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    Sustainable Cities
    Dorothy - 9/10/97

    Canterbury Dialogues Building Social Cohesion - based on an interview with Mark Prain, the General Manager of Sustainable Cities

    Social Capital
    "While no-one has yet produced the definitive answer to the question of how a nation goes about accumulating social capital, there are four characteristics which are found in communities that have it. They are: a sure sense of belonging; strong social cohesion; support systems for the family; and the nurturing of individual potential ... we are going to hear more about the concept of social capital, but there is as yet no clear consensus on how we go about building it in a modern society."
    - The Prime Minister of New Zealand, the Hon. Jim Bolger. May, 1997

    Just a lot of verbiage?
    We are going to hear a lot about social capital and social cohesion. But is hearing about it from politicians going to be the beginning and end of this concept?

    In Christchurch moves have begun to ensure that this does not happen, and that there is wide representation among the groups that discuss social cohesion, a clear focus in the discussions and accountability from those who take part - accountability signifying thoughtful preparation for the discussions and communication with the groups they represent.

    The organisation for the present moves has been undertaken by the Sustainable Cities Trust, based in Christchurch.

    Who are these people and how are they funded?
    Sustainable Cities Trust is an independent agency and is not answerable to any one organisation for funding. It has been operating for nearly three years with a small management team, and the active support of a strong cross-sectoral Board and associate companies in Auckland, ("Common Ground & Associates), San Francisco ("Materials for the Future Foundation"), and Denver ("AddVenture Network").

    "We are project developers who innovatively broker resources to strengthen community enterprise both now and into the future. As an independent not-for-profit organisation we aim to bring high quality research together with integrated management to achieve collaborative solutions - it's about turning good ideas into practical action."
    from 'Moving the Game' A quarterly newsletter from Sustainable Cities Trust - Volume 1 Issue 1

    A key current programme is "Canterbury Dialogues".
    'Catalysing Cross-Sector Agreements for the Future of the City/Region'.

    Some organisations' future planning focuses on a distant date - which often means that visions and concepts are not carried through to action.

    These dialogues are focused on the pressures that confront the quality of life in Canterbury NOW, not in twenty years.

    Cross-sectoral involvement
    The Dialogues are being led by Dr Morgan Williams, the Commissioner for the Environment. A cross-sectoral working party has developed the format and the programme. A cross-sectoral group of forty five to fifty key movers and shakers is taking part in the dialogues. They are from three sectors -the corporate sector, the public sector (top bureaucrats and senior politicians from both central and local government and from government agencies) and directors from fifteen not-for-profit agencies.

    The major stakeholders are the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce, the Canterbury Regional Council, the Christchurch City Council, the Ministry for the Environment, Trustbank Canterbury Community Trust and Sustainable Cities Trust.

    Format
    The Dialogues are happening over four months and are organised like a board. The participants are fed immediately with a distillation of what went on in each session, including what has come from the evening public sessions,(immediately following the formal Dialogues),and information on what is involved in the next one. The first two Dialogues focused on "Smart-Growth"(sustainable development) and Economic Creativity & Development, led by Dr. Peter Newman and Gil Simpson respectively. The next two are scheduled for October 15 and November 12.

    The Aim - by the end of November to reach the beginnings of a common set of agreements across the sectors about the issues and the formulation of action programmes to be implemented accordingly.

    What is consultation?
    General Manager Mark Prain emphasises that the Dialogues are attempting to do more than merely 'consult'.
    "There's a lot of nonsense talked about consultation. If consultation is to be genuine it must go further than just a local government agency sending out a comment form to residents asking what they think about certain issues. That is not consultation in my view.

    If you genuinely want a high level of community participation you must engage. The consultation is merely about laying out the parameters of what you will have dialogue about, then you have the dialogue, and the real challenge is to reach a negotiated position....most of us regardless of what sector we come from, will only buy into agreements in which we feel that we have genuinely been consulted and genuinely been participating. No-one's saying this is easy, and we are not expecting the Dialogues program to achieve miracles, but it is clearly a more comprehensive way of tackling difficult issues."

    Topics - the four primary issues that are stresses on Christchurch

    An invited keynote speaker provokes discussion at each seminar.

    Moderator of the Dialogues - Dr Morgan Williams, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment

    Seminar 1 - Overview and growth scenarios for Christchurch - are there to be boundaries placed on the growth of the city which is growing at a rate second only to Auckland?
    Professor Peter Newman, Perth, urban renewalist, has worked for the World Bank and been responsible for the Freemantle yacht channel.

    Seminar 2 - Corporate sector, its role in maintaining and enhancing the quality of life in Christchurch - how can we maintain and enhance the quality of life to attract the type of staff needed for the economic sector?
    Gil Simpson of Aoraki Corporation

    Seminar 3 - The Environment - air, noise, soil, water, waste, the built environment and recreational options - How can we deal with issues such as smog, the threat to our pure water ...?
    Alisdair Hutchison, South Island Manager of the Ministry for the Environment

    Seminar 4 - Social cohesion - how can we ensure that the positive aspects of Christchurch are available to be enjoyed by as many Christchurch people as possible?
    Judy Lawrence, CEO Ministry of Women's Affairs, with experience in the Ministry of the Environment

    The format for the participants is a keynote address followed by small cross-sectoral working groups and feedback and discussion.

    Study the model shown below to see how the group sees the process working and benefiting the community

    Canterbury Dialogues Process

    The chance for the public to be involved
    If you have been thinking that this is just another meeting for the people with authority, pause and think again.
    Note the Public Forum.

    A public plenary session follows each workshop and the public are given the same opportunity to comment on the matters of the day and give feedback to the speakers. This gives an immediate public mirror. The public sessions are at
    7-30 PM, OCTOBER 15, AND NOVEMBER 12
    CANTERBURY EMPLOYERS CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, - 57 KILMORE STREET.

    Strategy session
    This will be held in February, 1998 to re-visit agreements and plan the action programmes.

    The Community Sector:
    Financial resources for community organisations

    Often referred to as the '3rd sector', there is a proliferation of community organisations, charities, trusts and community companies and this is another key area of the work of Sustainable Cities.

    Given the growth in the sector against a backdrop of government's increasing rhetoric about community capacity-building and self-reliance, there is an increasing need for professional management as poorly-resourced organisations compete for rationed dollars for their work.

    Mark sums up the situation as follows: "If you are going to build genuine capacity in the community you have to resource community and get away from the begging bowl scenario. You don't view community as a charity case. Community service agencies over time have to become sustainable contributors to their constituents and therefore you have to find better ways to financially resource the sector. Earned income is the bedrock of any business and the same principle applies in the community.

    "NZ despite the mythology is not a generous nation when it comes to adequately resourcing the ever-increasing needs of the social or community sector - the monetarist myopia of successive recent governments is still alive and well, and encouraging individuals to give $25 instead of $20 to the Sally Army ain't cutting it - it is not sustainable.

    "Like it or not therefore the 3rd sector itself has to get smarter. 'Social entrepreneurship' and flair are vital factors in this equation - the old volunteer ethic is not of itself enough anymore. Profit is 'good' - the motivation for surplus rather than loss in terms of the ethical base is of course very different to 'business as usual', but the end-result in terms of the ongoing viability of providing the service (whatever it might be, health, education, etc.), is not."

    That is the challenge and wherever possible Sustainable Cities aims to directly resource the communities in which they work.


    Published with permission from NZine