NEXT was created with the advantage of having a fixed life. And it was given the challenge of making a sustainable difference to complex problems that will likely not be fully solved in that lifetime.
Our response has been to think of NEXT as a catalyst for system change in its chosen areas – and to include the concept of sustainability in our support for environmental and educational organisations.
Because we are not a ‘forever funder’ for those organisations, we have to be focused on how we can help them get to a better place ‘post-NEXT’.
Our role is to help make that transition to sustainability as powerful as possible. This is not just about sustainable funding – it is also about building the people resources and organisational capability to operate for as long as is required. And also to build the evidence for impact, the profile and the networks to be able to continue to drive system change into the future.
In Aotearoa New Zealand the Government is often part of the sustainable funding solution. The fact that we have, by international standards, a small, flexible government and one that believes in the concept of sustainability means that engagement with it is an important part of the mix.
The Tomorrow Accord we signed with the Minister of Conservation is an excellent example of government becoming part of a sustainable solution. The Department of Conservation (DOC) has sustainability at its core. However it has limited funding and has to use that funding on capital and operating projects spread over a huge estate (more than 30% of the country’s land area). The Accord sets out an agreement that, if external parties can provide the capital to make significant ecological gains in qualifying projects, DOC will underwrite the maintenance of those gains in perpetuity.
The Tomorrow Accord gives philanthropic and business partner funders (not only NEXT) confidence that the ecological gains created by the investment they make into Tomorrow Accord qualifying projects will be sustained. It’s implementation is now well advanced in Project Janszoon in Abel Tasman National Park, and progressing well with Taranaki Mounga in Egmont National Park.
Part of NEXT’s journey has been to experiment with and develop other models of sustainability. We are exploring that in education too. The Ministry of Education’s support of Teach First NZ: Ako Mātātupu is an existing example of building sustainability in from inception. Developing relationships for Manaiakalani and Springboard Trust with the Ministry are also positive and promising steps.
Government however is only part of the answer to the sustainable model question – ‘sustainable’ typically also means philanthropic, community, in kind, and corporate support. The philanthropic sector has an appropriate and sometimes ongoing part to play in long term support for organisations, especially in situations where there are strong local community drivers. As concepts like strategic philanthropy continue to develop in New Zealand (see the article on page 26) we envisage other powerful non-government options for sustainability will emerge.
We welcome the challenge of leaving the organisations we support empowered to make their difference permanently. Our land and our people will be here long after NEXT, and
sustainability should be part of everything that we represent.
Bill Kermode, NEXT CEO