Ki Te Hoe
Innovating into the future
For generations, Māori have been increasingly disadvantaged in New Zealand society, a fact reflected by disproportionate representation of Māori in low-paid, unskilled professions, and in the criminal justice system. While the settlement of the Ngāi Tahu claim allowed the iwi to re-establish their economic base and build political clout, it was never equipped to reverse the effects of 200 years of colonisation. Twenty years on from settlement, Ngāi Tahu are now in a position to address the social inequities that confront our whānau, and Tokona Te Raki: Māori Futures Collective is paving the way with social innovation. Nā Anna Brankin.
It’s been a big year for Dr Eruera (Eru) Tarena. In March, the report Change Agenda: Income Equity for Māori was released to parliament by Hon. Willie Jackson, the Minister of Employment and Associate Minister for Māori Development; Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu; and Business and Economic Research Limited (BERL). Eru worked on this report alongside Hillmare Schulze and Sam Green from BERL. In June, the organisation he heads transitioned from Te Tapuae o Rēhua to the newly-created Tokona Te Raki: Māori Futures Collective, and in July received a $1.4 million grant from the Peter McKenzie Project of the J R McKenzie Trust.
“We’re starting the conversation around the future we want our kids to inherit, and laying the foundations, the tūāpapa, for them,” he says. “That’s not a new thing – think back to the Ngāi Tahu claim, and all those whānau who mortgaged their homes to support it, knowing they’d never get a cent back. They were contributing to a prosperity they’d never see in their lifetime, for the sake of their mokopuna.”
According to Eru (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Porou, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui), the challenge is to build upon this foresight and generosity by instigating massive social change.
“We have to rewire the system so that instead of having it geared against our people, it creates the conditions for them to thrive and succeed. Until now we’ve been building solutions around the system, but it’s a complex systemic issue which requires a complex and systemic solution. There is no silver bullet – it will require a range of efforts across multiple spaces and sectors.”
He quickly rattles off a list of statistics that highlight the stark reality facing Māori today. Only 16 per cent of Māori hold an advanced qualification, compared to 30 per cent of the country’s workforce. The unemployment rate for Māori is nine per cent – double the national rate. 43 per cent of the Māori workforce is clustered in the two job categories most likely to be negatively affected by automation (office and administration, and manufacturing and production).
“On top of this, our population is set to grow by 80 per cent, and our youth population will double,” Eru explains. “If we maintain the status quo, we can expect those inequities of employment, income, and educational achievement to grow at the same rate as the population.”
When you consider the history of colonisation in Aotearoa, it’s not hard to understand how these inequities came to be. “We’ve had the trauma of land loss, as well as multiple pieces of legislation that purposefully marginalised Māori from the economy,” Eru says. “This led to poor outcomes for Māori, and the system – in the sense of health, employment, and in particular, education – continues to reproduce those outcomes.
“Our society wouldn’t allow this to occur for Pākehā. If the system was delivering the same outcomes for everyone, instead of just for Māori, it wouldn’t be acceptable.”
But the time is ripe for change, says Eru, because the effects of social inequity are beginning to be felt by the wider population. “We are facing a unique scenario where Pākehā Baby Boomers are leaving the workforce, and higher numbers of rangatahi Māori are entering it. That means that a thriving young Māori workforce is actually critical to the wellbeing of that ageing Pākehā population.”
The widening impact of inequity on the New Zealand economy was one of the primary focuses of the Change Agenda: Income Equity for Māori report.
“The report was significant because it simplified a whole lot of different data sets to make them quite easy to read, and for the first time it connected education opportunities with economic outcomes,” Eru explains. “It starts to give a clear picture of the benefits of Māori success, by putting a dollar figure on it.”
That dollar figure is very compelling, with the report concluding that inequalities in education, employment, and income for Māori are costing the New Zealand economy $2.6 billion per year – a number that will increase to $4.3 billion by 2040 if it is not addressed.
“We come from a proud history of navigators and explorers, traversing oceans and carving out a place for ourselves in Te Waipounamu. However, colonisation shifted us from change-makers to change-takers, so the challenge facing us now is to reclaim that mindset and return to being change-makers.”
Dr Eruera (Eru) Tarena
Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Porou, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui
Eru says the response to the report has been positive, but is quick to advise that it is just the beginning. “The report was about building the case for change,” he says. “The next steps will be about instigating that change.”
To facilitate that change, in June Te Tapuae o Rehua (TTOR) transitioned to Tokona Te Raki: Māori Futures Collective – a Ngāi Tahu-led collaborative focused on systems change to boost Māori outcomes. TTOR was focused on incentivising education, originally by offering scholarships, and later by partnering with tertiary institutions throughout Te Waipounamu to offer a suite of training programmes.
In his eyes, the recent transition represents just another phase in the organisation’s evolution. “It’s a shift from programme leadership to systems leadership,” Eru says. “The successes we’ve created over the last 18 years mean that we needed to build a new waka – one that meets the emerging needs of our whānau.”
To do so, Eru and the team at Tokona Te Raki are immersing themselves in the concept of social innovation – a complex field that Eru says becomes easier to understand when you consider that Ngāi Tahu as an iwi has its origins in social change. “We come from a proud history of navigators and explorers, traversing oceans and carving out a place for ourselves in Te Waipounamu,” he explains. “However, colonisation shifted us from change-makers to change-takers, so the challenge facing us now is to reclaim that mindset and return to being change-makers.”
To implement this aspiration, Eru has enlisted the help of Rangimārie Mules (Ngāti Māmoe, Te Āti Awa, Ngāi Tahu – Kāti Huirapa ki Puketeraki, Te Rūnanga o Ōtākou, Te Taumutu Rūnanga). Her work in the space of social innovation and disruptive thinking, and familiarity with the iwi, made Rangimārie a natural fit. She is part of Oi (to disrupt or agitate), a collective of wāhine Māori who have been working with the staff of Tokona Te Raki as they embark on this journey of social change.
“Social innovation and disruptive thinking are difficult terms to explain because everyone has a different interpretation, and in fact I think we constrain ourselves if we try too hard to define them,” Rangimārie says. “There is a tendency to think of social change in terms of the Big Bang theory, where an explosion happens and suddenly things are different. But it’s actually about long-term, enduring, and intergenerational change.”
“I think wāhine have a special touch with disruptive thinking and change. But we can’t do it alone, because a lot of the problems in our communities are felt most strongly by our tāne. We have to balance the mana wāhine against the mana tāne; we have to value generational strengths.”
Rangimārie and her colleagues are working to demystify jargon like social innovation and disruptive thinking by contextualising them in te ao Māori – a step that she believes is a natural fit. “The demand for Māori thinking within social innovation is huge,” she says. “Our approach to social complexities has always been to meet them with our own tikanga and our own whakaaro. Mātauranga Māori is already cyclical; it’s already complex and simple all in the same package.”
According to Rangimārie, there is also a tendency to assume that only certain people or personalities can be social innovators – an assumption she says is completely untrue. “We need to embrace diversity and create forums where collaboration is fundamental to how we work,” she says. “Our younger generation have been brought up with looser boundaries – they’re super dynamic and adaptive. But do they have the stability of culture and identity that the older generation has?
“I think wāhine have a special touch with disruptive thinking and change,” she continues. “But we can’t do it alone, because a lot of the problems in our communities are felt most strongly by our tāne.
We have to balance the mana wāhine against the mana tāne; we have to value generational strengths.”
In her work with Tokona Te Raki, Rangimārie has turned to Aoraki as an example of a system theory – the lofty and immoveable mountain surrounded by the ever-changing environment. “Aoraki is a pillar for our identity, one of the enduring symbols of the iwi,” she says. “We may come and go, but Aoraki remains. So we can stabilise our vision by pinning it to something of depth, like our tribal maunga.”
“We can see the negative statistics keep growing, which means that the status quo is good at perpetuating certain outcomes. So let’s unpick that, and use it to create our own aspirational system. If one system can gather momentum towards negative outcomes, let’s just turn it around and redesign it so it’s geared towards positive outcomes.”
Ngāti Māmoe, Te Āti Awa, Ngāi Tahu – Kāti Huirapa ki Puketeraki, Te Rūnanga o Ōtākou, Te Taumutu Rūnanga
Concepts like social innovation tend to be associated with modern technology like drones and driverless cars, but our tīpuna were modelling these concepts hundreds of years ago. Rangimārie refers to traditional trade routes between the east and west coasts of Te Waipounamu, and the meeting place at Kura Tāwhiti (Castle Hill), where people would gather to trade pounamu from the west and moa from the east. “That was a social lab,” she laughs. “That’s where our people exchanged resources and knowledge, collaborated and shared – and that gives us a frame for the work we’re doing now.”
Rangimārie is adamant that there are also lessons to be learned by deconstructing the existing system to identify its strengths and weaknesses. “We can see the negative statistics keep growing, which means that the status quo is good at perpetuating certain outcomes,” she says. “So let’s unpick that, and use it to create our own aspirational system. If one system can gather momentum towards negative outcomes, let’s just turn it around and redesign it so it’s geared towards positive outcomes.”
Under the guidance of Rangimārie and Oi, the staff at Tokona Te Raki are equipping themselves with the skills and understanding to improve outcomes for Māori and effect widespread change. But they cannot do it alone – nor should they have to. “This problem was not of our making, and it’s facing the nation as a whole,” says Eru. “We need some collective accountability from schools, tertiary education institutions, government, industry, and employers.”
It may seem a daunting prospect, but Eru remains positive as Tokona Te Raki approaches this challenge head on. “There’s a lot of positive energy from our partners, and positive commitment to improving Māori outcomes,” he says. “We now need to create a safe space where treaty partners can come together and innovate for change.”
The work being undertaken by Tokona Te Raki is not unique. Tokona Te Raki is part of a global network of disruptive thinkers tackling social inequity through innovation. Earlier this year Dr Pedro Noguera and Dr Antwi Akom were hosted by Tokona Te Raki, travelling throughout Te Waipounamu to exchange ideas and explore the parallels between the challenges we face here, and those in the United States.
“The United States are facing a similar future to us, in that communities of colour – those that have been on the receiving end of historic injustices and inequities – are now going to be the ones that carry the nation forward,” says Eru. “The work of people like Pedro and Antwi is about designing for the needs of those communities, rather than imposing solutions from without; and that’s something we can learn from.”
Pedro is a sociologist and UCLA Education Professor who runs the Centre for the Transformation of Schools. “My work is focused on how larger societal issues like poverty, inequality, and racism impact schools and young people, and then understanding what schools need to do to counter those adverse conditions,” he says. “There are parallels from the top-down approach to the way we think about schools and education policy in New Zealand and at home in the States.
“The differences lie in the growing movement I’ve seen in Māori communities to revitalise the culture, and that to me is something to learn from.”
Antwi is also focused on community. As well being a Professor specialising in Social Innovation and Urban Opportunity at the University of California, San Francisco, he is co-founder of Streetwyze, a digital platform that allows communities to collate data via user input. “Big data and machine learning are increasingly being used to drive decision-making, meaning that data is influencing every single thing around us,” he explains. “My work is about lifting up the power of local knowledge in low-income communities and communities of colour – vulnerable populations that are often overlooked. Streetwyze democratises data, and allows us to communicate across time and space in ways that we could and didn’t before; giving decision-makers access to data they didn’t even know existed.”
The two weeks spent with Pedro and Antwi was a valuable learning experience for the team at Tokona Te Raki. However, in addition to having knowledge to share, both scholars were impressed by the progress they saw in the Māori community, providing the team an opportunity to reflect on their successes, as well as considering the challenges ahead.
“I think you all are at the forefront in some ways,” says Antwi. “I see institution-building, I see reclamation of the Māori identity – not just through racial justice and language reclamation, but through social enterprise and economic justice.”