Field Guide 2020: Angie Tangaere
This Field Guide article sits within a series of commissioned essays, interviews, podcasts and artworks to be published over 16 weeks on designassembly.org.nz and culminate in a downloadable PDF publication which will be distributed nationally.
We are incredibly grateful to Creative New Zealand who funded this 2020 Field Guide, which actively investigates, celebrates, nurtures and challenges current design thinking, methodology and practitioners in the Aotearoa design community. The project is “a multidisciplinary exploration of New Zealand’s post-COVID design practice”. It is produced by five authors, six illustrators, with art direction, design, editorial, publishing and production support from the Design Assembly team & RUN Agency.
Supported by Creative New Zealand
The artwork to accompany this essay is by Huriana Kopeke-Te Aho a Takatāpui artist based in Tāmaki Makaurau. Huriana is a self-taught illustrator and designer whose work is primarily influenced by their Māori whakapapa, takatāpui identity, and political beliefs. They have produced work for Action Station, Auckland Pride, Pantograph Punch, Rainbow Youth, RNZ, Re: News, Te Rau Ora and Waikato University among others. Their illustrations are also featured in Maui’s Taonga Tales/He Paki Taonga i a Māui and Protest Tautohetohe published through Te Papa Press.
‘YOU JUST HAVE TO GRAPPLE WITH THE COMPLEXITY OF IT.’ ANGIE TANGAERE
Desna Whaanga-Schollum interview with Angie Tangaere
Ngā mihi nunui! This article continues an exploration into the ways that tangata whenua are drawing upon their ancestral knowledge and adapting the learnings to challenge the status quo.
‘Design-thinking skills are being employed in diverse fields of practice, weaving together tangata (people, community), te taiao (environment, place), wairua (spirit, intent) and mauri (energy, life-force). Moving beyond human-centred design, tangata whenua practitioners reference an eco-system of actors, and draw upon intergenerational knowledge. Social and cultural equity aims are served through the deployment of design tools.’
Based in South Auckland at The Southern Initiative, Angie works at the intersection of Human-Centered Design and Mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge systems). Angie’s story told below shares a tangata whenua whānau journey from the urban migration of the 1960’s through to the day-to-day lived realities of whānau in South Auckland. Her action-biased work challenges and grows design methodology and practice through bringing tikanga (protocols) from Aotearoa knowledge systems. This makes the work more relevant and effective for the community and place that it serves.
Through her mahi, Angie exemplifies Apirana Ngata’s whakauaki ‘E Tipu e Rea’.
“In 1949 Apirana Ngata wrote in the autograph book of schoolgirl Rangi Bennett, ‘E tipu, e rea, mo nga ra o tou ao, ko to ringa ki nga rakau a te Pakeha hei ora mo te tinana, ko to ngakau ki nga taonga a o tipuna Maori hei tikitiki mo to mahuna, a ko to wairua ki to Atua, nana nei nga mea katoa.’ ‘Thrive in the days destined for you, your hand to the tools of the Pākehā to provide physical sustenance, your heart to the treasures of your ancestors to adorn your head, your soul to God to whom all things belong.’ This became much quoted as a vision for Māori youth.”
Sincere thanks for sharing some of your story with this community Angie, it is knowledge we can all learn from. Ngā mihi mahana!
MANA TUPUNA // DESCENT AND LEGACY
Ko Hikurangi te Maunga, ko Waiapu te awa, ko Ngāti Porou te iwi. Tihei Mauri-Ora!
He mihi nunui, he mihi aroha, ki a tātou katoa, a ngā awa, ngā maunga, ngā hapū ngā Marae o te motu. No Reira, Tena Koutou Katoa
I’m Angie Tangaere, and I’m born and bred in South Auckland, living in South Auckland and Ngāti Porou. My dad hails from the East Coast, my mom is Pākehā connected to Taranaki and my sisters and I were born in Papakura. My sons are third generation removed from our Iwi land and we’re returning back. My dad’s one of 16 brothers and sisters, and there are also half brothers and sisters, big whānau.
My Nanny and Koro came off the Coast, worked until they found their way here to Papakura and Bates Street, and that’s where the whānau have been since. I think they got here early 60s, a part of the Urban Migration looking for work… I reflect on this in regard to mana tupuna…unfortunately, for us as a whānau, they really left the Coast brokenhearted, the both of them. That had to do with the effects of colonization and their experience in the education system as well as some fairly significant trauma, in their childhood and as young people on the Coast. So they left the Coast and they said they never wanted to go back. They’re buried in Papakura…here at the urupā, and there’s been some kōrero recently about moving them back. Well, I leave that for my pakeke (elders) to decide, but their wishes were not to return to the Coast, and so that’s why they’re buried here. Now as we find our way back, that kōrero it all needs to be amongst our pakeke particularly my older aunties and uncles. I want the living to find our way back, not just our tūpāpaku (deceased).
I mean, particularly my nanny would say how she’d get beaten for using te reo at school and just having a really negative experience of that process on the Coast, of colonization. Others include that my grandfather had a really harrowing childhood, for which he suffered later in life… I think that they left the Coast feeling like they’ve never wanted to return to a place that had been so cruel for both of them at times…. They were starting to lose their links to home as well, like the language… So I guess I really feel aroha for them, because I guess they thought they were doing the right thing by leaving, and to some extent it probably did help. But what it’s meant for us is that we don’t have ahikā there. So, for example, when my Aunty passed, I think five or six years ago, we really had to go back to Rangitukia and ask to get back in the urupā, because we don’t have anyone there. And you know, lucky for us, they were gracious enough to say, ‘yes, of course, she can come home’.
So my father never had the language, he was lucky to go into the army. Then he went back to University when I went to University. He always talked about ‘e tipu e rea’. He was thought the best way for us to move forward as a whānau and people was education. So we graduated on the same day, he’d graduated with an MBA and I graduated with a LLB BA Māori studies… which was pretty cool. My two boys, Kahukuranui and Ariki Moana, they have Te Reo as their first language. They’ve been through Kōhanga Reo and Kura Kaupapa. They are the third generation off the land, but they have Te Reo as a first language, so we’re looping back.
Dad always told us that, it’s really important for us to grasp the wisdom of our own culture, but of others as well. Now, he’s got an MBA. My sister’s got a Masters in Psychology about to have a Masters in Population Health, she finished her second Masters. My other sister has got a Masters in Education. My other sister is a nurse, and I finally got my butt into gear I’m doing a Masters too this year, I’ve been left behind! I’m basically the only one without postgrad. Yes, they say it’s not a competition, but they keep reminding me, I just don’t have a post-grad.
Our father and mother really gave us a wonderful life. We’re very fortunate, and one of those things was to really value education. I think that’s right, and what I’m learning now in my Masters is this legitimacy thing is a big deal. I can stand strongly in our own knowledge, but I recognize the system is only legitimizing itself. So how do you work in the system and beside it, is the thing that I’ve been thinking about.
He Tangata // Making It Work For Our People
I graduated with the LLB and much to my father’s disappointment, decided not to practice. Didn’t think I wanted to hang around with a bunch of lawyers after getting to know some! So I went to TPK and did some stuff for a little while with community and whānau. I really liked that work and started to understand the dynamics of Mana Whenua, Iwi and the machinery of Government. Went into MSD and did some work in preventative social service provisions, understanding how we could support whānau through that process. Then spent some time in a Māori NGO PHO – The National Hauora Coalition, did some work around thinking about Whānau Ora and how we reconfigure resource and workforce to support whānau for better outcomes.
Then the job at The Southern Initiative came up and Gael [Surgenor] was there (I had worked with Gael at MSD) and what I loved about it was, it was a focus on my community. It sounded like they wanted to do some things differently, to get a different outcome…all of my experiences inside of Central Government had told me that the machinery of Government, and the traditional approaches to program and service development and even policy design meant, well, I didn’t see how we were going to achieve equitable outcomes or Rangatiratanga through those processes.
I thought this is a cool idea about geographical focus on a community – my community, but also that they are experiencing significant inequity through the effects of colonization, institutional racism, neoliberal agenda and policy. So that’s why I thought I really want to be part of trying to make a difference for whānau.
When I got in there, that’s when I learned about design… I knew, you know, ‘Design’, but I didn’t understand what they were using – ‘Human Centered Design’… I thought that’s just what Coca Cola has been doing forever! You know, you ask people what they want, you don’t make assumptions, and you talk to the people. Which most of the traditional processes and central Government I’ve been a part of had not, it had all been desk-top analysis. You might have talked to a couple of people, but no genuine authentic connection, or engagement. Certainly not empowering them in the process. Because all the answers are inside institutions and with experts. This is a chance to flip that.
…I thought, that makes sense, and it’s been serving a Neoliberal agenda for so long, but we’ve never thought about that in terms of how we how we support our whānau. The thing for me is that it had to be contextualized, I didn’t feel like it was appropriate to ‘drag and drop’ this Human Centered Design. All these flash schools, we’re talking about, Stanford, and Harvard, are doing all these cool things, but I thought, it’s really got to work for our people.
WAIRUA // Spirit, Intent
What I started to start to think about is, ‘how does design methodology, and tikanga sit side by side to create an opportunity for our whānau to be empowered, to create their own local, fit for purpose solutions. To support them being autonomous, or to support their Rangatiratanga’… and we’ve triangulated it with other knowledge as well like Neuroscience. For me, it was trying to figure out how do you take the best of this design methodology. In terms of phasing and purpose (methodology), that made sense to me… but what’s the practice that has to sit with it? For me that practice it to be tikanga led.
So that’s really thinking about how you whakamana people in the process, how you support their Rangatiratanga in the process. Because you can do a Human Centered Design process, but not empower anyone in it, you just talk to some people. That’s wasn’t my intent. My intent was – ‘I want to empower the people, our whānau throughout the process,’ and that we should be walking alongside each other through the whole process. Not just when we do the ethnography, not just when we do the testing, that they’re part of the whole process in a way that builds their confidence, and their self-efficacy. That acknowledges their mana, and for some of our whānau that we’re working with, that’d never been done for them in their life.
We’ve got a little framework, but it’s going to be iterated, and for the ones [tikanga, values] that we’re using in there, whanaungatanga is a cornerstone, genuine relationships, genuine connections. What’s hard about that one, is that no one’s KPIs have got that in it. To connect with people genuinely and to do what we did, which is, you know, ‘Kei hea koe?’ No hea koe?’, that kind of stuff, that’s not built into traditional processes, (I can talk for Council). But it’s so critical, because if we’re going to do some work that’s really pushing the envelope, innovating, you need high trust with people so that you can do this stuff. Whanaungatanga, mana, ako – in terms of mutually reinforcing and safe learning environment, Rangatiratanga, manaakitanga, are the ones I started off with. I created that little framework, which is – when we’re engaging in such a process, how are each of these tikanga being activated and enabled? How do we know that whānau feel acknowledged, safe and valued in the process. It’s a conscious lens in terms of practice, as we’re engaging with whānau. And we’ve got a pretty good idea about when they do, now.
I’m on my about sixth project where I’m using this as a lens, in the work that I’ve done. That’s what drives the process, because for me, what I want to come away with, in any of the work, is that the whānau that I’ve worked with, have felt totally empowered in the process. And there’s an outcome for them as an individual and as a whānau, regardless of the work. But the work is always going to be good, because of the way that we work. Whānau-lead and whānau-centered, that means we will always come up with something the system never would have.
I’m never anxious about the quality of the work if it’s whānau-led, but my responsibility in the work is how whānau have been looked after in the process and whānau feel after, that’s really what I feel responsible for. That’s quite often not an output or an outcome of any of the projects or programs that we do – how the whānau are feeling about it. It’s just ‘did you meet the deadline’ and deliver on the thing you’re going to do, and did you talk to some people.
So that’s what I started doing when I came into the TSI. And of course, I’ve met all these other amazing Māori designers like yourself, and Rangimārie [Mules], Sophia [Beaton] as well as the amazing Penny Hagen, and all of these other people who were thinking about the same. And I realized, I don’t even know if I’m a designer! I mean, I just use a methodology. It might be broadly called design, but I don’t really know if that’s what my job is.
My job really is to nurture the people. My first job is to nurture the whānau in the process, and my second job is to figure out, once we’ve been through a process and we know what might be different, what is the systems-change that needs to be happening? Sometimes that’s simultaneous so, that’s a big part of our mahi. We’ve recognized that because we’re driving an innovation agenda that has whānau at the center. For the most part, my work is whānau-led and holding systems change at the same time.
So you’re opening yourself up to hold a lot of mahi in there. But one of the things that we’ve learned is that, that work has got to be done in a team. Because ‘systems change’ is a big deal, it is big mahi by itself, let alone an authentic innovation process in which whānau are leading the work… It’s big mahi, but it’s good mahi.
[The decision around who we work with]… is always interesting, it’s got to be inclusive. We just put the tono (invitation, request) out there. People will go ‘oh you’ll get too many people’ or ‘what if so and so turns up’ and ‘we need this amount of people’ and ‘we need someone that’s this ethnicity’. And I don’t know about that, if the Kaupapa is right, if you’re clear about that at the start.
Some mahi was focused on early years, which means we’re working with whānau who have babies or young children. So some of the work is specific in terms of what are we trying to understand. That stuff’s really about, ‘how do we support whānau differently to give tamariki the best start in life’. But I don’t like to control recruitment like that. I understand the difficulties in it, but what we usually do as part of the practice is, we will have some really in-depth conversations with whānau, and then ask them to continue, or ask them if the other whānau who want to be involved. We will usually talk to up to about 20 whānau, and then we’ll end up with a core group of about eight who can participate. I don’t like to say no to people who want to be involved. If they’re on the kaupapa we figure out a way of doing it. One of the projects that we worked in was more than 30 people, it was about 33 or 35 professionals and whānau that were involved in a really specific initiative that involved design.
We draw on that lived experience and also the big data, and any other sort of longitudinal information. So we draw on things like growing up in New Zealand, that kind of stuff. We’re always looking across all of those data sets and wisdoms.
MAURI // Energy, Life-force
It’s a really interesting whakapapa of TSI because they had about six or seven priorities that were identified in the Auckland Plan. ‘Early Years’ was one of them, and ‘Economic Development’ was one of them, and when Gael recalibrated the TSI, we looked across it to identify what we thought were some really, really big opportunities. So there was some thinking done looking at it, including international research too… How do we support better outcomes for a population of which a significant amount are experiencing the type of inequity our population does. What emerged out of that was some pretty big containers.
One was, that there’s a potential to really support early development and children for lifelong outcomes. And we understood the whānau, and the role of the whānau, that was critical. So we want to look at early childhood development, but we understand it must be whānau centered. Another is what circular economy, indigenous-led, economic development looks like. Another is tech and youth, and how is tech supporting our youth – what does the future economy look like? They’re kind of big broad ones and there is a fourth term which we call ‘healthy infrastructure’. That’s questioning ‘what’s the environmental infrastructure and considerations we need to have in terms of healthy spaces, healthy environments for whānau. Also sustainable ways of working with Papatuanuku and the environment. So that’s the four big ones and we’ve got a Theory of Change that sits with those.
Predominantly my work is supporting whānau to support the tamariki (children), to give them the best start in life. But it has to be holistic. There’s no way to do it without understanding people need a decent income, people need decent housing conditions. That’s what makes the work difficult, and this is why people don’t work in this way because of the complexity of it. That makes it a big mahi, but we don’t know if there’s another way to do it. [Western knowledge systems have]… siloed everything off and that’s preventing us from understanding what the opportunity is and the complexity, because we compartmentalize.
The environment has [come up] in COVID because it’s obvious that the planet was trying to heal itself. So that just bubbles up because that’s what whānau are saying is emerging for them. I mean, the Smiths Ave project is a good example of when the mauri, becomes front and center. It’s ongoing and there’s been some really cool development on there. We were trying to create an opportunity for whānau to lead, or to input into the concept plan for the reserve… we’ve been through the planning stage and the works are complete. In some of my initial learnings, we [looked to] understand what was the lived experience for whānau in relation to that reserve, and what’s the potential of that reserve to support lifelong outcomes for whānau. We weren’t listening to the whenua, though there were hints about it. If you can listen in that way, there were lots and lots of indicators to say, the land wasn’t well. Not just in terms of things like quality of water, quality of soil, and animal life, but in terms of wairua.
We quickly realized that it’s been a site for a whole heap of conflict. I mean conflict in terms of contemporary Council to community conflict, whānau to whānau conflict, and that just seemed to be a cycle that was repeating itself. Then when we leaned into what that was, and got some advice, it’s surely a site of historical conflict as well. So recognizing the imprint that might not be seen, but can be felt by certain people, when you’re on-site, and we talked to Matua Rereata [Makiha] about it a lot. He gave us some advice about how to keep ourselves safe, and how to think about the mauri of the whenua as well.
They’ve been a quite a few karakia there, for example, and other blessings and some stuff happened when we were on-site… We went in to do a concept plan, which we hoped would be whānau centered and outcome-focused, not just about what swing you put where, and where the building goes, but actually what’s the potential of the space to serve outcomes for whānau. That, in my opinion was a groundbreaking process for Council.
I know there were other things happening at the same time where people were doing some really cool stuff too. But we were basically saying to our Council colleagues, this is not about following the traditional planning process, consenting process, we really want to be empowering, whānau voice in the mix. We were having to build community capability to do that as we went, and there were community dynamics, where some of it was pretty ugly, as well. When we got into it, we realized not only should we have been doing that, but we really needed to be cognizant of what had happened for the whenua in the past, and the people. Also ‘what was happening to it now?’ and it’s location in the wider ecology and that kind of stuff.
And…that’s a different way of thinking for many levels of Council and for many parts of Council. So even to go to the Local Board and say… ‘We want to locate this site in a cultural ecology, how does that show up, not just put a playground on it. We want to acknowledge the story of the place, the story of Mana Whenua and the story of the land.’ That was hard for some of the Local Board members to connect to, and probably controversial. But when you know where it sits, at the foot of Pukekiwiriki Pā, faces out to Te Manukanuka o Hoturoa, and the story of that. That’s important for us to acknowledge that story of the land, the of the story of the people, who would have been, working with the land, living with the land a long time, but also the people who are moving in.
Because what was happening was that people were moving into Smith Ave, and Bates Street, which was where my Nanny and Koro lived when they came. Whānau in the area were telling us that there was no sense of community identity. I don’t know a better way of understanding how you stand here, than to know what the story of the land is, and then what your story is in relation to that. That’s what we were trying to understand, how do we recognize that, respect it, the story of the land and the story of the people. So that people can have their own story there. Because a lot of people who had been moved around a lot, they didn’t have a sense of identity themselves, they couldn’t see a sense of community. A part of that was how we do that in a respectful way and think about the mauri of the whenua at the same time.
I mean, some of the work in the Regenerative Practitioner course, they talked about thinking that there are parts of the planet that just should not be inhabited. That really struck me, and then when I talked to Matua Rereata, and described some of the things that were happening, he said to me, ‘Oh, I hope you’re not leaving people physically being on that site too long. You know, like going there everyday for days and days on end.’ And people have been. And he said to me, ‘Oh, you know, the energy that you’re talking about? I don’t know if that’s really good for young people.’ And that created a real dilemma for me because I didn’t want people to be unwell on the site.
There were some other things that emerged out of it I think, that were helpful to change some energy. But the dilemma was for me was, is it responsible to continue to develop the space if some of the indicators are ‘actually, you shouldn’t be in there’. What’s our role in that, when we think about the development of Auckland City.
The intensification of Auckland City. You think about Papakura – even where I live, it’s all marsh. We shouldn’t be living at the base of a hill that’s on marsh, but they’ve just reclaimed the land and put houses on it. So it’s so damp. It just does not make any sense, but this is where we are, right. One of the most complex challenges, we’ve got some of the worst housing stock in Auckland in Papakura, it’s really damp. And so another piece of work we did was to work with whānau to think about what a whānau-led way of creating warmer, drier, healthier houses would be. That’s why I say it’s all interconnected. You just have to grapple with the complexity of it.
What I like to do is, and I’ve been challenged on it, and I think there’s room in my practice to address some of these things – I always feel that whānau voice should lead. And that might not be right, because, I think about the whenua mauri, that was like, ‘oh, okay, my learning’. As I used to say ‘whānau voice leads and then we’ve got to find out the system learning to sit alongside it’. My practice is to understand from a whānau perspective, what’s on top for them and what’s their strengths, and what they think the potential is.
Once we’ve done that deep-dive on what’s important for them, then it’s my job to figure out how we get the right people in the room to start to do some prototyping, or some thinking, about how we do things differently. It will depend on what the insights are in the broader container, and that’s when you want to be engaging systems leaders and influencers that can help you to start to think about what you do differently.
For example, I just contributed to a piece of work here in Papakura in lockdown which was around… ‘What does a systems crisis intervention look like for family harm in lockdown?’. One of the things that started to emerge really quickly was the historical trauma – colonization and childhood – that whānau had experienced. That experience continues to drive certain behaviors, but it was never being addressed… one of the things that we thought about there was, ‘What does a culturally lead healing process look like?’ That’s not so much about the system, because the pathway for that is quite clear. But what wasn’t clear was ‘where’s the space for karakia?’ – to go to the water, to go back to the urupā… that process. Opening up the system’s response to recognise it as being equally valid.
Because they’ll triage the person, then they’ll say, right, they need their meds sorted, they need their entitlement sorted, they need the protection orders sorted. It’s very clear, the circumstances are being driven by some really significant events that no one thinks is their job to support. Only, if the whānau are saying it is, if the whānau want to do that, then we need the capacity and the capability to go there.
That was just six weeks of being inside of traditional risk assessment processes that have been going for decades. From what I can hear, and this is not my background, there must be other ways for us to support these whānau than referring them to an NGO or to their GP. Surely there are other things, but our traditional responses to crisis system are so binary.
Part of my job is just to go inside a system. Think – how do you hold a space open? I talk about indigenizing it, creating a space that’s open enough that there are alternative ways to support our whānau. And that they’re equally valid and legitimized Māori science. In that case, that was actually, supporting healers to come in and do some work with whānau that would not usually have been mandated in that type of process. What emerges is the opportunity, whether that’s inside the system like that, or it’s beside it.
I’ve been quite cynical about systems responses for most of the time I’ve been working with design. My, agenda has been to support whānau to figure out what they want to do, and then finding out how that gets supported. Who needs to be in the room for that, whether there is someone inside the system to pull some levers, or actually, we have to do it away from the system because otherwise, the system will interfere with it. Finding out ways to be able to do it, and resource it. I mean, Penny [Hagen] will say we’re always part of the system. Either, it could be something truly has to be whānau lead with no systems intervention, or it could be something that you’re doing inside a system that has an effect, or both at the same time.
I’m just doing a piece of work now with whānau where they identified [the effects of colonization] for themselves. It just came out of their kōrero – the way their parents were treated when they came to Auckland… I try not to go in with certain things that I’m wanting to communicate to them as whanau, I’m just trying to listen. If things come up and I think ‘oh, maybe I could share some information about that kind of stuff’, then I will. But with all that’s happening in the world today with Black Lives Matter, with people being more and more vocal about institutional racism – for a lot of our whānau who would not usually be engaged in that kind of kōrero, or that thinking, (maybe just because they’ve got so much going on for themselves), there is a whole lot of awakening. ‘Is that why I get treated like that at work and income’ and ‘is that when I why when I go to the Doctor’s…’, you know, that kind of stuff. Oh, and ‘Is this why mom and dad couldn’t get a rental house’. I feel like, for whānau that we’re working with, a lot of stuff is connecting now, because of what’s happening on social media, what people are talking about now.
I think disconnection from your people and your land and a loss of cultural identity is a major issue for us, in our urbanized populations. That’s why I thought it was really important if you don’t know your whakapapa, if you don’t know where you’re from, and you can’t go home, at least can you know where you stand. That might be a way for you to be able to find that for yourself if you want to. That’s sort of what whānau told me is, ‘I don’t know where I come from, and I feel disconnected from my community’.
In the most recent work that we’re doing alongside Papakura Marae – we’re trying to figure out how we support whānau so they can support their tamariki. Two really interesting insights came out of their kōrero… because they’re almost polarities. One was, ‘I don’t have any trust in my own whānau, I wouldn’t trust my own whānau to look after my kids. I don’t trust my community, I can’t go down the street, keep my head up, someone’s likely to have a problem with me. I don’t trust the system. Because every time I’ve engaged in the system, there’s been a punitive consequence for me. I just stay home and I just stay out of the drama and I keep my head down and I isolate myself.’
When you flip that, they’re using social isolation as a protective factor for themselves. The system says ‘hard to engage, disengaged, vulnerable’, without understanding that’s actually the most power that some whānau can exert themselves. That’s the only thing they can control, they stay at home, they stay to themselves. That’s the first one. When you think about our systems response to our service response, it’s always intensive case management. Get to them, ring them, go to the door, knock on the door, try and get them. If they are saying, ‘I’m not going to engage because this is what’s keeping me well or safe’, you’re never going to get them. It seems common sense, that’s what our high-intensity social services are geared to do, they are geared to engage, but if there’s no trust in it [then there’s no response].
The second one was, some whānau don’t have a supportive whānau themselves. They do the opposite, they reach out in and create their own whānau. Through things like sports clubs, the marae, church. They’re building their own extended whānau, because they haven’t got one. So you’ve got whānau, who are in the same community who are doing both – totally-isolated, and reaching-right-out. My work with the whānau is to go – ‘Okay, that’s really interesting, and what does that mean in terms of different ways of supporting whānau at a local level?’ Does that mean really, we need spaces that can build trust so whānau can re-engage on their terms? Or what does that mean about catalyzing those whānau who are actively out there building connections, social capital for themselves? How might they help other whānau to do that? It’d be a whānau lead process, not a systems response, or a government lead initiative. That makes sense. So that’s where we are at the moment.
We’ve got four insights. One of them is that; ‘I want to do the best for my kids, but I’ve got so much stuff to deal with myself, can you just help me to heal? Can you help me to deal with my stuff, and then I feel like I’ll be better placed to help my kids.’
The other is around being connected to place, and opportunities to lead. Sometimes, we don’t need to fix people, we just need to give them opportunity so that they can help and support and be leaders in their own lives, that kind of stuff. That’s what we’re thinking about here in Papakura, is using those four insights to drive some prototypes. For some of the prototypes, I need the agencies to be on board so they can start thinking differently about their responses based on those insights. It seems to me, so obvious that all this money we are pouring into crisis intervention, and whānau are saying ‘There is no way I’m going to engage with you, man. I’m just going to keep doing this until I’ve got no other choice.’
What a waste of resource, compounding the mistrust they have. I don’t even know the answer to it. I just know that that should be the starting point, not what we’ve got. Not being afraid of the complexity of it… Hear the voices, empower those people to lead for themselves, whatever it is, and then make it happen. Is that resourcing? Is it systems change? Is that a social movement? What is it? But it has to be action-orientated too. It can’t just be going around in circles talking about all this, this is a policy that we need to do, this is a law change. It needs to be biased to action. It needs to be empowering people in it. Otherwise, we’re just going to get the same old answers, respond the same way.
WERO // The Challenge for Designers
I’m really not interested in tweaking the edges on stuff we’ve got. There are lots of people already doing that and that’s good. I want to flip the assumptions that we’re making inside of system about whānau, and empower them to disprove some of the things. Like the ‘expert-led’ model, that has a place and a time, but it’s not the only way that we’re going to be able to support whānau, or create innovation or impact.
I’m not even convinced that Services is the answer, there’s a place for them in responding, and supporting whānau. It’s a part, but we also have to be future-focused, outcome-focused, strength-based. A lot of our Service stuff is starting from a point where people have to be fixed, or there’s something wrong with these people, or we know better than the people that would be engaging in the service. That there’s some kind of passive recipient in it. It doesn’t seem that the response based on all of those assumptions, works for some of our whānau, and I can’t see how it’s going to create transformation, because we’re just stuck in crisis mode.
I’m not saying there’s not a place for it, we need to be doing both… But I think when you look at the research and statistics in it, we’re not helping shift people out of crisis that well. They’re looping back. Do you know what I mean? Like we might have them for a short time, those that are experiencing severe disparity. But we’re not shifting them. We’re not helping them to shift out of that. We’re just doing Band-Aid stuff.
We need to help create safe conditions and safe environments for people. But if we don’t lift our head up above that and understand – are there other ways we could be thinking about responses to whānau or whānau leading responses themselves not necessarily agency led – it feels like we’re just going to be stuck on that. Then you’ve got all of the socio-economic components that are involved in it, and that’s a big challenge for us. My job is to support work that sits beside system responses and is whānau lead, and that is strengths-based, future-focused.
Otherwise, there’s no alternative to it. It’s just systems responses.
I know there are lots of other people around the motu doing this work too, doing some amazing things. I don’t even know what I do, Desna! I don’t I wouldn’t give myself a title. I don’t even know what I’d call myself if I wasn’t in this job.