with the pre-application stage of applying for funding. Whilst this is still a key motivator for the groups involved, it has become apparent that the greater demand is for building the groups’ collective skills and knowledge, so that they can be better positioned in the future to not only apply for funding, but also be able to run the whole organisation more successfully.

We are committed to a Pacific for Pacific model. We have placed the Foundation North Pacific values at the centre, focused on good relationships with the groups, and applied a culturally responsive approach, helping organisations understand what is required to run a not-for-profit service that is always improving.

This project has given these groups an opportunity to access tailored professional development, starting with a self-assessment of their organisation’s strengths and identifying areas for capability building. They then work with ACE Aotearoa to co-design a plan to tackle each priority, addressed through a series of workshops and individual mentoring. The most frequently needed workshops have been on refining the vision, mission and strategic planning, governance, and establishing their legal status so they can apply for funding. It has put them into a new development phase.

One of the biggest barriers has been language: understanding funding terminology is a challenge so our workshops and mentoring often focus on helping providers understand the language and what is required.

We are not the only ones working in this space. The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) Charities Services and Community Operations teams have been focused on capability building for charities too. That’s why ACE Aotearoa now has a Memorandum of Understanding with DIA Charities Services so we can work intentionally together. As a result, we also have a relationship with Inland Revenue, and the Ministry for Pacific Peoples Auckland office [see below for some details].

It has been through these partnerships that we have been able to connect communities and organisations directly to the people who can help. At our first workshop together, 70 groups registered in a week of promotion, and we ran out of space in the carpark and room! We have seen an attitudinal change from the agencies and groups we work with, moving away from negative to better understanding the challenges and creating ways to help.

TEC’s capability framework

The TEC’s capability framework, which they have presented in investment planning workshops this year, is the Government’s new tool for building the capability of the tertiary system.

The Ministerial objective for TEC is: supporting a self-improving, self-correcting tertiary system that responds and adapts to the changing needs of learners and employers. The focus is on development, not compliance.

So our next task is to review the ACE quality assurance toolkit to make sure it aligns with the TEC capability framework and other quality management systems, be they internal or externally required. We still want a generic professional tool that works and offers the fundamental tools and resources needed to run an organisation. It should be built with the small provider or community in mind but credible enough to be scaled up and used in a fit for purpose way. Working smarter not harder. The focus will always be about getting good information to inform change so that our learners, whānau, and communities are better off.

Helping Pasifika charities and communities in Auckland: A great example of working together

There are 578 Pacific charities in Aotearoa. 60% of those charities are in Auckland. 70% of all Pacific charities are churches.

When ACE Aotearoa delivered two capability building workshops in Auckland this year they worked with the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA), Inland Revenue (IRD) and the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) Auckland office.

The first workshop (in May) was all about good governance and the second (in August) focused on all the legal and money stuff (registration, legal entities, reporting) organisations or aspiring organisations need to know about running a charity.

For most of those attending, the priority was getting access to information and people who can help.

The collaboration is a win-win. With ACE Aotearoa leading the facilitation, staff from the government agencies are on hand to hear from the Pacific charities and groups. The workshop includes a panel where participants get to ask all the questions they have about running a charity, directly to the agencies. They also get a tailored version of their questions with answers after the workshop, where a lot of care is taken to make sure the answers are written in easy to understand language with some quick links to main websites for more information. And they get contact details of the key agency staff who attend so they can get in touch after if they need to.

The biggest lesson here for ACE Aotearoa and the government agencies is that language is the key to understanding. There is so much information across websites related to running a charity. Our top tips: keep the language simple, answer the question asked (no more), and be available for help. Over 100 people have attended the workshops which are funded by a Foundation North grant.

Some useful website links:

About community organisations and the law:

About registration and reporting:

About legal entities (starting, running, ending, restoring a Trust, Incorporated Society, filing financial statements):

About tax obligations for charities:

About Foundation North funding:

Resources for your charity available online:

This article was published in the ACE Aotearoa Spring Newsletter 2018.