Backboning 101


One of the roles that Te Hiko plays is to provide backbone support to community initiatives ‘outside’ of Wesley Community Action.

What is backbone support?

A backbone is the part of the body that keeps structure. It’s stable but flexible, it supports the action of the arms and legs of the body. That’s how we see our backboning. When a community is able to take some great positive action for themselves, we can help provide some of the structure to support them in that mahi.

We don’t do this support for a huge number of groups – just ones who we have a good relationship with, have been asked to support their work and whos values and kaupapa align with ours.

So what does backboning actually entail?  Each relationship is different depending on what is helpful and required.

We are a fundholder for initiatives.

Many funders want to support groups of doers in community who are making good change, but they need robust financial and governance structures to be in place. For some community led initiatives these formal structures are the last thing that they want to be doing. Having endless meetings, deciding who is the Secretary and who is the Treasurer, and doing the charitable trust paperwork can suck all of the energy out of a small group of action-minded people.

That’s where we can help. With our already existing financial and governance structures, we’re able to work with funders to provide them with the processes and structures they need to be able to hand over money to an initiative. By keeping on top of the financial management and employment and contracting processes, Te Hiko (as part of Wesley Community Action) can provide confidence that the funds are spent well.  

Two of the amazing initiatives we give this support to are Common Ground in Taita and Food4Thought in Upper Hutt.

We employ and contract people to do the mahi.

Many community initiatives need some funding now and then to be able to pay a person to do some dedicated work in the community. Te Hiko is able to use our Wesley Community Action structures to employ kaimahi, or contract people to do that work. Much in the same way that we can be confident that funds are being used well, we can ensure that kaimahi and contractors are getting the support that they need to carry out their work well and safely, and are legally employed /contracted to do so. We do this employment with NZ PPull so they can have kaimahi doing paid work instead of all volunteer run.

We do the backroom stuff so community can be confident that they have what they need.

We can also do some of the big policy and process pieces of work – for example, coordination, ordering, relationship management, health and safety and food safety at each of the Wellington Region Fruit and Vege Co-op hubs.

We can be a helpful hand when things get wobbly.

Community initiatives are often run by extremely skilled and well connected people who are part of the community that they work in. This is so important, but in any community sometimes things can get wobbly – conflict or disasters do happen.

As part of a larger organisation, and slightly ‘outside’ of the initiatives we backbone, we can be one of the supports that initiatives can draw on when things do get wobbly. We have experienced community kaimahi who can help work through issues.

We are also able to do some of the ‘big’ organisational thinking and share processes with the groups we backbone. A great example of this is Covid protocols, so that each small group doesn’t have to start from scratch working out how to respond.

Learning together and sharing resources.

One of the reasons we love being in more formal relationships with these communities is the amount of learning we can do together. By having a close working relationship with other initiatives we are bringing new ideas, new relationships and new ways of working into Te Hiko. We hope that we are sharing equally with the initiatives we work with.

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