Sector Voice/Reo o te tutanga


SEWN advocates for social change and non-profit sector wellbeing through submissions, membership of advisory groups, and awareness-raising. It’s important to us that we reflect the voices of our sector.  Please email your views on any of our current work to

We also welcome debate and discussion of social issues on our Facebook page.  Please note: we support the discussion of free speech and engagement with others, however we reserve the right to remove anything posted to our page that we deem offensive. Please see full protocol on our Facebook page.

Recent work:

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SEWN Press Release 15 March 2017:

Confusion but food for thought in Charities Report

“Confusion over figures and sectors should not obscure some useful insights contained in the recently-released JBWere report The New Zealand Cause Report: Shape of the Charity Sector”, says Social Equity and Wellbeing Network (SEWN) Kaituiora, Sharon Torstonson.

Generally, commentary in the report is careful to differentiate between the entire not-for-profit sector and its smaller subset of charities, but in some places it conflates the two, in other places it’s not clear which is being discussed, and a comparative table contains a mixture of data that creates a misleading picture.

“While the table says that the data is for the whole not-for-profit sector, it’s obvious that some of the figures relate only to the much smaller charity sub-sector”, says Sharon Torstonson.

“The table says that there are 27,380 not-for-profit organisations in New Zealand.  In fact there are over 114,000.  The smaller figure quoted is the number of registered charities in New Zealand.  Figures for the workforce, the shape of the sector, and the income and expenditure all appear to be about the whole sector, while the $40 billion assets quoted are just for the charity sub-sector.  It’s like having a mixture of apples and pears, but calling them all apples.  Because of the differences between the two groups, the figures for one can’t be extrapolated to the other.”

After reviewing trends relating to income, expenditure and assets in both the wider sector and in the charity sector, the report makes a number of predictions for the sector.  One that has made the headlines is the potential for mergers and acquisitions.

“Certainly this theme of ‘there’s too many groups’ is one we hear often in the not-for-profit sector” says Sharon Torstonson.  “While there may be opportunities, it’s difficult to look from the outside in and say where this should happen.  For instance, I could point to Russley, Shirley, McLeans Island and Tai Tapu golf clubs, all registered charities, and suggest that they should merge, but as I know very little about golf there may be very good reasons that I don’t understand as to why not.  It’s the same with social service organisations and other fields in the charities sector.”

Other valuable discussion in the report includes the potential of organisations to self-generate more income, the need for funders to be prepared to fund risk in order to foster innovation, and better availability and use of data.

“In spite of the reservations we have around whether figures and discussion apply to the wider not-for-profit sector or just the charities sector, SEWN really values the insights and analysis that this report contributes”, says Sharon Torstonson.  “We particularly appreciate the way that the report stresses the enormous value of the sector to our society’s wellbeing and applaud JBWere for this recognition.”

The New Zealand Cause Report: Shape of the Charity Sector:


SEWN alerts readers to consultation processes or lobbying initiatives that we think are of particular relevance to the social services sector or to non-profit organisations.  However you can keep an eye out for issues of importance to you or your organisation by regularly visiting the following websites:

Christchurch City Council consultations:

Central government consultations:



Sector meeting with Poto Williams

Labour MP Poto Williams recently met with non-profit sector people to talk about policy for the sector.  The meeting covered a great range of topics, including contracting, our relationship with government, and the extent to which the sector is valued and respected.

SEWN supported the call for the requirement for identifying client data to be scrapped, and for a different approach to government management.  We also agreed with others at the meeting who appreciated the good relationship they had with most local staff of government departments.  The efforts that those staff made to support the sector was appreciated.

We raised our concern that government focuses on only that part of the sector that has service contracts with government, while the far greater part of the sector that builds community resilience and social capital through participation is all but invisible to it.  We want to see government recognise and value the contribution that all of the sector makes to building community wellbeing.

We also spoke about our concern that ministries are accountable to their ministers only for the direct outcomes they are required to deliver.  For instance, the Ministry of Education is accountable to the Minister of Education only for education outcomes, and was not accountable for the social or community impact of school closures after the earthquakes.

Finally, we also called for an end to the tired old claim of ‘too many groups’ and calls for amalgamations.  We know that community groups are an essential part of building social capital, but nobody knows how many groups are needed for optimal social and community wellbeing.  How then do we know that we have too many groups?

SEWN would love to hear about your wish list for policy for the nonprofit sector.  Share your thoughts on our Facebook page, or email


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