MALCOLM CAMERON

PUTTING UNITY BACK INTO COMMUNITY
Malcolm Cameron

Malcolm Cameron is the founder of the Malcam Charitable Trust, a major provider of youth development and transition-to-work programmes in the Otago region. He is a passionate advocate for giving young people as many chances as necessary until they connect with their dreams. He is equally passionate about weaving together as many community, business and government organisations as possible to ensure that all young people have opportunities to learn and work.
Over the past 20 years, Cameron has been a serial social entrepreneur who has had a guiding hand in launching or supporting the establishment of over 60 programmes and services in Otago — including the Youth Service Corps, Conservation Corps, Logan Park Services Academy, the Princes Trust, 4 Trades, SuperGrans, and the Bargain Barn. He has also developed a track record for innovative fundraising to support these initiatives. In doing so, he has developed a unique perspective on how to manage successful programmes, and how to sustain community involvement in all these activities. • When asked why he works with young people, Malcolm Cameron has a simple reply:

“I’m one of them, I really am”. He looks at many of the young people who come to the Malcam Trust programmes and he sees himself at a similar age. “I didn’t engage with the education system in my own youth … I passed wind and water when I was at school, and that was it. I was bone lazy. So I can easily empathise with so many of the young people we work with today.” Cameron was forbidden by his family to leave school until he had a job, so (without telling his parents) he went to the Union Steamship Company and found work as an office junior. He immediately found that having a real job was the education he was looking for, 1

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and he quickly developed a whole new set of skills. Nine months later, when his father took ill, Cameron assumed the management of the family’s building and decorating business in Temuka. He later went on to manage hotels, sawmills, a transport company and a golf club. Cameron first began working with young people in the mid 1980s when he became a supervisor on the Dunedin Salvation Army community work scheme. After seven years of this work, he felt critical of the support and training on offer for the young people in his city, and felt he could probably do it better. When he was made redundant from his Salvation Army job, he realised it was an opportunity give it a go — and the Malcam Trust was born. Cameron: “I believe we’ve made getting a real job almost unreachable for a lot of young people. The trouble with leaving them on the unemployment benefit, or putting them onto the schemes that don’t lead to a real job, is that they are left without the expectation that there’s a job out there for them somewhere. If you’d tried that game with me as a teenager, it wouldn’t have worked — you’d have copped it all back in your face! Yes, we need a safety net, but they are no use if we don’t genuinely expect people to do something better with their lives and give them the opportunities to get on with it.” Cameron’s approach with the Malcam Trust is one of seeing the potential in all young people, even when they can’t recognise it for themselves. “We’ve got people out there who think you can teach self-esteem, as if it is some sort of learning objective. It’s not. Selfesteem is something you build. And you build it from sticking at things and building success upon success. When the ability to have a real job is taken away from young people, then they never get to do this building process. Young people are just like the rest of us — they need to be doing something real and needed. That’s one of the most
Malcolm Cameron at the NZSEF Retreat

basic building blocks of self esteem.” • The Malcam Trust annually works with about 100 adults and 500 young people on its

various training and development programmes. They have had a high level of success with these programmes, with over 80% of the participants going on to full-time employment, or onto further education and training. The first Malcam Trust programmes to be established were the Conservation Corps and the Youth Service Corps. These programmes have been run in partnership with the Ministry of Youth Development, and are for young people aged 16-24 years who need a hand to get to a level where they can seek work. Today, the trust runs two 12-week full-time youth development programmes — one is based in Central Otago (and is residential), and the other is based in Dunedin City. Cameron: “The students who attend these courses are mainly those who have not coped with school for a variety of reasons or they are finding it difficult to obtain employment. Sometimes they just need to grow up a bit, but on their own terms. Getting these people out of Dunedin, and throwing them into a residential situation — where they have to work together — is often a real revelation to them.”

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Another Malcam Trust initiative is the Services Academy based at Logan Park High School. This was established for students with an interest in working in government services such as the police, army, navy, air force, customs or the fire service. This full-year course takes up to 20 young people, and uses the physical and mental disciplines of the military to build confidence and self-esteem, as well as life and employment skills. The Malcam Trust has also worked in closely with the Limited Services Volunteers preemployment course which is run at the Burnham Military Camp. When the young people return to Dunedin from this six-week residential scheme, the trust mentors and supports them until they find full-time jobs. The trust has also run a variety of alternative education programmes for 13-15 year olds who have been excluded from the mainstream school system for various behaviour issues, or for minor offences. These young people are encouraged to reconnect with the education system as well as being taught essential life skills such as cooking, budgeting and literacy. The trust also works closely with their parents to help them support the young people in this time of transition. Some of the Malcam Trust’s training components are provided in a modular form. This means that whereas the trust used to work with 30-40 people on a full-time course, it now works with up to 300 people on learning units that target the areas that are really of use to them. Cameron: “We might only need to work with them for five days, and then they are ready to go out and find a job. They really don’t need to do a 20-week training course in order to get that five days of relevant learning. We just believe it’s much better for us to spend our time helping them find a real job.” • A feature of the youth development programmes is the recreational challenges built

(top left) a Malcam Trust Work Readiness programme (top right) recreational challenges - Rock climbing at Long Beach in Dunedin

into each course. These activities help the participants stretch themselves beyond their perceived limits and, in so doing, helps them build confidence and resilience in other areas of their lives. The challenges can include abseiling, kayaking, yachting, white water rafting, snow caving, rock climbing, horse riding, mountain biking, snow boarding, tramping and camping.

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Some of the young participants may also get to walk the Kepler track in Fiordland at the end of their programme — this is a four-day 68km walk that for many can be real stretch. The other key component is community service. In its first 12 years, Malcam Trust programme participants have contributed more than 400,000 hours of voluntary work on various activities in the Otago region. This has included community work with the Central Otago Rail Trail, the Yellow Eyed Penguin Trust, the Sinclair Wetlands, the Orokonui Ecosanctuary, and maintaining the ice luge and curling rink at Naseby. Cameron has also been exploring opportunities for course participants to do community service beyond the Otago region: “It struck me when I was with a group of our young people who were doing some voluntary work on a landscaping project, that they were doing much the same thing that some of them also had to do when they turned up on weekends for Periodic Detention run by our Corrections Department. I thought then, “We’ll have to do something better than that!”. “So, with the help of the local Rotary club, I organised a group of 14 young people and their mentors to travel to Kathmandu in Nepal. They worked alongside local crafts and trades people to create a Garden of Tranquility for patients in a charitable cancer hospital in Bhaktapur. It was a trip that opened the eyes of everyone to a much bigger world than Dunedin and Otago. And they also got to appreciate, in a different way, what they have here at home as well.” • One of the Malcam Trust’s biggest success stories has been in establishing the 4Trades

apprenticeship programme, which has become a role model in its field. 4Trades was started in 2002 when Cameron realised that while New Zealand was experiencing high youth unemployment, it was also experiencing serious skill shortages in the
Malcam Trust voluntary workers maintaining the Ice luge at Naseby, Otago

trades — from carpenters, electricians, plumbers, to fitters and turners, glaziers and auto mechanics. What was happening here was a breakdown of the established apprenticeship system because tight economic times had put too much strain on the traditional “one

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Putting Unity Back Into Community

4Trades apprentice working with stained glass

company” apprenticeship programmes. Cameron started to identify some of the factors that were discouraging many trades businesses from taking on new apprentices. These included the businesses not wanting to be burdened with paperwork, and being unwilling to guarantee work for the entirety of a three-year apprenticeship. In establishing 4Trades, the Malcam Trust set out to address these issues by taking on the employer commitments, doing the administration required by the national apprenticeship scheme, arranging block training courses, and supervising the completion of industry assignments. 4 Trades also directly pays the apprentice, and often pays for their work boots, overalls and a basic tool kit for their chosen trade. By directly taking on these employer commitments, 4Trades is able to place the young apprentices with a variety of different businesses. This relieves the employers of the risks of taking on an apprentice during tight economic times, and gives the young people exposure to different working situations and provides a more rounded education in the trade. And if things don’t work out with one employer, or if that business runs out of work, then 4Trades can find the apprentice a placement in another business. This ongoing support continues until the apprentice gains a National Certificate in their chosen trade. The innovations of 4Trades have been part of a nationwide movement for change within the apprenticeship system, and many of the ideas have become an accepted part of the government’s own “Modern Apprenticeship” programmes. Cameron: “It’s a win-win-win situation. Businesses win because they get a qualified tradesperson and build the future workforce of their industry. The young people win because they gain qualifications without having to take on a student loan. And the wider community wins because there are many more tradespeople around.” Today, 4Trades has about 70 young apprentices, and has been set up as a separate trust that has been renamed “For Trades”, and runs in partnership with the Dunedin Chamber of Commerce. It has also expanded its operations into the Canterbury region. And Cameron takes some pride in explaining that this programme now requires no central government funding at all. It is fully funded by the businesses themselves, with local financial backing from the Dunedin City Council economic development unit, and the Dunedin Community Trust.

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Managing and co-ordinating such a diversity of programmes and courses is an excep-

tional challenge in itself. And Malcolm Cameron is so consistently self-depreciating, that you could easily underestimate the skills he personally brings to this task. He most often points to his staff, his board members, the volunteers, the funders and supporting businesses, and the young people themselves, as the main reasons for the success of the Malcam Trust. Cameron: “My only skill is in employing people who are smarter than me, and I know that nothing would get done if it wasn’t for the way that our staff step up to a challenge that is above and beyond most regular jobs. And the strengths behind all our programmes is really in the partnerships that we have been able to develop. My job has just been to encourage everyone to work together in ways that they probably hadn’t thought of yet.” What makes the Malcam Trust quite different to many other social service providers is that they have not tried to be proprietorial about any particular programmes, or carve out or defend a “market share” in the training or social services “industry”. Cameron says he just isn’t too concerned about who gets the credit or the ownership of successful programmes … as long as they achieve their objectives. The Malcam Trust has often helped incubate many new initiatives and programmes which have later branched off into separate trusts, or businesses of their own. Some examples of this have included the establishment in the Otago region of Neighbourhood Support (a group which works closely with the police to reduce crime and improve safety in communities), the Prince’s Trust (which provides life skills and work experience programs to disadvantaged and unemployed youth), Supergrans (a network of volunteers who help people brush up on the basic skills needed to provide for themselves or their families), and Launchpad (which places young people directly in office jobs and supports them to attend polytechnic training). The Malcam Trust has also established several community enterprises which can provide real jobs for people who have come through their training programmes. An early example of this has been a contract at the Dunedin Botanic Gardens where the trust provides trained workers to do gardening and landscaping work. And Cameron has been instrumental in establishing the Restore Bargain Barn, another successful community enterprise which is run by a group of volunteers selling donated second-hand goods, books and furniture. • Funding for Malcam Trust programmes has come from many sources, including con-

tracts with government agencies, corporate sponsorship, grants and philanthropy. Cameron has established a reputation as a very tenacious fundraiser — not just through setting up community enterprises, but also by staging charity dinners and competitions, theatre nights, golf tournaments, and constantly talking with a wide variety of local business groups and service clubs. One of his more high-profile funding initiatives is the annual Jaffa Race, or the “Racing of the Balls” which takes place during Dunedin’s Chocolate Carnival. Dunedin has a Cadbury factory which produces most of New Zealand’s chocolate, and the Jaffas are round balls of orange candy-coated chocolate which have been a popular confectionery since they were first produced in 1931.

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The annual Jaffa race involves rolling 30,000 giant Jaffa balls down Dunedin’s Baldwin Street (officially recognised in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s steepest public street). More than 15,000 people turn up to see the spectacle, which is over quickly — the winning balls can take as little as 15 seconds to tumble down to the finish line. Each giant Jaffa ball is individually numbered by hand, corresponding to race tickets which are sold all over New Zealand. The money raised goes to support the programmes at the Malcam Trust, and other local charities. Alongside these fundraising initiatives for the Malcam Trust, Cameron has worked with Trustpower and the Rotary Club of St Kilda, to create the Trustpower Lend a Hand Foundation. This is a philanthropic initiative that gives small grants to individuals and other community groups in need. This initiative has proved so useful that Trustpower has replicated it on the West Coast, in Central Otago, and in Snowtown (in South Australia). • Behind these achievements with the Malcam Trust is a personal willingness by

The Annual Giant Jaffa Race down Dunedin’s Baldwin Street – the world’s steepest public street.

Cameron, and his family, to do and sacrifice whatever it takes to make these projects happen. For many years in the early days of establishing the trust, Cameron never went on holiday and he never drew a salary while his wife Annabel supported the family with the income from her job at a local bank. Even now, the Camerons say they would sell their house for the trust, if it was necessary. In 2004, this extraordinary level of commitment and contribution was recognised by the Dunedin community when the TV1 Mucking In television programme surprised the Camerons by giving their garden a complete make-over and building a new deck on their home. Cameron: “We’ve achieved a lot on the smell of an oily rag. People think that Annabel and I have made sacrifices, but we don’t see it like that at all. Annabel supported me to follow a dream, really, and it’s been of huge value. Her support allowed me to be independent, and to give things a go. It has meant that I could instantly respond to the needs of my community.” Despite his obvious skills at fundraising, Cameron’s general philosophy is that if he waited for the money to turn up first, then half of his programmes and enterprises probably would never have happened. He sees the most valuable component in a new community venture as not being the money — but the commitment, ingenuity and persistence of the people trying to bring a project to life.

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He tells the story of his frustrations at a meeting called to discuss whether they should set up the Bargain Barn second-hand store: “I got so annoyed with people not being able to make up their minds as to whether we should do it or not. So I stood up, and threw a dollar on the table, and said, ‘There’s the working capital. Are you in or out?’ Five years later, the profits from the Bargain Barn are making a substantial contribution to the running costs of both the Malcam Trust and Habitat for Humanity.” • In 2007, when Cameron joined the Social Entrepreneur Fellowship, he was already beginning to personally re-assess his views on the effectiveness of his youth development programmes, and the longerterm sustainability of the Malcam Trust. Cameron: “When I joined the fellowship, I was realising that I may have reached the stage where my strategies for change were getting past their use-by date. I was feeling that the Malcam Trust was starting to be controlled by external agencies like government departments. The contracts I was being asked to sign were all paranoia and political correctness. These agencies were trying to transfer all the responsibility to us and I thought they were almost trying to contract their way out of their own role as partners. And alongside that, we were being given budgets to work with that I felt were just not adequate to meet the needs of our programmes.” “For me, there have been some big question marks here. I have sat in this industry for over 20 years, and it’s all become self-perpetuating. We are not really telling the truth to one another that it is unsustainable to continue to do it the way we are doing it right now. Someone
Malcolm and Annabel Cameron

has to stand back and ask, Are our young people really getting any closer to finding opportunities and achieving their own dreams? I just feel that the community has lost its voice in all of this. And I deeply believe that this work has to be community-driven, and not just driven by the government agencies and their contractors.” Cameron says that when he attended his first fellowship retreat, he felt he had finally met up with people who knew exactly what he was concerned about. Although the different fellowship members were working in different areas, many of them were also facing similar issues: “The fellowship has been the ideal environment for me to explore the innovations that will take my work into its next stage. I’ve learned about community development approaches that will take the work back to the citizens that we are serving. And I have started to challenge myself about changing my focus from delivering services and programmes ... to creating the conditions where these services and programmes will never be needed again.” Cameron decided to change the way that the Malcam Trust boards work, so that the individual trustees could become more involved and be more of a direct community voice into the programmes. There were 38 trustees spread across various initiatives, and they now have job descriptions and report back to the board on areas of their own interest. These trustees

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also now work directly with key staff members from the Malcam Trust and help build the necessary connections with other associated agencies. Cameron: “The breakthrough for me came when I realised that they are very keen to be more directly involved. And when I go to meetings now, a lot of the reports that are presented aren’t mine. That immediately brought me so much more space to do my own work, while at the same time achieving my goal of getting the community much more engaged with the affairs of the trust.” Cameron has also established a youth board alongside the main trust, with the chairman of the youth board representing their views at Malcam Trust meetings. The Malcam Trust has also now set up a community hub in central Dunedin which will act as an incubator space for several youth group and community services. Cameron says that this new venture won’t be a drop-in centre, but a place where the Malcam Trust can support and mentor others to take on their own community initiatives, and social enterprises. “I’m saying that if I honestly believe in the words that I am using, and want to bring community back into play, then its going to be the young people who are going to drive it. It’s about saying, Hey, it’s your turn. I’ve had my day. I’m happy to be a mentor and encourager. But I need to give you the space to make your own mistakes and to chalk up your own achievements.” • In 2008, with the support of the Social Entrepreneur Fellowship, Cameron travelled

to Ontario in Canada to attend the Tamarack Institute training in Collaborating Communities which focused on issues such as poverty reduction, crime prevention, youth engagement, and community building activities. One of the main things that Cameron says he gained from this training was a reaffirmation of the need for a wider community dialogue behind his own initiatives for change: “What I have learned is that, sure, I can get the results, and I can get the programmes up and running, and run them well … but I can also lose the real community connections that are necessary to making all this work sustainable. That’s the perspective that I am trying to build back into my work right now. It’s the deeper conversations that
Malcam Trust Alexandra Group on the Kepler Track

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Malcom Cameron with Robin Allison and George Salmond (SIIG Group) in conversation at the NZSEF Retreat

build these community connections and engagement … and you can’t hurry it along just because you are impatient to come up with results.” In 2010, Cameron stepped down from management role at the Malcam Trust, and a new chief executive was appointed to bring a fresh drive and vision to the day-to-day affairs of the trust. Cameron continues to be involved behind the scenes, but he says his main passion now is to try and generate much more citizen involvement and engagement in the community sector. Cameron has embarked on a speaking tour around New Zealand on the theme of “Putting Unity Back into Community”. Together with his wife Annabel, he is talking to high schools, meetings of Lions and Rotary clubs, and to business seminars — sharing the stories and experiences of the Malcam Trust, and encouraging people to think about their own passions and dreams for their communities. “Putting unity back into the community at its simplest form means talking to your neighbours. So I am just getting on the road and getting the conversations started. Despite whatever is happening with central and local government, nothing we do is ever going to be sustainable unless the community is more deeply engaged. One of my main drivers now is to encourage people to sit down and think about where we are at in our communities, and think about what it is they can do to make a difference.”

Notes and Links
• This article by vivian Hutchinson is part of the how communities heal project — stories of social innovation and social change featuring members of the New Zealand Social Entrepreneur Fellowship. It is available online at tinyurl.com/hchcameron • Malcolm Cameron can be contacted at malcam@xtra.co.nz or at the Malcam Trust, PO Box 422, Dunedin 9054 • The Malcam Trust website is at www.malcam.co.nz

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• Malcam Trust in Nepal … the “Garden of Tranquility” for patients in a Cancer Hospital in Bhaktapur was undertaken in partnership with social entrepreneur Ray Avery from Medicine Mondiale. • 4Trades programme ... see also 4Trades at www.jobsletter.org.nz/cat/cat04.htm. This programme was originally supported by the Employment Catalyst fund of the New Zealand Mayors Taskforce for Jobs. It is now known as For Trades. • The annual Jaffa race … see the Chocolate Carnival at www.chocolatecarnival.co.nz • Trustpower Lend a Hand Foundation ... see www.trustpower.co.nz/index.php?section=358. • TV1 “Mucking In” (2004) on Malcolm and Annabel Cameron tvnz.co.nz/content/436036/2621921.html • Tamarack Institute training in Collaborating Communities (15-19 September 2008). See http://tamarackcommunity.ca/cci2008.html • “Unstinting Champion of the Young” and “The Kids are All Right” by Kim Dungey in the Otago Daily Times 22 May 2010. Photographs by Jane Dawber. • Malcolm Cameron comments taken from workshop presentations at the NZ Social Entrepreneur Fellowship Retreats at Long Bay 2007 – 2009, and at the NZSEF Social Innovation Dialogue on Youth Issues August 2008, and the Philanthropy New Zealand conference, Te Papa, Wellington March 2009. Also catch-up interviews with vivian Hutchinson 13 June 2008, and interview for HOW COMMUNITIES HEAL project 27 July 2010. • More articles in this series, and further information on the HOW COMMUNITIES HEAL project can be found at www.nzsef.org.nz/howcommunitiesheal • If you want to be notified of future releases of articles in this series, you can sign-up for our mailing list at tinyurl.com/HCHsign-up • Comments and conversations on this project are encouraged on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/howcommunitiesheal • This project is on Twitter at @HowCommHeal using the tags #HowCH and #socent • The online publication of the HOW COMMUNITIES HEAL project has been made possible by the Bishop’s Action Foundation. • Funding for this project has also come from several individual donors, the Jobs Research Trust, the Social Innovation Investment Group, and the Tindall Foundation. • ISBN 978-1-927176-17-7. The HOW COMMUNITIES HEAL project is a not-for-profit resource that is licensed for distribution under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/nz/

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