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The Centre for Social Impact was founded as the social business of Foundation North in May 2014. At a tenth anniversary event in May 2024 for CSI associates and Foundation North trustees and staff, CSI’s Head of Centre, Karinia Lee, gave this speech on the Centre, its founding and its work.

Kia ora Matua Kevin, Peter and Mel for your kind words – and thank you everyone for joining us here today to mark this significant milestone in the life of CSI.

I want to begin by acknowledging our whakapapa, Jenny Gill, who as Peter’s predecessor, guided the formation of the Centre, and Alison Taylor, our first head of centre. Alison developed the model, built relationships across the sector and helped them see what the Centre could offer them. It was also Alison who built our network model, and identified our first associates – this pool of professional talent that we draw on to create bespoke teams to respond to specific briefs. 

It is so good to see so many of our associates in the room. Your mahi is at the heart of the Centre. The quality of the relationships you build and the quality of the work you deliver, are the pou which support the Centre’s reputation.

    As Mel outlined, the creation of the Centre was another significant move by Foundation North, which by 2014, had emerged as the leader in New Zealand philanthropy.

    The Māori and Pacific Education Initiative showed what can be achieved when a funder has a clear kaupapa for impact, a fit-for-purpose funding strategy, and strong community engagement. It showed the power of a funder supporting social innovators on their journey, providing not just funding but the support they may need as changemakers to achieve impact, such as building their capacity in areas such as governance, leadership, or evaluation.

    The Centre today, as the social business of Foundation North, works on both sides of this process. We support grantmakers and funders to invest for impact, and changemakers to achieve impact and to learn.

    The value of the Foundation’s investment has been shown time and again over the years, in the Centre’s work for the Foundation and its grantees, and the wider social impact sector. While Foundation North remains our anchor, over the last ten years, the Centre has worked with over 80 other organisations, and delivered nearly 200 significant projects. These diverse relationships and projects enrich and inform our practice. Thought leadership emerges from having this wide frame of reference.

    When I look back over the work the Centre has done for the Foundation, and the wider sector, it is an insight into how the sector is evolving, innovating, and refining its practice. 

    • We’ve worked on research to inform strategy development, strategy review, the development of funding frameworks, and monitoring and evaluation projects. 
    • We’ve supported the combined community trusts through governance training and climate action.
    • We’ve worked in collaboration with innovative funders such as JR McKenzie to explore how the philanthropic landscape is changing.
    • We’ve collaborated with the Superdiversity Institute for Law, Policy and Business to identify how to improve governance for New Zealand’s 114,000 NGOs and facilitated the development of the Good Governance Code.
    • Our innovative work on the development and piloting of the Haumanu approach to restorative systems change has attracted international interest.

    These are just a few examples of the substantive work of the Centre since 2014. We have received some wonderful feedback about this work over the last ten years. And to give you a sense of how our wider community see our work, you will see in the room some representative quotes from client feedback over the years. Feel free to read and enjoy them!

    While our primary focus until 2020 was philanthropic funders and their partners in the community, COVID-19 saw new needs emerge in the sector. As people worked from home during lockdowns, or coped with unique challenges in between lockdowns, the need for opportunities for support and learning emerged.

    This saw the Centre develop a new offering. With support from Foundation North, Zoom became our meeting place. Our online capacity building workshops provided a place of connection, where people could explore topics as diverse as wellbeing, the strategic implications of Covid, how to write Kick A! grant application, or tackle the governance issues that were keeping them awake at night. These online events continue today as our Te Pūaha Talks, which provide the sector with opportunities to learn about topics from evaluation, to climate action, to strategy development. The online webinars and workshops to date have attracted over 3300 registrations – and we have a great programme underway this year. Each of these events is recorded and becomes a further resource in the Centre’s online knowledge hub, Te Pūaha o te Ako.

    Te Pūaha o te Ako is a metaphor for a place where learning is shared to enable transformational social impact. Te Pūaha, the estuary, is where salt and fresh waters meet, a place where new life is produced and nurtured. Oho ake guides our behaviour to be open, and to share, analyse and strive for future learning. This is where you will find a repository of the substantive work we have done, for Foundation North, and for or with other significant funders, community organisations or changemakers. This is a rich resource for the Foundation, and the wider social impact sector in Aotearoa.

    All of what the Centre achieves is made possible by two pou; our parent, Foundation North, and our network. 

    I want to talk first about our network. This is an extraordinary collection of people, skills and experience. The network model means that we have remarkable flexibility to bring in the right mix of skills and experience we need to support the organisations. Our network model, of course, depends on a small team to keep us all on track, to be in touch with our network members wherever they are in the country – or in the world – and to ensure we deliver on outcomes.

    Foundation North, our parent. Mel placed CSI into the context of Foundation North’s whakapapa as an innovative philanthropic funder. In our work for the Foundation, the Centre and its associates see the inner workings of an organisation that continues to lead philanthropic practice in New Zealand. We see the amount of thought and planning that the Foundation puts into doing the fundamentals well, while also looking at what else is possible and needed, taking some calculated risks, evaluating, learning, and reinvesting in that process. It’s inspiring to support that.

    The Centre also benefits from the personal relationships we have with members of the Foundation. For me, support from Peter, Nicola and Liam is particularly important. For our team, the support we get from Craig, Jackie, Lisa, Lauren and Piper is invaluable. And I want to tautoko the Foundation North team as a whole – we travel in the same waka, share the same kaupapa – to make a difference for our communities.

    In closing I share with you the wisdom from Matua Kevin in the meaning within our logo.

    Pukepuke rau – hundreds of hills and every one of them surmountable – and in Matua Kevin’s words “recognising the autonomy of people to self-govern.”

    Ngā mihi na kōrero mo tenei wai, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tatou katoa

    It is so good to see so many of our associates in the room. Your mahi is at the heart of the Centre. The quality of the relationships you build and the quality of the work you deliver, are the pou which support the Centre’s reputation.

    - Karinia Lee, Head of Centre, Kaihautu.