Working with our young people: reflections on Oro from Mike Ryan, Director Community Services, Upper Hutt City Council

Mike Ryan, Director Community Services at Upper Hutt City Council has written this guest post on Oro, Lifehack’s most recent place-based collaboration based in Upper Hutt. In it Mike shares his reflections on the development and benefits of the programme, as well as how the programme has changed the Council’s approach to working with and for Upper Hutt’s young people in the future. 



There was an opportunity to meet with Lifehack a few months ago to look at potential “opportunities” within our Community of Upper Hutt. The approach seemed a little “left field”, however I was told to “trust the process”! I was also of the view that if we keep doing what we have always done we will keep getting what we have always got – hence a different approach/mind set seemed worthwhile exploring.  From the one day workshop that was held subsequent to this meeting , with community stakeholders also involved, it was determined that we as a community needed to provide something for youth and out of this emerged the Oro—Upper Hutt programme. There was no firm direction re the programme and programme aims, objectives, outcomes – this would be determined by the programme participants; it was once again about “trusting the process”!! The programme participants were a cross section of community members, including youth.

One of the key outcomes from the programme were likeminded people collaborating and networking to achieve positive outcomes for youth in the community. The other positive outcome was the opportunity to engage with youth and for youth to further engage with other youth to tell us (Council) what youth want in our community.

Out of the Oro-Lifehack programme three youth initiatives/programmes are being established:

  1. Spearhead Leadership programme – which has been provided with funding of $12,000 from the Ministry of Youth Development. This programme is by youth for youth and involves a youth cohort of 10/12 interviewing and selecting an additional 10/12 youth for a youth leadership programme. This combined group will then organise and facilitate a youth forum to generate ideas/programmes for youth to become involved (with Council support if needed) within our community. 
  2. Coffee Cart – KickStart. An opportunity for youth to train (barista and business) in establishing and operating a coffee cart. Funding is underway and the coffee cart will be up and running in the New Year. The parties establishing this also met with another organisation that is looking to establish a similar operation. From this all parties determined that there is an opportunity to collaborate and work together, for the advancement of youth, in the operation of both coffee carts.   
  3. Whakamanatia: empowering young people in the area of suicide prevention, a co-designed programme based at Orongomai Marae with funding support  from Te Puni Kōkiri which aims to develop young people’s wellbeing with a focus on identity, resiliency, relationships and communication.

TheOro—Upper Hutt programme came at an opportune time. Council were looking at Youth Strategies; Youth Plans and Youth Councils and how WE could get these in place and up and running. The outcome from theOro—Upper Hutt programme is that WE need youth to determine what and how they want to engage with the community and how youth would like to be engaged with. This may lead to Youth Strategies/Plans and/or a Youth Council, but it may go down a completely different pathway. It is about trusting the process and trusting youth to determine for themselves how they would like to provide direction and guidance to Council and what they would like to see happen within the community to benefit youth.  

To read more about the Oro programme and check out these blog posts:


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