Kelvyn Eglinton, Momentum Waikato Chief Executive

Momentum Waikato is your region’s Community Foundation, which means we are in the business of making positive transformational change, to create ‘A Better Waikato for everyone, forever’.

Central to our mission is building and making grants from the Waikato’s own regional endowment fund, which we’re aiming to grow to $300 million over the next 30 years. We’re doing this via considered and ethical investment of capital that comes to us through two main paths.

Firstly, generous people who believe in the Waikato make donations and/or commit to leaving a bequest to the endowment, multiplying the impact their resources can make on local social and environmental issues.

Secondly, we take on the stewardship of the assets of struggling or aging trusts, so their founders’ objectives can continue to be realised in perpetuity - the transfer of the Houchen Road Retreat and the Donny Trust to our care are two recent examples.

Building such an endowment fund is the defining feature of Community Foundations, which exist around the world and are now established in most parts of Aotearoa-New Zealand.

Where Momentum Waikato differs from most of our equivalent organisations is in our other primary objective - to directly drive transformational projects for the region.

In this space we are already known for our leadership of the Waikato Regional Theatre effort, and we are also working with the Wise Group to deliver a Contemporary Wellbeing Village at the Houchen Road facility and investigating new models for affordable housing.

Why this focus on ‘transformation’, rather than simply funding existing service provision?

Community service providers do an amazing and under-appreciated job in meeting social and environmental needs, and there is no doubt they are finding it tougher to access funding AND are facing increasing demands for their support. All strength to them and those bodies that fund them.

But imagine if we could do more to stop the need occurring in the first place.

It is the old ‘fence at the top of the cliff rather than the ambulance at the bottom’ approach, but in the face of society’s increasingly complex challenges outstripping the state’s and traditional charity’s capacity to respond, its time has certainly come.

We believe that with technology, social impact investment and a change in community aspiration, transformational projects can deliver results not previously considered possible.

A brand new report ‘Embracing complexity – towards a shared understanding of funding systems change’, produced by the change-makers’ community Ashoka, puts it this way.

As we stand on the threshold of an epochal decade, we are confronted with an urgent need to find, fund, and support transformative solutions at a far greater pace than ever before.

The report acknowledges that funders and providers are ‘walking up the down escalator’.

Systemic challenges require systemic answers, but currently the dominant funding practices are ill-suited to support them. Systems change leaders often struggle because current funding practices are often built to support short-term projects with clear, measurable results rather than collaborative, evolving approaches to create lasting change.

It is about taking a long-term view.

Short funding horizons, restricted financial resources and funders’ interference with initiatives pose major challenges for systems change. Most systems change approaches is expected to need more than five years of funder support to achieve their goals – but few funders commit for the long term.

How to respond?

There are five principles and resulting practices that funders can adopt to better support systems change work.

·         Embrace a systems mindset by being clear about the systems you want to change, incorporating systems change into your DNA, and actively looking for funding opportunities.

 ·         Support evolving paths to systems change by funding systems leaders with transformative visions of improved systems rather than projects, investing in learning and capability building and encouraging collaboration among systems change leaders.

 ·         Work in true partnership by acknowledging and working against power dynamics, providing support that fits systems change leaders’ needs, and being mindful of their limited resources.

 ·         Prepare for long-term engagement by being realistic about the time it takes to achieve systems change, acknowledging that the path of the initiatives will change along the way and encouraging realistic ambitions.

 ·         Collaborate with other stakeholders by aligning with other funders, building networks for systems change leaders, and leaving the leading role to systems change leaders.

This is the global perspective that we at Momentum Waikato are looking to apply locally – by convening the generous, we can together tackle the pressing needs of our times.

If you want to know more, contact Kelvyn.