Agencies discuss support network

Setting the scene . . . Connect South interim chairman Graeme Sykes addresses Monday's meeting. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD

Dunedin social agencies say there is a need for greater networking among organisations, but the shape that will take is yet to be determined.

About 60 people from a wide range of social sector and community organisations, along with government agencies, met on Monday to discuss the future of Connect South.

It was also an opportunity to discuss the complex challenges facing organisations and look for a pathway for mutual support.

Founded in the 1980s as the Dunedin Council of Social Services, Connect South has been through chaos since December, when it pulled out of managing Community House, citing funding issues, and suffered a mass walkout of staff.

Independent group Dunedin Community Builders had agreed to use its expertise to lead a frank discussion during Monday’s forum, which was co-facilitated by Jan Hudson and Anna Parker.

Ms Hudson told the meeting the gathering was “about determining whether there is support, mandate or energy around a community sector-wide vehicle for collaboration”.

“We want to open it up and ask that question.”

Connect South interim chairman Graeme Sykes told the meeting the board hoped to understand how Dunedin community organisations could best be supported and served.

“This could be adapting what we have, or developing a new community model that supports community wellbeing,” Mr Sykes said.

Speaking to The Star after the meeting, Ms Parker said the process “really echoed the need that is out there in the community”.

“The number of people and groups who engaged with the process speaks volumes,” she said.

“People really want to be part of making decisions and designing the mechanisms that connect us all.

“It came through clearly that there is a need for involvement, and that there is a lot more talking to do.”

Ms Hudson said there was definitely support and recognition for the value of linking people to share information, and for learning opportunities.

The question of whether there needed to be an umbrella group was “a conditional yes”, with more discussion to come about what that would look like, she said.

“A group of people have put their hands up to keep on talking . . .

“[The meeting] was a good start to the conversation.”

Dunedin Community Builders would meet the Connect South board before its annual general meeting in September.