I had the privilege of attending the Collaborative Hui on the 27th and 28th of April on behalf of the Lifehack Community. It was a fantastic couple of days with hope, optimism and challenge embedded throughout.
The Hui was set in the lovely grounds of St Andrews College and the weather was on point. This allowed the mix of Health Professionals and young people to interact during lunch, in addition to a calming environment to do some meaningful work. As a health professional myself, the weather I find is huge in providing another environment to connect. I biked to the Hui (through the thickest fog Christchurch has seen in years!), which I love for the exercise and set up the day well portraying my inner greeny.
Setting the scene for the hui was a moving opening from Dr Lucy Hone, an academic in wellbeing research. Tragically, 2 years ago, Lucy lost her daughter, her daughter’s friend and her mother in a car accident. She talked about how wellbeing interventions really work, and how she has had to practice what she preaches for herself. This gave real context, pride, and compassion that everybody in the room in some way was making a difference and doing meaningful work within the Wellbeing sector, which is of utmost importance to the future of Aotearoa.
The Collaborative Hui included attendees that were both professionals working in the field of youth wellbeing and development, and young people themselves. This provided a valuable platform and forums for professionals to be challenged by young people, who indeed know what is best for them.
The framework of the Collaborative Hui included a number of Brief Presentations (10-15 Minutes), performances (eg: spoken word poets and Star Jam), larger group discussions (eg: Privacy Act) and workshops. A wide range of content on a number of different topics, initiatives and wellbeing interventions were discussed.
Across the Hui, key thoughts were embedded that covered about the importance of a Youth Wellbeing focus for the future of Aotearoa. Key take home messages included:
- Young people are the next generation of people to walk our treasured landscape and a focus on youth wellbeing is needed to develop our young people into capable, active, educated citizens.
- Young people have a right to flourish and this needs to be supported from an early age
- Young people need to know how to look after their own mental health and wellbeing, skills that will support them throughout life
- Their growing navigation of the world and independence see great ideas coming from young people.
- Young people need to be involved in the co-design process of any wellbeing intervention, rather than have one imposed on them.
- Academic best practice is what may work for only a subset of young people, and there is no one size fits all solution. Therefore, it is important that co-design occurs with the target group of young people.
- Co-design needs to include a diverse range of young people, including people across cultures, genders, sexualities, disabilities, and socioeconomic statuses
There were two workshops that stood out to me for their co-design processes;
This workshop was by Jeremy Lambert and Luke Fitzmaurice, and titled, Embedding young people’s voices in the design Oranga Tamariki. Luke opened the discussion around the process that the old Child Youth and Family went through to embed the young person’s voice into the new Oranga Tamariki. Luke has now moved onto new endeavours, but I loved his compassion and transparency to return to talk about his role and use of the co-design process. Both Luke and Jeremy were really open on the strengths and limitations of the work. Jeremy mentioned that when he interviewed, even the interview panel were young people and one of the questions asked was, “what does whakawhanaungatanga mean to you?”, with the notion that you have to be able to get on with, understand and young people have to like you to be successful with the role.
Jeremy then opened up a discussion on further developments going forward for future developments. Key themes included;
- The need for a systemic or societal change in embedding the voice of young people (this is not just a problem in Oranga Tamariki…e.g. Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, non -government youth programmes etc)
- Empowering young people, not limiting potential
- Use of the community and connections (collaboration and utilisation of resources/skills)
- Valuing young people’s creativity, “the possible” and responding for that need to change
- Not just about the voice, recognition of the young person’s ability to contribute
One key theme of concern expressed by the 30-40 attendees was that Oranga Tamariki can do all this awesome co-design process involving children and young people, however, it still has to make government policy. Unfortunately, it only takes one politician to decide that money was better spent somewhere one else and squash all of the prior process. However, if people keep challenging policy makers and working on wellbeing initiatives, eventually some action will be taken. Further, the positive and needed overhaul of Child Youth and Family to Oranga Tamariki, has made great process and provided hope for continued co-design with young people going forward. There was a feeling of optimism, at the end of the workshop and hopeful for young people in Aotearoa.
Bounce Wellbeing Workshop
Bounce is a youth-led wellbeing project developed by New Zealand Red Cross that is for young people & by young people.
Primarily a web based platform, Bounce uses a co-design process throughout all content, ideas and future ventures. They also consult a number of different groups (eg: LGBTI groups and different ethnic groups) and took their volunteers on a Noho Marae. This is great as content appeals to a number of different youth audiences, Young people feel valued to know that their content matters and is relevant (young people know best, BOOM!!). Bounce also provides the opportunity for volunteers to use their top skills (e.g. Poetry, or videography), and to do so on a safe platform that is moderated by Bounce staff.
As with many such initiatives, there are some challenges with working within a wider framework. Ideas sometimes have to be reined in or adapted to fit the brief. Unlike a sole youth wellbeing initiative whereby you may have capacity to run with a blue sky idea.
With any Wellbeing Initiative that uses volunteers, engagement of volunteers is always challenging. Some young people may not think they are capable of being part of such a group the idea of volunteering time and skills might not appeal, and some of which could really benefit from it. What I really like about the Bounce’s ethos and Staff is they really foster their volunteers skills, giving some concrete volunteer experience to put down on volunteers C.V.’s enabling so much later in life.
Overall the Collaborative Hui was a great few days. Key points that have stuck with me since include;
- First hand experience of the challenges in their communities is valuable when co-designing a wellbeing intervention.
- Young people have great ideas
- They know from first hand experience what might support their wellbeing and over what forum
- Young people can challenge the professionals
- Co-design gives young people a sense of ownership and pride that they’ve been involved in the planning and implementation of a wellbeing initiative.
Thank you for the opportunity to attend the hui, Lifehack!
Interested in specific sessions? You can access the abstracts and session overview by clicking here.