“Everyone is our neighbour” was a powerful message delivered at the Salvation Army’s State of the Nation 2020 report launch.

Tangata Whenua, Tangata Tiriti, Huia Tangata Kotahi, People of the Land, People of the Treaty, Bring Everyone Together measures the progress of people’s wellbeing.

It said there’d been reductions in child poverty, predatory lending and teenage pregnancy and improvements in employment and income. But we’ve gone backwards with violence against children, youth and adolescent suicide, meth use and housing affordability. Few inroads have been made into reducing the gap between outcomes for Māori and non-Māori.

It’s important to note that improvement doesn’t mean we’re in a good place. For example, despite some improvement, 250,000 of our children, nearly 23 per cent, live in poverty.

“Unless the country strongly endorses a more whole hearted effort to tackle the kind of poverty we are seeing in New Zealand, our political leaders are unlikely to demonstrate the courage required to lead the change,” the Salvation Army said.

Salvation Army leaders at the launch urged the audience to act. While voting and making our views known to policy makers is the obvious way, these steps alone won’t solve the issues the report highlights. Increased and more effective philanthropy, business contribution, and individual action is also needed.

While Government is incredibly influential, they are but one part of the jigsaw puzzle. At Philanthropy New Zealand I get to see philanthropists, grant makers and other types of givers enable not for profits working to improve wellbeing.

As well as their funding of community, our members support Philanthropy New Zealand to undertake policy work and advocate to Government on behalf of the giving sector. For example, philanthropy funded research released last year showing Government is significantly underfunding core social services that they contract not for profits to deliver. Philanthropy New Zealand continues to discuss with Government how to make progress in this area.

Business is showing increasing understanding of their need to strengthen the communities within which they operate. Employees help this when they prefer workplaces that demonstrate social and environmental responsibility, and millennials are widely credited for influencing employers to give more.

I encourage businesses to read this report and think about their role in the findings. Employers have a positive impact due to the employment they provide, but there’s more they can do to support staff and their communities.

Individual action, the power of the people, can perhaps have the biggest impact. In addition to exercising our influence in general and local body elections we can volunteer, we can donate, we can speak up when we hear discrimination, and we can help those who need it. People needing support are down the street, going to school with our children, in the neighbouring suburb, in our workplaces, and standing beside us at the supermarket check-out.

Thank you to the Salvation Army for continuing to produce this valuable report. Now it’s up to all of us – philanthropy, business, and individuals as well as Government, to act on the findings. Because in the Salvation Army’s words “everyone is our neighbour”.

Philanthropy New Zealand is the peak body for the philanthropic sector and it works to inspire more and better philanthropy and ensure an eco-system that encourages giving. Its members include: funders who invest in the areas the report highlights and; community organisations delivering services to improve wellbeing, including the Salvation Army. www.philanthropy.org.nz