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Meet Rainbow Youth's new General Manager

Sat 7 Sep 2013 In: Community View at Wayback View at NDHA

Duncan Matthews, the newly-appointed General Manager of Rainbow Youth, aims to make a difference to the organisation and to the gay community. The day of our interview is Matthews’ first day in the Rainbow Youth office as the General Manager of the country's primary peer support and advocacy organisation run by and for glbti people between the ages of thirteen and twenty eight. The energetic 26-year old new leader of Rainbow Youth stepped in on September 2nd to replace Thomas Hamilton. Matthews had previously been the chairperson of Rainbow Youth for fourteen months. Matthews is also currently a product manager at Localist. His previous role for Localist was as a team leader for the software development team. Asked why is he taking up this role besides his other full-time job, the youth leader who seems to enjoy working hard and overcoming challenges says he is happy performing two different jobs that will not only keep him occupied, and that the two jobs will feed into each other, each benefitting the other along the way. Matthews decided to go for this role after it had been vacant for three months following the departure of Tom Hamilton because he was “really passionate about Rainbow Youth”. He did not immediately apply for the role after Hamilton left. But after three months of reflection, Matthews decided that he was capable of committing to Rainbow Youth and offered himself. A NEW SKILL-SET He acknowledges that this role is “very, very different” from being a product manager but feels he is bringing with him a useful skill-set. “I think I am good at managing people, and as the chairperson of the board, I have been facilitating the board and the management of people, and I am quite familiar with people management”. As a new GM, Matthews understands that he will inevitably be compared to his predecessor. Asked what sets him apart from Hamilton, Matthews says: “there will be a bit more of a financial business focus… as well as more focus on a cost-effective way to run the organisation”. Matthews also happily points out that his IT background has provided him “a few more technical skills than Hamilton.” Rainbow Youth is in the progress of moving towards a fully cloud-based working system. This means that the staff can do and manage most things via technological means, such as the internet, and hence, they are not required to be at the centre most of the time. Matthews is also responsible for the restructuring of staff, and this move has seen two full-time staff positions changed to six part-time staff, which is hoped to be cost saving. There has also been an introduction of a clear and concise delegation of roles, which according to Matthews, “less distraction for people who is trying to do their thing.” Under this restructuring, each staffer is assigned tasks accordingly to their specific role and position. SUSTAINABLE FUNDING Sponsorship and funding are issues for all community organisaions. One of the biggest challenges that Rainbow Youth is facing is “trying to achieve our dreams and goals, as well as what is in our strategies with some of the limited resources that we have and that we can access,” says Matthews. One of his goals is to secure and sustain funding. The WTF campaign that ran during early last year was one way for them to attract donations and funding and they are still trying to expand the campaign to “suits our needs and the community's needs, and of course, for personal donations as well,” says Matthews. Another campaign will launching towards the end of this year. Rainbow Youth is also benefitting from on-going corporate sponsorship and a priority for Matthews is on-going funding, “not just money for now, but money that we can count on in the future.” Under Matthews’ initiative Rainbow Youth and OUTline have met to discuss on the possibilities of future joint venturing and collaboration. “I am really excited [at] being able to work closely with other organisations to achieve our common goals”, he says. COMING TOGETHER One of the plans that these two organisations envisioned in their meeting was the idea of a Pride Centre. Matthews idea of a Pride Centre is about having a centralised building or location that brings together a variety of support services and organisations from the gay community. This could, in his view, possibly see organisations such as Body Positive, the NZ AIDS Foundation, GenderBridge join OUTline and Rainbow Youth under one roof, a convenient one-stop shop for people who need assistance. Matthews also hopes that this might help extend the community’s access to more “mainstream support services” with District Health Board and Affinity services dropping by the Pride Centre for weekly services. “It’s about creating a focus on a physical centre for the gay community,” says Matthews. Matthews’ focus on the significance of space is evident when he is asked what is important for young queer people in our community. “I think is about having a space, whether it is in the centre or online, where they can feel accepted and welcome, being able to ask questions and be themselves. Ultimately, its about creating a safe space for who they are,” he says. Currently around 250 to 300 people drop into their existing Karangahape Road premises each week for group events or just hanging around to talk to someone. “As for our website, we have a solid 2000-3000 page view per month.” This excludes the responses that they also get from other social media, such as Twitter and Tumblr. Rainbow Youth also get in touch with around a thousand New Zealand high school students each year through their education programs. “Our services are quite widely used. We will be monitoring these figures closely for the next six to twelve months for future reference”, says Matthews. Rainbow Youth is also working with the Ministry of Education to produce an evaluation of the usefulness of RY’s own education programs, to be publicly released in mid-October. Matthews says that Rainbow Youth is very interested in maintaining and understanding cultural diversity within the young queer community and would like to promote diversity without causing any unnecessary cultural misunderstanding. He says the board will be discussing this issue in the coming months to create a more effective plan to target these ethnic groups within the community. It may not be a simple project. Matthews notes that a ‘one size fit all’ policy can no longer encapsulate everyone in our society and a mere translation of existing support services and information into other languages will not be effective in the long run.     Joe Lim - 7th September 2013

Credit: Joe Lim

First published: Saturday, 7th September 2013 - 8:06am

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