Do-Gooder Profile: Matt Dagger, Kaibosh

Posted by | September 10, 2015 | Career spotlight



Photo credit: Pat Shepherd

Matt Dagger is a man who clearly loves his job. He’s been the General Manager of Kaibosh for four years, a charity focused on food rescue in the Wellington region. In his own words, Kaibosh has “gone nuts” over the past few years and recently hit a milestone – rescuing enough food for over 1 million meals and passing it on to people in need.  Here’s the low-down about Matt’s work, career path, along with inspiration and advice for those who want to do-good (and those who already are…)

To use a common job interview opener, tell us a bit about yourself and more specifically your career path?

I initially had no real clear career path planned. As many Kiwis do, I went overseas and ended up working in hospitality – working in bars, hotels and restaurants – which I continued doing when I returned to NZ. I eventually became really disillusioned so I threw it in and started working at the other end of the spectrum, in Community Services, for the Wellington City Mission. Mine was initially just a short-term contract, but I stayed for three years. I become really interested in ‘bottom-up’ social development – trying to empower struggling people to move them from dependency into independence.

One of the programmes at the City Mission was a food bank programme. We were giving food parcels to people that were full of starch – packet and canned food – with very little fresh stuff  and it use to drive me nuts!

Then Kaibosh popped up and started delivering fruit and vegetables. I was really passionate about what they were doing and had also gained some experience with funding, so around three and a half years ago when the job opportunity for a full-time General Manager of Kaibosh came up, I leaped at it.

Tell us a bit about Kaibosh and your involvement?

About eight years ago Robin and George, the founders, started Kaibosh. They were initially at the coalface collecting and sorting food. I come on board at the time when the organisation was starting to pick up steam – people were becoming really aware of food waste and it was shortly after the GFC so issues of poverty were in people’s faces.

At the time I started people were throwing themselves at us to help because Kaibosh was a small grassroots organisation doing practical stuff and the surge in support and growth of the organisation was nuts. This amazing community support toward our work continues – it’s extremely humbling and very encouraging.

One of the ways we measure Kaibosh’s impact is by kilos of food rescued – in the past three years we have gone from recovering 2,000 kilos of food a month to now anywhere up to 15,000 kilos a month. 350 grams is roughly a meal so this year we’ve hit the equivalent of 1 million meals since the start of Kaibosh in 2008.

As Food waste and minimisation has become more topical people often turn to me and say “what’s your stance on this Matt”, and I give my opinion and I think how on earth did this happen! I’ve had to educate myself and I’m learning all of this as I go along as well – I’m the first to admit it! I’m forever waiting for someone to tap me on the shoulder and throw me out and shout “trespasser”!

What’s happening in the world of Matt Dagger in 2015?

Well we’re opening a new base for Kaibosh in Lower Hutt to extend our reach so I’m pretty focused on this. I’m also about to finish a long Unitec course and… my partner and I are having our first baby…! An easy year ahead huh!?

What is something that has greatly influenced your career?

I started on the Unitec Not For Profit Diploma when I was at the City Mission and I’ve kept on doing it. Everything is a bit different in the Not For Profit sector – because it’s values-based it has quite a different set of skills and expectations and you need different knowledge of how to manage people, money and budgets etc. So this course has been a massive influence for me and my career development.

What’s your one best piece of advice for getting into the charity sector?

Volunteer. Start with volunteering and volunteer in different parts of the sector that interest you. You might think you want to work with disadvantaged people and think it will be a feel-good role, but you can be dealing with really difficult people and situations. The reality is that it’s not right for everybody, so I recommend going and trying it out first.

Weirdest job experience?

On my OE I spent four months working on a lettuce farm in the Japanese mountains when I was travelling and ran out of money – that was pretty weird!

Most inspiring author and why?

There are so many. For me a really influential author would be John Steinbeck whose most famous book was “Grapes of Wrath”.

It is all about inequalities of the ‘system’ that led to huge migration and displacement in the US. Steinbeck always pointed out the folly of not doing really simple things to change and improve the system for the benefit of all.

I feel that a lot of this is being mirrored in our modern society. There are really important things that we need to do to stop the increasing social and economic inequality that we are experiencing but, for various reasons, we aren’t seeing a commitment from our current leadership.

How do you manage work life balance?

Mine’s really out of balance! My board have just had me on about taking some of my holidays. I’m fortunate in that I really love my job and am passionate about what I do, so am happy to work hard but you do need to be able to switch off when you leave work and in the weekends – so turn your emails off, take your email off your phone.

You have to rest your mind – but I have a lot to learn here myself!


Learn: Read John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath
Connect: to a charity career by volunteering, and try lots of different places
Act: Donate to support Kaibosh’s work!

By Julia Capon

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