We talk to Melissa Moore, Founder of The Pride Project

As flexible funders, we consistently witness the incredible outcomes that are being achieved by flipping the model of traditional funding to enable organisations to prioritise where their funding is spent. There’s no better example of this than the mahi that The Pride Project are delivering in Auckland’s Manurewa community.

The Pride Project is a community led support initiative run out of The Pride Project community house in Clendon within Manurewa. It works to combat anti-social activity and support people with complex needs who are falling through the cracks.

Clendon/Manurewa is a community that experiences high levels of deprivation, inter-generational poverty and over-crowding in homes, particularly among its majority of Māori and Pacific households. Founder, Melissa Moore’s family have lived five generations in Manurewa and The Pride Project’s understanding of its community comes from local knowledge.

“What we do is not about filling gaps but building an alternative healing system of wellbeing around Manurewa people as individuals, whānau, hapu and as a kainga. We are immersed in Kaupapa Māori; it is a deeply held foundation, as well as an expression of what we do and why,” said Melissa.

“We’ve designed and developed our Kaupapa ourselves to meet the needs of our people. Over time we’ve had to evolve to meet the changing needs of our community. But to do that we need to secure funding to bring it to life and flexible philanthropic funding has enabled us to do that because it doesn’t dictate how we need to do things or what we need to deliver. It lets us get on with what we need to do.”

“That’s quite different to governments approach where you’re told here’s some funding, we want you to develop this.”

“It’s tricky because what we’re funded for by government, and what we need to do to help our people, can be two very different things. We have good relationships with government organisations, but a lot of the funding requires rigid application and reporting processes that are outcome driven and designed to tick a box. The real gold is the flexible philanthropic support that fortunately, we’ve received from the beginning that has enabled us to deliver our Kaupapa,” she said.

This backs up the findings in the latest Inspiring Communities Report Make the Move – shifting how the public sector works with communities which was co-funded by TTF. The top four insights that emerged from the report are:

· Creating the conditions for Te Ao Māori-led change

· Repositing policy workers as conduits and facilitators

· Creating the conditions for ethical and trusting relationships

· Creating the conditions for innovation, learning and adaptability

“One of the hardest parts when you look into government contracts and policies is the tick boxing, the processes – that stuff wears you down and can make you morph into something you were never meant to be,” said Melissa.

“The Tindall Foundation’s flexible philanthropic funding model has not tied us down to rigid application and reporting processes. Having a respectful relationship is critical and they know that we know what we are doing – we don’t need to be told what our community needs. Philanthropic funding like this is the best relationship for our community,” she said.

Six years down the track, The Pride Project has diversified and pivoted to meet the community’s growing need. They’ve grown rapidly and now have over 18 staff and volunteers that have provided the crucial intervention needed for thousands of whānau in their community. The four Hope Navigators she employees are literally lifesavers.

“Our Hope Navigators are the ones who are tapped into some of the most challenging homes in Manurewa, doing the hard yards, working with whanau that even officials struggle to access. They take their time to build trusted relationships and have changed the lives of so many in just six short years”.

Melissa says the commitment for Hope Navigators to help their community takes passion, compassion, strength, aroha and resilience.

“Many of our Hope Navigators have lived experience and have come out the other side – they are walking testimonies of trauma to triumph,” she said.

“Growing our Hope Navigators is the most important thing we can do for our community – it’s truly hard for people to understand what it takes. You know that when they’re face to face with our whanau and hearing their stories – they are great at what they do, and many whanau including Ranagtahi feel like they finally have a safe place where their voices are heard.”

But it takes its toll, the stories are hearty, and the needs have increased significantly and are more complex. How do you look after the people who look after our community?

“Investing in and looking after your staff and your team culture is critical or you don’t have an organisation. We’ve been able to grow and develop our team and put them through trainings to add to their kete – professional development and pastoral care is key for staff retention, but that requires flexible funding too.”

“It would be amazing to continue to work with more philanthropists who can see the need – who believe that the people like our Hope Navigators, are the best people to do the work in our community. If we could partner with more organisations that have this mindset – then that would enable us to help our people without all the restrictions of government funding. Those time-consuming rigid processes can wear us out and we can start to lose the passion, we don’t want to risk losing sight of the reason we were here in the first place.”