A first-of-its-kind report mapping the social sector in Western Bay of Plenty has been launched in Tauranga.
The launch was attended by at least 150 people at the Tauranga Historic Village on Monday morning, including local Labour list MPs Jan Tinetti and Angie Warren-Clark, and Western Bay mayor Garry Webber.
The new study, titled For the Greater Good, is the product of months of desktop research and interviews with 144 social service organisations.
It found Western Bay has more than 700 services "looking to improve social outcomes for the most vulnerable people in our area".
The report identifies housing and accommodation, poverty and health as the significant challenges facing those organisations and the communities they serve in the region.
Many of the social service providers highlighted how under-funding affected their ability to be fully effective and work well with other organisations.
Warren-Clark participated in the report herself as she was the manager of Tauranga Women's Refuge at the time.
"One of the things that was quite glaringly obvious for us is that we had a lot of work and little funding and a lot of services are like that," she said on Monday.
Warren-Clark said a lack of funding in the social sector had created a competitive model.
The new mapping project would hopefully lead to more collaboration between organisations and new forms of funding, she said.
"Across our whole social sector, we've got to look at who's doing what, why they're doing it, and how local and central Government can actually support that better."
The report was jointly funded by social-sector umbrella organisation SociaLink and the SmartGrowth partnership.
Desktop research on 225 organisations found 742 different services were being provided in the Western Bay.
Of those 225 organisations, interviews were done with 144. Most of the report focuses on the findings of the interviews.
Staffing information provided by 123 organisations showed there were 988 full-time equivalents and 4937 volunteers involved in the sector in the Western Bay.
It was also found that the Western Bay social service sector was dominated by five very large organisations, which employed about half of all the full-time equivalents.
SociaLink general manager Liz Davies said the mapping project emerged from a need expressed by the sector to better understand itself, provide data for future planning and to demonstrate the value and contribution it makes to the region.
"Our research and interviews have shown just how complex and widespread the sector is and how strong the need is for these services by the most vulnerable people in our communities."
Tinetti, who officially launched the project, said the organisations and services covered in the report were those working on the front line.
"As a central Government politician, it's really important for me and our Government and our Cabinet to be actually listening to the voices of the people on the ground."
Tinetti said she came across organisations during last year's election campaign that she had never heard of and wished she had known about them while she was principal of Merivale School.
"We need to know those sorts of organisations exist because they would have made the biggest difference to my whānau."
Webber, who was at the event on behalf of SmartGrowth, said a big part of the project was reducing overlaps between organisations.
"Getting all of these people in the room to understand that there is a mechanism there where they can actually collaborate and be a lot more efficient than they have been in the past."
He said if role repetition in the social sector was minimised, money would start going directly to the various causes instead of administrative costs.
After a presentation on the report's findings, participants took part in workshops focusing on the research and looking at how organisations could work together.
Key points from the report, which covers most but not all social-sector organisations, include:
•225 services deliver 742 services
•123 organisations employ 988 full-time equivalents along with 4937 volunteers
•88 per cent of organisations are small- or medium-sized
•Most large organisations struggle to attract Māori staff
•Organisations lack marketing and communications capability
•Most services are funded by philanthropic and community agencies
•Central Government funds more than 260 services