by John Hodgkin, Regional Manager at Ravensdown and Natalie Morris, Continuous Improvement Manager, Airfield and Emergency Operations at Auckland Airport
Otara seemed a likely place to hold our third session around community engagement, diversity, human rights, poverty, inequality, social entrepreneurialism, refugee resettlement and the long tail of underachievement. It certainly didn’t disappoint. Right from the get-go, there was a buzz in the room with everyone catching up and generally feeling positive about being where we were, and excited of what lay ahead.
We were certainly encouraged to step further out of our comfort zones and interact with the community. Particularly around the design thinking process, right from the initial enquiry by engaging with the locals on the Manukau Institute of Technology campus, and testing our prototypes at the Otara markets. Like the previous two sessions, we had learnt to expect the unexpected. South Auckland was certainly no different.
Pat Snedden took us through the value and importance the treaty holds for every New Zealander and questioned our thoughts for what a Civil Society actually means; what is diversity, how is the understanding of the treaty important to understanding the future of our land, our society and its development?
Prior to this session Natalie had been considering her previous school and how attending it (due to its decile rating) could be seen as a disadvantage or you could look at its diversity as giving it an advantage. But how did others see this? Does it just sit in one's perception of diversity?
Then what is diversity?
Through Pat's session and group discussion, we all fell to the conclusion that diversity was non-exclusion. This fell across all levels, i.e age, sex, race, culture and thinking.
Syndicate three were lucky enough to visit New Zealand’s Refugee Resettlement Program. After some high-quality navigation and only a couple of wrong turns we arrived. We were greeted by our friendly host Sarah Ward. Sarah has a real passion for her work and it was evident that it takes someone special to deliver such a high-quality service given the complex environment. Managing multiple ethnicities, religions and cultures is a monumental challenge. It was fantastic to get a deeper appreciation for not only the global refugee situation but also New Zealand’s involvement. John hadn’t really stopped to think about this before.
Sarah was then kind enough to show us around the facilities, where kids could be heard laughing, running and kicking a ball around. A bus pulls up and a new group of refugees arrive. It suddenly hits us, that they have only been in the country for a couple of hours and have just seen what will be their new home for the next eight weeks, before being placed in one of six communities throughout New Zealand. Some have their possessions in a rubbish bag, some a little more affluent. It just depends on where they have come from and under what circumstances. Some have waited many years to get to this point. John started to put himself into their shoes and he really struggled with this. What world are we living in, which creates such turmoil, that families are forced from their communities, their families and their country?
We wander through the main hall where a girl about seven is playing on her own looking withdrawn. John gives her a smile, to which she gave be a big smile back. Emotions became very real at this point and he couldn’t help but think, “What else I could do, what else could New Zealand do. What’s my part in all of this?”
It was a very moving experience. When you strip it all back, we are all human, we are all individuals, and we all have needs. Sarah and the team are doing a magnificent job. Is it enough?
Syndicate six had the opportunity to visit and listen to the great work the Family Works Te Hononga Team does. This team invests a great deal of time, energy and passion into identifying and protecting the best interests of vulnerable youth and children. This includes focusing on housing conditions, family violence, drug and/or alcohol addiction and the environment these children are exposed to.
This trip was a key reminder and eye opener for us. It brought back a number of memories from Natalie’s school years. At the same time, she was surprised to find that in the suburbs that she felt connected to, the gangs operating in the area now number over 125. It is saddening to think that these children can barely move around their neighbourhood safely without the probability that they would in some way be in contact with or become connected to one of these gangs. We were left asking how, how had this increased so rapidly, and how has it gone almost unnoticed by the greater city? Along with this increase in gangs, and the constraints being faced due to the Auckland housing shortage, and the increasing number of vulnerable children, the team has received no increases in government funding for over eight years. Again, we are left asking how?
Further discussions presented an opportunity for one of our syndicate members to search out opportunities to alleviate some of the housing issues this team faces, in this instance; not due to a shortage of housing, but due to gaps in the conditions imposed or required of some families within vulnerable situations. The “untouchables” which now fall out of help, due to contractual requirements for housing. It is positive that there may be an opportunity to help resolve some issues, but we are still left with questions.
If we do not invest collectively through funding, time and assistance to ensure the environment that a child is raised within, how can there be any expectation that the well-being of a neighbourhood, city or nation will improve? The ongoing deterioration that occurs and the affected areas are numerous, although in some instances it is difficult to measure, much of it is clear. Health will deteriorate requiring additional medical resources, learning will be inhibited resulting in academic and skills shortages, and chances of involvement in drugs or crime are higher resulting in increases for both. Why?
Define your values. That’s easy we thought. Loyal, Driven, Empathetic, Competitive, Unbiased, Respectful, Generous and Positive. Done. Turns out it wasn’t quite the case! Louise then took us through a meditation exercise which really deepened our awareness of our true authentic selves, our hearts, and our inner compass. We were then asked again to think about our values. In this reflection, we found values that we hold important, but find ourselves still striving to believe they are possessed. These are the ones you hold as important but struggle to follow, for varied reasons, it could be as simple as fear. This exercise clearly had a transformational effect on the way we thought about who we are, what’s important to us and where those values have come from. The outcome, a far deeper and richer understanding of the real me. This is important, as you can’t expect to lead others if you cannot lead yourself.
How do we activate the leader in everyone?
Life will try to grow you, you choose. You alone will set the tone. How can you take advantage of your learning edge?
How do we equip leaders with the right questions to build a more civil society in your workplace?
Who will benefit from your leadership?
What does a civil society mean to you?
An intense design thinking workshop saw the Leadership NZ participants searching out causes for a less or more connected and civil society. This was a great opportunity to do some off the scale thinking with reference to causes from people we spoke to in the South Auckland, Manukau region.
Through the story of a woman that, having settled into Auckland, New Zealand over 14 years ago felt connected and a part of the society. This same woman could not speak English until now. Our syndicate found it intriguing that someone could feel so connected, welcomed and part of a community without being able to communicate with the same language. We wondered how we would be able to encourage a greater feeling of connectedness without using a specific language.
The design thinking piece with Dave, brought us through a concept session, searching out a possible solution. The mix of personalities saw our syndicate go into a direction of “pass the parcel” to communicate and foster connectedness, but how were we to achieve this. An intense prototyping session using raw materials to bring our concept to life left our syndicate with mixed feelings of alignment. Some of just found ourselves looking at a prototype, that would be difficult to communicate, as our syndicates were uncertain how it could work. Dave put us up to a vote for readiness, the teams generally were happy and ready, while some others couldn’t shrug off a feeling that there was something missing.
Our syndicates were deployed to test out our prototypes. The team learning was great; through some adaptions, we were able to observe and get feedback from those involved. With little discussion they could feel connected, however, this only worked best where the situation had been explained, or there was a visual opportunity to see what the design thinking was. This meant, the teams had lapsed into a state of using specific language, exactly what we had wanted to avoid.
It was a valuable session, with ideas coming from the community itself, and testing being carried out in the same community. The team felt great for the learning it provided. After the prototype trialling, we decided to take a minute and enjoy the vibe of the community. It was at this moment that everything we had covered over the past three days came together. Situated in the markets and enjoying the positive community vibe, a small fight started between two gangs, predominantly over territory and trying to send a message. In just a few seconds, all that hope can be removed, and the sense of a connectedness removed. Here where we began considering, how we knew these suburbs, and at any point, vulnerable people trying to create a vibrant connected community could be exposed.
We left Manukau with a much richer understanding of the diversity in Aotearoa, but for us, many more questions were raised. An invaluable experience.