The Experience

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The Mana Moana Experience[1] is an integrated programme for Pasifika leaders[2], brought to you by Leadership NZ and funded by Foundation North. It brings together the experience, expertise and networks of Leadership New Zealand and a research-based indigenous knowledge-derived specialist programme created out of the postdoctoral research by Dr Karlo Mila (Leadership NZ Alumna 2013).

The core focus of Mana Moana is the vitalisation and mobilisation of indigenous Pasifika language, knowledge, values, culture, ways of knowing and viewing the world. The Mana Moana Experience operates on the understanding that Pasifika ancestral cultural resources are fundamental and essential for optimal contemporary living and leadership. Instead of forgoing, forgetting, sacrificing, acculturating and assimilating, to succeed in Western contexts, Pasifika cultural resources are seen to be a source of advantage, pride, competitive edge, x-factor, complexity, cognitive flexibility, neuroplasticity, polycultural capital and a way of reaping the diversity dividend. This is a leadership for a new era, drawing on ancient indigenous resources. 

Leadership NZ's The Mana Moana Experience is targeted at mid-career Pasifika leaders. It will run over the course eight months in the form of six live-in retreats lasting 3 days each, and involving peer coaching and small group contact in-between. Each of these retreats will mobilise around and target a significant broad issue / theme that is critical and relevant to key issues facing the Pasifika community and New Zealand.

This leadership programme focuses on developing effective leaders who have a strong awareness of issues of significance for Pasifika communities and New Zealand. This will involve exposure to prominent New Zealanders, Pasifika leaders and subject matter experts. It features site visits to learn from and be inspired by innovation, leadership and solutions on the ground. There is a sustained focus on nurturing personal development, balanced with realising collective aspirations, and creating resilient and authentic leaders.  A critical feature of the programme involves exploring ancestral and cultural knowledge so that it informs exceptional leadership in contemporary contexts.

Alongside the Mana Moana content, the best and most relevant of Leadership New Zealand will be on offer. Leadership New Zealand has the experience, prestige, networks and operational delivery expertise of an established leadership trust that has run for 13 years and delivered to over 300 participants.

For Pasifika participants, the Mana Moana Experience will tap into:

  • Remembering, recalling and revitalizing ancestral legacies - the best of who we are;

  • Capitalizing on, connecting to and consolidating current leadership – harnessing the best of what we have right now; and,

  • Nurturing and supporting the most optimal and exciting future – working towards the promise of what we could be.


Dr Karlo Mila: Programme Director

Karlo is a Fulbright Scholar, researcher, author, academic and award-winning poet. She is a Pacific woman of Tongan, Palangi and Samoan descent. She has a masters in social work and a PhD in sociology focused on the culture, identity and context of New Zealand-born Pacific peoples. Her postdoctoral fellowship focused on developing the indigenous intervention Mana Moana and testing it for feasibility and acceptability. 

Karlo has worked in the area of Pacific health, mental health, research and policy for fifteen years. Formerly the Manager, Pacific Health Research at the Health Research Council, she most recently worked for the Pacific NGO Le Va (Pacific Inc). Karlo is Leadership NZ alumna 2013. Active in the arts, she currently has a grant from Creative New Zealand to write a novel part-time. She is a mother to three boys aged 12, 13 and one.

2020 Programme - Application Form | Programme Dates | FAQs

You can download The Mana Moana Experience information by clicking on the following: 

Any questions, please contact Cecilia Vakameilalo-Kioa on (09) 309 3749 or via email (with subject line “The Mana Moana Experience 2020”).

[1] Moana, meaning ‘ocean’, is a Polynesian word that can be found in 35 contemporary Pasifika languages. While Pasifika cultures are diverse, it is the sea, philosopher and writer Epeli Hau’ofa, points out, that all of the distinctive cultures of Pasifika have in common, shaped by a continuous engagement with, and adaptation to, the largest ocean in the world (Hau’ofa, 2008). The ocean connects us all.

Mana is an Oceanic word that can be found in 26 Pasifika languages. It refers to power, energy, abundance, authority, miracles – the ability to manifest the energy, flow and fortune of the intangible with grace and efficacy so that it is recognised and impactful in the tangible world.

Mana Moana, then, is about the power, energy, vitality sourced to being from the moana and indigenous to the South Pacific region and connected to that unique cultural legacy of knowing and being.

[2] We define Pasifika leaders as New Zealand residents who originate from, are descendants of, or who identify with a Pacific Island heritage, including Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu. If you identify with another Pacific Island nation and wish to apply, please contact us.