The Wheelhouse – a changemaker story

About This Project

It’s fair to say that 2020-2021 was a unique year for everyone, especially community groups  supporting Taranaki’s most vulnerable people. COVID-19 meant radical shifts as the landscape continued to change around funding, using technology to connect, and navigating Government guidelines. Offering a beacon of light in that time was The Wheelhouse, Taranaki’s go-to capacity-building organisation.

The Wheelhouse began in 2014, in response to feedback from Community Partnership teams within Councils.  They were seeing duplication and inefficiency when it came to providing capability and support to community groups. Something needed to change. The Bishop’s Action Foundation had strong relationships across the region and a track record of providing capacity building support through their own programme, Keystone Taranaki, which had run since 2006 and as one of the founders of NZ Navigator.  BAF was asked to clarify the opportunity and then set things in motion to establish what became The Wheelhouse, a partnership between eight organisations including each district council of Taranaki. Together these partners share a vision of stronger and more effective community groups.

“It [The Wheelhouse] matters because part of having a thriving region is strong community groups who can deliver social services and social good.” Callum Williamson, New Plymouth District Council

Today, The Wheelhouse offers a wide variety of support, advice and training to community organisations. The Wheelhouse website and training calendar is a hub of best practice and quality resources. “Without that training, community groups wouldn’t have the skills that mean we can be confident in funding them or, they wouldn’t be as effective.”  – reflects Callum. Because of this, and the tailored support available through manager Marcia Millard, the Wheelhouse has built a solid reputation for capacity-building in Taranaki.  It is a model which has gained national interest for it’s collaborative approach.

That long-standing reputation and large reach meant The Wheelhouse was uniquely placed to respond during COVID-19. “We [The Wheelhouse] are so agile and that’s one of the beauties of it” shares Callum, “at The Wheelhouse you go ‘well, let’s do it and see what happens’…. COVID was a perfect example where The Wheelhouse reacted well by acting quickly. Much quicker than it could have if The Wheelhouse was housed within a council.” Training was run online, course topics were altered to cater for the growing uncertainties, and support was readily available to help community groups remain resilient throughout lockdown.

“By having access to this support we are confidently navigating through turbulent waters as community organisations can face from time to time.” – Stratford Community Childcare Centre

Some have described The Wheelhouse as BAF’s flagship project. BAF’s ongoing ability to manage complex relationships, understand Funder needs, identify large-scale opportunities, and provide backbone support through admin and accounting, have all played a role in The Wheelhouse’ success over the years. The need for The Wheelhouse has been reinforced during the Covid-19 pandemic when community groups have faced more uncertainty than ever.

To find out more about The Wheelhouse go to:

Our Impact, Our Impact