Waikato Wellbeing Project- 2023 Summary

Harvey Brookes, Executive Director

The WWP has continued to evolve and develop, and 2023 has been no exception. As we approach the end of the year, it’s worth pausing to reflect on the scale of our wellbeing challenge and the progress made. I also want to acknowledge the people and partner organisations who continue to contribute massively to and support the Waikato Wellbeing Project and its vision that our Mokopuna are Thriving.

At a Kaitiaki Advisory Board Workshop in October, community development practitioner Gael Surgenor shared her reflections about working in the wellbeing space in New Zealand. Her headline points included:

The Work Is Hard

There Are no Silver Bullets

No Right Ways to Do It

We are all Learning.

Gael noted programmes like the WWP need to be able to navigate the following apparently contradictory ways of working:

Fast AND Slow

Challenge AND Opportunity

Think AND Do

Multi-Faceted AND Interconnected

Big AND Small Levels of Scale

Strategic AND Entrepreneurial

Gael’s insights resonated with us all and I am sure will also strike a chord with many. Through the energy and passion of our project team, the leadership of our Kaitiaki Advisory Board and the guidance of our Manu Taki, 2023 has seen lots of exciting things come to life, continue and grow for the WWP. We never achieve alone, and only succeed when we work with others who share our vision and mission.

In the WWP we don’t “invent” solutions or solve problems, especially from our desks. Our region is already full of incredible change makers who, through real world experience, have identified an opportunity, rolled up their sleeves and collectively made change happen. Most of them are people you have never heard of- but they do extraordinary things. The lived experience and collective wisdom of communities has always been the source of our greatest insights, and we want to (carefully!) share those insights more widely.

Our job at the WWP is to find ways to empower change makers and communities so that they can be the change needed. Whether that’s some deeper research on root cause and systems, or better data and knowledge, or sharing the stories of people who have made a difference, our role as storytellers, connectors and convenors are how we aim to make a difference to wellbeing in the Waikato.

None of our mahi would have happened without an incredible network of people who have been there to do the work, help guide us and provide their support and services along the way.

Our core team of Joe Wilson, Amber Hammill, Amy Van Garderen and Norm Hill have been the greatest source of energy, wisdom and imagination which has driven the WWP forward. Each of them brings something unique and different to the project- and their skills and passions have directed what and where we have directed our efforts.

We’ve also been very fortunate to have the support of some amazing creatives who have helped bring our ideas to life. While there are too many to name them all, key amongst them have been Muerdach Daly from One Man Crew (Lots of Little Fires), Michelle Macaskill (Te Ara Poutama) and Kylie Morrison from Kaz Design (WWP website and Te Ara Poutama).

WWP Kaitiaki Advisory Board

The WWP Kaitiaki Advisory Board (L-R) Dujon Cullingford, Don Scarlet, Mike Rolton, Rebekah Graham, Chris Williams, Justin Connolly, Delwyn Abraham (insert)

We are extremely fortunate to have an outstanding Kaitiaki Advisory Board who guide and support the WWP. Co-chaired by Mike Rolton and Delwyn Abraham, the board meets bi-monthly to review progress made and support the Executive Director and team on the next steps ahead.

In 2023 we farewelled Jannat Maqbool and Maxine Graham and welcomed Dr Rebekah Graham to the Kaitiaki. We are thrilled to have Rebekah join us and would like to sincerely thank Jannat and Maxine for their amazing support and contributions since mid-2021. The term of the current Kaitiaki ends in August 2023, at which time the Terms of Reference for the Kaitiaki will be reviewed and new Kaitiaki called for.

The WWP exists because of the people and organisations who have backed it and help to ensure we have the funds and resources to continue. We are very grateful to the WEL Energy Trust- both the Trustees and the staff, especially Marcel Manders and Dave Cowley and the Waikato Regional Council elected members and staff, especially Karen Bennett. We are also very grateful to Dennis Turton from Trust Waikato for his organisation’s support of Te Ara Poutama.

Manu Taki- A Multi-Faceted Choir of Wellbeing Practitioners

Our Manu Taki are wellbeing leaders who are working in communities to make wellbeing and hauora happen every day. Working voluntarily, Manu Taki act as our wider network of advisors, supporters, activators, motivators and friendly critics.

Manu Taki help lead/guide our major projects where they are SDG Manu Taki, and they give us wise advice on the overall direction of the WWP and what adjustments and changes we might make. We reciprocate by supporting and celebrating their initiatives where they directly contribute to our SDGs and wider Kaupapa.

At a hui in June, our Manu Taki defined the following as the key roles they can, and do, play with the WWP:

·       A collective voice and advocate for a diverse choir, united in a vision for shared wellbeing based in equity

·       Telling the stories of our collaborations, outside our echo chambers

·       Being a connector in the community, linking like-minded change makers

·       Making sure the WWP’s findings and insights can be applied to other organisations and initiatives

·       Finding and uplifting wellbeing stories from across the Waikato

·       Moving away from the competitive funding model

·       Helping decision makers to think beyond immediate issues

·       A host for challenging conversations