Unpacking Data

By Lani Evans, Head of Foundation & Sustainability

This article was originally published in the Philanthropy New Zealand magazine. Lani Evans, Head of the Vodafone New Zealand Foundation asks funders to take a moment and consider how to use data safely, effectively, and critically. Lani explains the difference between qualitative and quantitative, and considers the role of systemic bias, governance, context and narrative.

I am not a data scientist, but I do love data. Data helps us to tell stories and measure change, it helps us to gather insights, see trends and make decisions that prepare us for the future. But data also has a shadow side. It can narrow our thinking about people and places, and it can send us down unhelpful pathways that simplify and strip the nuance from complex and complicated problems.

Philanthropy, right now, appears to be in the midst of a data revolution, one that could fuel a new wave of innovation and social change. But in order to use data in safe and effective ways, we need to understand how to apply a critical lens and have critical conversations about its role within our work. And I’m not sure we’re doing that yet.

So where do we start? What should we be looking for or thinking about when interacting with data? For me there are five initial considerations that can help us look beyond the dashboard: the type of data itself; the potential for bias; governance; the wider context; and the narratives that frame the data and its use.

The first thing to think about is why the data exists, its accuracy and what it is designed to tell us.

The most accessible data tends to be quantitative – data that is mathematically precise and measurable, and shows up in numbers, scales or yes/no answers. This data is often collected without us really thinking about it – like the administrative data that’s produced during our interactions with the Government, or when we use our loyalty card at the supermarket. Quantitative data is super useful, and can be incredibly accurate, but it can over-simplify. This sort of data is “great for observing broad patterns and trends, but can miss nuances that would be obvious to the human eye, and which form an important part of the stories of individuals and communities” (Thea Snow, Nesta).

Qualitative data, by comparison, tends to tell a more layered story, using techniques that uncover people’s emotions, stories and worldviews. However, by its nature, good qualitative data is labour intensive to collect and analyse. As a result, sample sizes for qualitative studies tend to be small, which means that the findings shouldn’t be generalised beyond the research context, especially where populations are diverse.

The second consideration is the role of bias. Systemic bias is present in many commonly used datasets and can result in errors of interpretation at any stage in its life cycle – during collection, or analysis, or conclusion – leading us to incorrect or incomplete outcomes. We need to understand and account for biases when we’re drawing conclusions from data – we can’t simply trust that the data is representative. A lot of surveys, for example, are still completed using landline numbers listed in the phone book. This data collection method introduces bias immediately by excluding much of the youth demographic, and anyone who has unstable access to housing.

Our third consideration is governance. Just as we would complete due diligence on the governance of non-profits we fund, we should also examine the governance structures of both organisations offering us data, and the governance of the datasets themselves. Those collecting, analysing and sharing datasets should have thought about, and be able to answer questions on ethical frameworks, data security and storage, and safeguarding mechanisms.

Fourth is the question of the context that surrounds the information. We need to unpack the broader ecosystem of influences that sit around data – and understand what this means for causation, and correlation of actions with outcomes. Imagine comparing the April 2019 and 2020 traffic infringement statistics without including the broader context (i.e. lockdown). You could make an incredibly compelling, and incredibly inaccurate statement about the efficacy of a speed reduction process. Or, a classic example of the difference between correlation and causation – the observation that when ice cream sales increase, so do drownings. Warmer weather is the lurking variable here.

And finally, there’s the question of narrative. Data often tells us stories of deficits and disadvantage, not because the data is inherently measuring deficit, but because we frame it that way. Educational attainment, for example, is a strengths-based data point until you use it to compare groups of young people. When we frame that data in terms of “good” outcomes (tertiary-level attainment) versus “bad” outcomes (NCEA Level 1) we shape the data from a deficit perspective. Data can be used in a more mana-enhancing way, by looking holistically at a broader range of aspects of a young person’s life.

To use data effectively, we need to examine it, to understand its provenance, its failings and its biases. We need to make active choices about how we govern it, frame it, and the narrative that we use it to create. And this is just the start – there are plenty of other questions to ask, like how do we democratise and de-privilege data? And how do we ensure that data doesn’t reduce our thinking about people and problems to a single story?

The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”  – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“E koekoe te tüi, e ketekete te käkä, e kükü te kererü” – the tüi squawks, the käkä chatters, the pigeon coos. They are all birds, but it’s the differences in their songs and stories that make them special. We need to understand if the data we’re using is telling us about birds, or about kererü. And then we need to go and spend time in the forest ourselves, and ask the kererü what it is they really want. If we don’t, we risk further entrenching the inequity that exists within Aotearoa.

Weaving Hope: The story behind the mural

In 2019 the Vodafone New Zealand Foundation worked on a temporary mural which was placed in the heart of Wellington, Te Ngākau Civic Square.

Making the Mural – the short story behind the making of ‘Weaving Hope’.

Weaving Hope tells the story of loss and hope. This work acknowledges the grief over the tragedy that happened in Christchurch on 15 March 2019, and presents a vision and hope for a more unified, accepting and diverse Aotearoa. The mural has been weaved together by local mural artist Ruth Robertson-Taylor, but the vision and key elements come directly from the Muslim community.

This work was co-created with the Muslim Students Association (VicMuslim), the International Muslim Association of New Zealand’s Committee, members of the Kilbirnie mosque community, and Vodafone New Zealand’s Muslim Society (Salam Network).

Vodafone, and the Vodafone New Zealand Foundation supported the creation of this mural, with site support from Wellington City Council.

“At Vodafone we’re committed to fostering a deeply embedded culture of inclusion. One that values the full diversity of our people, our customers and the communities we serve. This mural reflects our desire as an organisation to take positive action from a devastating event, and demonstrate the kindness and generosity that sits at the core of Aotearoa. Out of tragedy must come unity.”

Antony Welton, Chair of the Vodafone New Zealand Foundation

About the Design

The name ‘Weaving Hope’, chosen by Iffah from VicMuslim, speaks to the vision of the artwork, and the wide range of artists and community members who helped weave together the final design.

Arches play a key role in the work, a nod to Islamic architecture, rainbows, and bridges. A strong shape, these arches are evocative of mosques, of bridging understanding, and of crossing boundaries.

The geometric features and Kufic script used in the design pay homage to traditional and modern Islamic art. They represent the love of science, geometry and the mystery of life in this culture, and feel familiar and welcoming to those of the faith.

In places the strong geometry fractures into pieces and shapes. This is symbolic of both disintegration and creation. The design is simultaneously destroyed and built from small elements, showing the dual nature and strong connection between these two forces.

Flowers feature strongly in the design. In the panel to the far right of the artwork each flower was hand carved by local Syrian furniture maker Mahmoud Shagouri, with the 51 martyrs from the tragedy in mind. The flowers come from various countries around the world, a reminder that Islam is a diverse global faith, and a faith practised in New Zealand.

There is a quote on the artwork, a feature all parties involved in the design wanted in the final work. It reads: “Be kind, for whenever kindness becomes part of something, it beautifies it.” Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

About the Artists

Ruth Robertson-Taylor was the lead artist behind the work, but key elements have been contributed by local, national, and international contributors.

Mural Artist Ruth Robertson-Taylor discusses the mural design with members of Kilbirnie Mosque.

Ruth Robertson-Taylor (Gorse) has been actively painting public murals for nearly 10 years in the greater Wellington region. Working collaboratively with councils and communities, she shapes narratives that encapsulate the spirit of each art piece’s location. Her mural aesthetics can differ greatly from one to the next, but like all good public murals, each piece responds to the space and community they sit within. Ruth often works with different artists to co-create large collaborative artworks. Graphic designers Muhammad Waqas and Farhan Sarfraz worked with Ruth on the overall design scheme for this work.

Additionally, the Kufic script (Arabic text displayed in three boxes throughout the mural) was contributed by Muhammad Waqas, a local creative who belongs to the Kilbirnie mosque community. The Kufic script displays the words ‘peace’, ‘love’ and ‘unity’. Read more about Muhammad here.

The traditional geometric design that is repeated throughout the work was contributed by Farhan Sarfraz. Farhan is a graphic designer, a Programme Manager at Vodafone New Zealand, and part of the Salam Network.

The flower carvings portrayed on the far-right panel were created by the artist and Mahmoud Shagouri. Mahmoud is a resettled Syrian based in Porirua. In Syria he was an expert furniture maker. Ruth and Mahmoud worked on the carvings together bridging the language gap with google translate!

Surprise find elements (hidden phrases) were contributed by Asyraf ElGhazali, a visiting student from Malaysia, who we met through the consultation at the Kilbirnie mosque.

Members of the Victoria University Muslim Club during the mural workshop

A lot of amazing people contributed to the final design, and these were a few reflections and hopes for the mural from the co-creation workshops we ran.

“I hope that this mural can show others the real message of Islam, which is peace.”

“We are many races, we are diversified, but we are still one.”

“This mural is a great way to bring us back to all of those positive emotions that we had, to the goals we might have set, those resolutions we put forward… and to bring us back to each other.”

A huge thank you to everyone involved in the project. We hope the mural makes viewers think, and can play a small role in building a more unified and hopeful future for all of Aotearoa.

Mahmoud helping to carve flowers

Driving Change Network calls for a meeting with Prime Minister Ardern

In late 2018 the Vodafone New Zealand Foundation brought together a small group of community focussed funders to look at the barriers young people faced in getting their driver’s licenses.

Driving Change has since grown to include a wide range of stakeholders in the driver licensing space way beyond philanthropy.

On Tuesday 3rd September, Todd Foundation, Mayors Taskforce for Jobs, Philanthropy New Zealand, Vodafone New Zealand Foundation and PwC, brought together a range of stakeholders from diverse groups of interested parties (business, iwi, community, local and central government, philanthropy and NGOs) creating the Driver Change Network.

Today the group sent this open letter to the PM:


Open Letter to Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern

26 September 2019

Kei te rangatira, tēnā koe Prime Minister,

New Zealand Driver Licencing System

Studies show that 70,000 – 90,000 young people face major barriers to progressing to a full licence.  A driver licence currently holds many functions beyond a licence to drive. It’s a prerequisite to many jobs, independence, a formal means of legal identification, and a positive step to participate in our economy.

Families and children will benefit when the drivers in their lives are able to drive legally, safely and confidently. Communities, especially rural and remote communities, will benefit when more of their people are able to access education opportunities, contribute to the care of their whanau, participate in employment and generally take an active part in the life of the community. All of us will benefit when fewer of our young people are caught up in the criminal justice system and more of our young people are able to drive with confidence, access all the opportunities that come with driving, and contribute to our country through their paid and unpaid work, including family care.

Tangata whenua Māori, those in low socio-economic circumstances, those in isolated rural communities, and those currently in the care of the state, face disproportionate barriers to accessing a driver’s licence and the benefits that come with it. Today, those who the graduated licensing system fails choose to drive regardless, risk social and economic isolation, face large fines and often a journey into the criminal justice system. These failures prompted us to assemble a diverse and passionate group of New Zealanders spanning business, iwi, community, local government, central government, philanthropic and non-government organisations. Together we formed the Driving Change Network.

Our mission is to promote a driver licensing system where licences are recognised for the social and public good they provide. We want New Zealand to be a country where everyone is able to access the benefits of a driver’s licence.

While there are a large number of community programmes addressing these challenges, they struggle to meet demand, are not universal nor coordinated across New Zealand, are often restricted to serving a particular demographic, and are underfunded.

The Driving Change Network believe that with a more coordinated, inclusive and accessible driver licensing system, we can take another step towards a thriving, just and prosperous Aotearoa.  At a recent hui, we identified the common challenges, and worked on some practical solutions to close the current gaps.

Given its significance to all New Zealanders, the Driving Change Network would like to meet with you to discuss how we can work together to ensure every New Zealander has the same opportunity to access the benefits of a driver’s licence. Given over 7 different Ministries are funding programmes independently, and 11 Ministries are involved in this system, we believe a cross-agency approach is required.

Ngā mihi nui,

The Driving Change Network

Signatories to this letter:

Blue Light; COMET Auckland; Connecting for Youth Employment; Gareth Parry, Partner, PwC Consulting; Got Drive Community Trust; HMS Trust and their projects Passport 2 Drive and Open Road; J R McKenzie Trust; JustSpeak; Keran Tsering, The Salvation Army Driver Programmes Manager; Lynda Murray, parent; Mayors Taskforce for Jobs; Manakau Urban Māori Authority; Partners Porirua; Philanthropy New Zealand; Taranaki Futures; The Southern Initiative; Todd Foundation; Vodafone New Zealand Foundation

Responses to or enquiries regarding this letter can be addressed to Noa Woolloff (noa.woolloff@mtfj.org.nz)

Open Letter to Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern from the Driving Change Network


The Driving Change Network will also be mapping the driver licensing system, along with its barriers and opportunities, and hope to host strategic meetings with MPs.

Systems-level impact is a focus for the Vodafone NZ Foundation in our current strategy, as is collaboration, so we have set aside funding for systems change work in this space, along with the Todd Foundation and J R McKenzie Trust.

Change Accelerator 2018

Where are they now?

In 2018 we invited three amazing teams to join us for the second Vodafone Foundation Change Accelerator in Christchurch.  It’s now 5 months on from the programme, and we thought we’d check in with them to hear what they’re up to now, and how the projects are going.  All three projects are innovative, tech-based and work to improve the lives of Aotearoa’s young people . We hope the stories of these amazing wahine led projects can inspire you if you’re thinking of applying in 2019.

2018 Change Accelerator Participants2018 Change Accelerator Participants

Anamata Cafe

Digitising the golden standard in youth health assessment (HEADSSS)

The Idea
This team went into the Change Accelerator with an idea to digitalise a well-known and widely used youth health assessment. They entered the programme with a frustration around the paper-based nature of the assessment, and with the goal to enhance responsiveness for the young people and school nurses using the assessment.

Their Experience

“We learnt so much at the Change Accelerator programme. In particular, our increased knowledge regarding the technology space & the NFP sector. We have further developed our thinking in regards to our digital assessment and the key features we are wanting to see.”

A highlight for the Anamata Café team was learning how to pitch:

“…and also the sprint sessions with our team of developers, seeing how the project evolved the skill sets of the different tech people, and how this all worked together to develop our prototype”

Reflecting on the programme now, Annabel thinks the pre-work and engaging with some tech people first to develop their understanding would’ve helped. She also reflects that the time factor was a challenge for a small organisation, and that juggling the day-to-day mahi alongside the programme was challenging.

What Happened Next?
The team were recently successful in applying to our Innovation Fund. Their next steps are to keep building the app, work on their business model and to pilot the project.

“We are excited to be developing this further as a web application, the schools we work with are crying out for this to be digital and we will have a full version developed, which has been co-designed with young people available for testing in September/October 2019.”

Annabel Prescott & Niki Wright – Anamata Cafe

Mid North Family Support

An app to support health professionals in teaching safety strategies to young people who have witnessed family violence.

The Idea
To create a Family Harm App for Rangatahi to learn strategies to keep safe during times of family violence/family harm.

“Our vision is to develop a domestic violence application (app) that will be utilised by organisations as an educational resource with rangatahi (youth) throughout Aotearoa (New Zealand).

Registered professionals within organisations will use observation and referral processes to identify vulnerable rangatahi who may be at-risk of exposure to violence within their homes.

These professionals will then utilise our app to engage rangatahi and assist them in developing their own keep safe strategies. Through the provision of relevant information and the identification of available support networks, we believe our rangatahi will be empowered to seek assistance during times of domestic violence within their homes.”

The Experience

“The Vodafone NZ Foundation’s Change Accelerator programme was a fantastic opportunity to develop a prototype for a Family Harm ‘Keeping Safe’ App for Rangatahi – named ‘Kia Wehikore’. Without the expertise, structure, and specialist knowledge provided during the Change Accelerator programme we would not have been able to develop a relevant, culturally responsive, rangatahi-centric app to combat family harm in our communities.”

“Mid North Family Support gained a vast array of learning opportunities from the Change Accelerator programme, which included

Prototyping a Family Harm app for Rangatahi – how cool is that!

Public speaking, Video & Slideshow presentation skills, Advertising/Marketing and Media training

Business & Operational Planning, Programme Canvasing & Governance knowledge

AI & Technology knowledge (including legalities, data recording, privacy, storage, clouds, viruses, hacks, copy writes and other significant and relevant complexities involved with app production)

Wonderful networking opportunities that created collaborative approaches and on-going partnerships.

Dedicated time away to apply our focus – allowing for a truly uninterrupted commitment to our kaupapa and mahi.

Experience in working alongside awesome people, who dream big, share talent and get lots done!”

Her advice for those thinking of applying is:

“Allow yourself to be available and present for the entire programme as all the days are full, so to also do your job back at the agency is indeed a big juggling act.”

What Happened Next?
Their Family Harm App (Kia Wehikore) has now been taonga (gifted) to Le Va (Ministry of Health) as part of their suite of Family Harm interventions – to be further developed, extended and launched into a nationwide programme.

“We are humbled by this ‘best possible outcome’, as it is now in the hands of a bigger well-funded organisation who will extend its reach and make it fly!”

Davina Smolders – Mid North Family Support

Te Tihi o Ruahine Whānau Ora Alliance

Collective dreaming and goal setting for rangatahi and whānau

The Idea
Te Tihi o Ruahine Whānau Ora Alliance came into the Change Accelerator with a prototype they’d already begun work on. They saw the Change Accelerator as an opportunity to further develop an Minimal Viable Product (MVP):

“Te Mauri Moemoea – a maori-centred webapp utilising gamification; supporting rangatahi, their whanau and community to create their own closed network which supports them to set dreams and tasks and journey through the realisation of these in their virtual and most importantly real life.”

The Experience

“We learnt so much at the accelerator, from IP, business 101, tech 101, artificial intelligence, design thinking, pitching to soft skills – the greatest resource we come away with though was the relationships that we were able to form and strengthen. Both with the Vodafone foundation and our sector mentor Dan Milward of Gamefroot, both of who we continue to work with around Te Mauri Moemoea.”

One highlight for them was the Tech 101 session delivered by DevAcademy.

“For community organisations moving into the tech sector, tech 101 really provided the opportunity to build our knowledge in this area as well as being realistic in our expectations of our junior developers.”

Their advice for potential applicants is:

“If you are new to the tech industry, then manage your expectations around what MVP is, be kind to your developers as they will be working very hard to get across the line for you, soak up the tech knowledge of the senior developer as this becomes extremely valuable moving forward outside of the change accelerator.”

What Happened Next?

“Since the change accelerator we have gone onto complete a more comprehensive MVP of Te Mauri Moemoea and will soon engage in user testing for the MVP. Further whanau engagement to understand the needs of rangatahi, their whanau and community will inform the on-going development of the wider Te Mauri Moemoea product.”

Te Tihi o Ruahine Whānau Ora Alliance were also successful in the latest round of our Innovation Fund. We’re excited to work with them on the pilot phase of the project.

Te Tihi Team
(L to R):Hemi Porter, Nikki Walden, Materoa Mar, Pikihuia Hillman & Stacey Seruvatu – Te Tihi

Grantee Blog – Maria Kekus

Maria Kekus is a Child and Youth Nurse Practitioner working for Health Connections.

Maria has extensive experience in child and youth health through her work in the primary health care and NGO sectors both in England and New Zealand.

Maria was also the recipient of a Personal Development grant in 2018. Below is her account of her journey.


In New Zealand health care for young people in NZ secure or residential care systems is often competing for priority status against safety and security.  This is turn can result in missed opportunities for young people to receive health care. For this reason, I wanted to visit a service that seems to have juggled all the competing priorities and have been judged by OFSTED as Outstanding – the first secure care centre to be judged at this level.  So, thank you Vodafone Foundation for your support to visit Barton Moss, a 20 bed secure care centre for children and young people managed by Salford City Council Children’s Services.

In September 2018 I visited Barton Moss and had the opportunity not only to look around and meet young people but also key people in the residence team including the Residence Manager, the care staff (youth workers) and the health team.  I was also privileged to gain insight into other services such as the Hindley Youth Offending Institute, which I will cover later. 

Special thanks go to Rachel the lead nurse in the team who gave up so much of her time to answer my many questions, and continues to answer them via email since my visit!

There were two main findings that I think have contributed to better outcomes for young people in Barton Moss and that we can learn from in the New Zealand secure residential system:

  • Skilled staff
  • Enhancing the Healing Environment

Skilled Staff

SECURE STAIRS is a framework that aims to support trauma informed care and formulation driven, evidenced based, whole systems approaches to creating change for young people with Children and Young People’s Secure Estate (CYPSE).  One of the core principles of the framework is that the day to day staff are at the centre of the intervention, recognising that they have a pivotal role and as such the environment and the relationships within (rather than specialist in reach services) are proposed as the primary agents of change for young people within secure settings.

Barton Moss embodies this approach and creates shared learning across all staff consistently and in a sustainable way.  In addition, they have embedded the development of “within relationships” e.g mental health services form part of the core onsite team.  In New Zealand they are a visiting “guest” service.  The only visiting person in Barton Moss is a psychiatrist who is utilised as a resource for the health team and care staff to support the young person’s health plan.

Enhancing the Healing Environment   

Barton Moss has implemented change modelled on the Enhancing Healing Environment framework.  This framework was originally developed for dementia care homes with good effect and now has been rolled out to prisons and hospitals.

Barton Moss has created an environment that feels safe and secure for young people, including smaller family style units, more homely feeling to the young people’s rooms, personal belongings are encouraged.  The young people also participate in the food preparation and other activities that build life skills without being chores. The environment has indoor and outdoor activities including caring for animals, gardening, building and sporting activities; alongside creative opportunities.

Rachel not only provided me with the opportunity on site but has continued to support me with resources and links to key people that supported change in other residences like the Kings Fund Project which funded the Enhancing the Healing Environment Programme.  The Kings Fund Project also supported the changes in the health area at Hindley Youth Offender Institute. 

In Hindley young people were core to the consultation process, as they should be, and other stakeholders were included which resulted in the clinic area being transformed to a safe user-friendly space.

Young people in Hindley had high levels of non-attendance for their health appointments, however, since the change of environment this has improved by 67% with no incidents of vandalism/graffiti in the health area.  The space has been used for health promotion activities such as “beer goggles and remote-controlled cars”.

Below is a picture of the health waiting area from Hindley Youth Offenders Institute designed by the young people.  I felt I had to include this as it is so far from anything I have seen currently in New Zealand.  The lighting, colours and ambiance instantly promote a sense of warmth and comfort.

Health Waiting Area, Hindley Youth Offenders Institute, Wigan, UK

Summary

Health is a right for all young people in New Zealand wherever they may be placed.  We can learn much from these models in  the UK that are achieving improved outcomes for young people.  Many of the care facilities in New Zealand are not fit for purpose now and would benefit from applying the Enhancing Healing Environments framework to them. As NZ systems for children and young people are changing from large residential environments to smaller units the evidence still applies – create environments that promote healing.

Youth Justice in Aotearoa New Zealand: not perfect… but responding


When you’re 17, you need a bit of a scare!”

In March 2016, Jess McVicar, spokeswoman for the Sensible Sentencing Trust was interviewed on TVNZ’s Breakfast programme. She gave her feedback on the proposal to change the jurisdiction of the Youth Court to include young people aged 17 years of age.

Adamant that she knew exactly what she was doing at 17, Ms McVicar suggested that young people of this age would be more likely to change their offending behaviour if they were dealt with in the adult court – that the offending behaviour of 17 year olds would be curbed through “a bit of a scare”.

 

Youth… and Justice

The youth justice system in New Zealand is world class. It is based on a model of restorative and therapeutic justice, holding young people to account for their behaviour whilst striving to help them address the underlying issues that manifest in offending.

For the last 10 years, I have worked within this system. In the last 12 months, the Vodafone Fellowship has released me to focus on my passion: young people within the legal system and the issues that they face understanding the language associated with that journey.

I’ve had a bit of a scare! The processes within our youth justice system that are designed to be restorative often fall at the language hurdle. Well intentioned agencies and dedicated youth justice professionals fail to account for the fact that the majority of young people we work with have a significant and identifiable problem with oral language.

He sat across the table from me in the classroom. I asked him how his court appearance went. “All guds… [pause] – but what does ‘guilty’ mean?” [16 year old]

A “significant and identifiable issue with oral language” describes young people who struggle to understand what people are saying to them and to express themselves.

Research indicates at least 60% of young people within the youth justice system have oral language problems. Youth justice professionals that I have encountered around New Zealand put the figure much higher – “ALL the young people I work with have problems with language.”


Youth were once children – who were once babies

Issues with oral language don’t start when a young person is arrested. The developmental work vital for oral language competence should have started 17 years previously in the context of whanau relationship. Bonding, attachment, developing language, turn-taking, learning to relate to others, understanding the world of words and using words to express yourself effectively.

When these foundations aren’t established for whatever reason, problems with oral language result and children carry these issues into their ‘young person’ years. There is a strong association between behavioural difficulties and oral language difficulties.

Many young people involved in offending are disengaged from education, training or employment and yet engagement in education, training or employment is a protective factor against offending.

Why the disengagement?

Oral language is at the core of everything.

It is essential for relating, connecting, attaching, negotiating, belonging. Oral language is the foundation for reading text. Reading is assigning symbols to words that we first encounter through talking. If you struggle with oral language, chances are you will struggle with reading.

“They said I was being charged with ‘possession of instruments for conversion’. The only instruments I knew were musical ones – so I thought they were trying to charge me with a ram raid on a music shop… [15 year old]

Young people can struggle to remain engaged in a learning environment where they can’t understand what’s going on and where they keep getting into trouble for not doing what they’re told because they don’t understand. Young people get angry and frustrated, disengage and end up ‘expressing’ themselves physically, acting out and acting up? Stand down. Suspension. Exclusion. The cracks open up and they slip through.

Those who then encounter the legal system enter into a space with it’s own language. They meet a new vocabulary. Custody. Supervision orders. Curfew. Bail. In addition, the restorative nature of youth justice involves oral language – police interviews, family group conferences, drug and alcohol counselling, anger management counselling, family therapy, it’s all a talkfest!


Youth Justice in Aotearoa New Zealand: not perfect… but responding

It’s within this system that I am seeking to affect change. Training youth justice professionals to recognise these issues. Developing an oral language assessment tool for use in the justice system. Assisting agencies to help young people understand and express themselves effectively in the legal system.

“I was in my family group conference. They asked me if I felt remorse for what I did? I didn’t know if I did or not – I didn’t know what ‘remorse’ meant…” [15 year old]

Our youth justice system isn’t perfect, but it is starting to respond to the significant oral language needs of young people, recognising the connection between a young person’s understanding, engagement, sense of justice and readiness to change. It is a system uniquely positioned to respond to the developmental needs of young people.

A young person of 17 can’t legally drink alcohol, buy a packet of smokes, get married without parental consent, vote in elections, buy an Instant Kiwi ticket or get a credit card. We understand that a 17 year old is still developing the necessary insight to be able make certain decisions? We seek to protect them until that maturity is more likely to have emerged.

Why then would we demand that a 17 year old be treated the same as a mature adult when it comes to the law? And as a majority of 17 year olds in the legal system have a significant issue with oral language, consigning them to an adult process doesn’t deliver justice – for them, or the victims of their offending.

He sat across the table from me. Eighteen months on remand. I asked him: “When is your next hearing?” He asked me “What’s a hearing?” [25 year old]

It is appropriate that 17 year olds be included within the youth justice system, a responsive and developmentally appropriate system that is the most effective context for young people who offend.

When a 17 year old offends, “a bit of a scare” won’t do them, their victim or the community any good. The scare suggested by Ms McVicar can actually end up reinforcing the actual thinking and behaviours it is trying to curb.

A 17 year old who offends needs a place where needs are acknowledged and addressed so that they understand and engage, take responsibility for their actions, address offending behaviour and head toward a different future. That place is Youth Justice!

Mark Stephenson, 2016 Vodafone Foundation Fellowship Recipient

Giving space to people who are often left out of the conversation

 

I am now six months into a year-long fellowship which has allowed me to work on a resource about marginalised intersecting identities within the sex, gender and sexuality diverse communities.

 

I have met and connected with a lot of people with many different experiences of identity and am constantly reminded just how connected and overlapping our oppressions and frustrations are.

 

I think so far, aside from reading a lot about representation and social movements, this has been the biggest reoccurring theme I keep coming back to after talking with people.

 

How different it is to have conversations about social change that do not exclude identities! How we all have an obligation to try harder, to always be thinking who is missing. To make sure I listen to someone’s perspective even though it might erase mine, or make me uncomfortable.

 

  • Who is not represented and how do I include them?
  • How do I not erase perspectives?
  • Am I taking up too much space?
  • How to uplift people who are marginalised in a way that is not tokenistic and feels safe?
  • How do I make sure my work is accessible to people with different abilities and ways of communicating?

 

I am a pakeha queer trans masculine person with a physical disability. My impairment is not always obvious to other people but it impacts a lot on my ability to do stuff. I’m disabled but not disabled enough, able but not able enough… In-between.

 

So I’ve been thinking a lot about in-between kinds of people and how we fit into spaces or don’t, whether it be physically inaccessible or that you never see yourself represented. To almost always hear gender or sexuality described from a western colonising framework, not an indigenous cultural perspective. To learn about education but not ever see accessibility given consideration.

 

What it means to not quite fit into conversations or theories, to always be listening and thinking “yes good point but what about…” or “have you considered…?” To be the exception to the rule. To always preface your point with an apology. To feel too frustrated to bother pointing something out, then feel bad for not taking the time to try and educate… To understand that everyone is at different stages of the conversation, and be kind.

 

In early November I held my first advisors hui for the project. My advisors are people with a range of marginalised experiences that are different from mine. (Including culture, age, ability, gender identity, sexuality and neuro-diversity) We came together to create a vision for the project and share ideas around how to interview people in ways that are culturally sensitive, preserve anonymity if that is required and is inclusive of the different ways people experience the world. We talked about ethics; support and how I can collate the stories people share in a way that does not filter their own experiences through my own viewpoint and understanding of the world.

 

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Recently I had the privilege of going to Bangkok for the ILGA world conference, this was my first real overseas trip and I was lucky to go with twelve other queer and gender diverse folks from Aotearoa. I felt incredibly supported but also isolated at the same time, particularly in relation to this project, it highlighted the necessity of this work however. Over the course of the five-day conference I heard the words disability or accessibility twice. Once each. Except for the times where I had conversations with people about disability and inclusiveness.

 

I saw how in many places they are just beginning to talk about decolonisation and indigenous frameworks and I realised how lucky I am to be doing my project with the support of organisations that hold those values at their core.

 

I thought a lot about the conversations happening in the panels and how they were different to the ones happening in the lift, the lunch breaks and outside in the smoking area, in the in-between spaces.

 

Who has access to a microphone and who doesn’t?

 

I thought about all the queer and trans people with disabilities I know, and how I couldn’t recall seeing anyone with a visible disability. I realised how much energy and ability it takes to be able to sit for hours and listen, for five days. I felt frustrated that my body wouldn’t let me, I worried that I was wasting an opportunity. I wondered how many other people were also struggling (with language barriers, dietary requirements, anxiety, different ability) to get through the day and still have the energy to have all the important conversations that made this experience so incredible and worthwhile.

 

As I move on to the next stage of this project I am excited to continue to learn and share stories with all of the people who have agreed to be involved in this project. I will keep reflecting and wonder what shifting the narrative might look like. I hope to help give space to people who are often left out of the conversation.

 

“Nothing about us without us.”

Intergenerational Leadership Development ‘Weaving the fibres of the Muka’

 

Deidre Otene
Kohatutaka
Te Uri Mahoe
Ngapuhi, Te Rarawa

Deidre Otene

As a young girl I spent days on end, at the feet of my Nana preparing Muka as she weaved Kete in her home in Mangamuka. My nana Adelaide Tiari Otene was a weaver and as a child I sat at her feet scraping Muka fibres whilst she mentored me through the process of weaving Kete. The process became a part of everyday life for us as her mokopuna (grandchildren) and unbeknown to me then, would be the guidance that has woven my journey into leadership and development today.

The topic of my fellowship is Intergenerational Leadership Development and the importance of Collective Impact in Indigenous settings.


Caring for the fibres of the Muka

Like the fibres of delicate Muka I liken them to that of our people, diverse in our makeup and easily broken and tattered if not cared for appropriately. Each individual strand of Muka is weak on its own, breakable and bare, but woven together creates a strength, resilience and beauty that can withstand the harshest conditions.


The Collective Mind Set

During my short time on this fellowship journey I have had the privilege of meeting and being in the presence of influential people from diverse upbringings and beliefs. On a recent trip to Hawaii I was invited to speak at the Future Leaders of the Pacific forum and workshop with a collective of young leaders hailing from Australia, Tonga, Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Cook Islands, Niue, the Solomon Islands, New Zealand, the Marshall Islands, Guam, Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, American Samoa and Hawaii. As we shared our stories of adversity, triumph and aspirations the conclusion of the workshop provided collective substance to my fellowship topic. That no matter where we had been as a people our aspirations to achieve prosperity would come from a collective mind-set. So from the floor of my nanas home to the shores of Hawai‘i the aspiration was clear, that through caring for each strand of the Muka we could weave together an unbreakable kete that would house the knowledge and insight to carry our people forward into the future. My exploration of Collective Impact and successful examples in Queensland Australia and here in New Zealand provide a template to action this vision further.


Natural way of giving

“This moment had me reflect on the importance of reciprocity, the natural way of giving and the importance this has on leadership development”

 

Sometimes the greatest learnings come from the places you least expect, during my fellowship journey I have had the privilege of sharing my life journey. One particular instance stands out for me. I recently returned to Okaihau College and shared my journey of being raised in the far north, the adversity that came with my upbringing and the richness of family and connectedness that then saw me travel the world to explore and gain knowledge to bring home. As I returned to my car after my korero I was approached by an elder from the area, he recognised my last name and asked if I was one of the grandchildren of Adelaide from Mangamuka, he shared his stories of taking my nana fish and how she would always give him beautifully woven kete. This moment had me reflect on the importance of reciprocity, the natural way of giving and the importance this has on leadership development.

 

“At the heart of their work it is evident that family, a connectedness to who they are and a natural commitment to caring for others is the driving force to leadership in action”

 

Through this journey I have come across many leaders either in person, through research and through the sharing of stories. The mentorship of Dr Lance O’Sullivan and his wife Tracy O’Sullivan has shown me that leadership is a result of hard work. I have witnessed the leadership of Lance and Tracy as directors and creators of what I believe to be ground breaking innovation that is overcoming health inequalities for our countries most vulnerable communities. At the heart of their work it is evident that family, a connectedness to who they are and a natural commitment to caring for others is the driving force to leadership in action.


“How Courageous are we?”

I am Kohatutaka, Te Uri Mahoe, Ngapuhi and Te Rarawa. As a people we are in a phase of post treaty settlement and at the verge of settlement, Inter Tribal debate and resolution. The time cannot be any more appropriate than now to focus on how we develop leadership of young people now and into the future. We have come too far not to invest in sustainability of our greatest asset, and that is our people. The challenge I believe is how courageous are we? Can we invest in and open the doors to Young People in spaces of Iwi governance, organisational governance and in areas of business and asset growth. My answer is, we cannot afford not to. The reality is that if our young people are not fit to lead then our future sustainability will be grim. How courageous are we to look outside of business as usual and create and action governance and mentoring initiatives that will equip this generation with capability, confidence and courage, to be a growing influence across a range of sectors and regional and national entities. This I believe will create sustainable positive outcomes for our people. Examples of successful initiatives here in New Zealand provide a robust direction towards Youth governance and leadership development. Indigenous leaders Shay Wright and Travis O’Keefe of Te Whare Hukahuka have created Ka Eke Poutama in Taamaki (Auckland) and have recognised that Maori are playing a pivotal role in shaping the future of Taamaki. Treaty settlements are paving the way for greater opportunities and prosperity and empowering the next generation of capable and confident Maori leaders. This is an important next step to ensure successful Organisations and sustainable positive outcomes. A courageous step forward and one that brings together the connected of the past whilst navigating forward, so it is about equipping our young leaders with the innovative thinking needed to navigate our waka into the future.

We should also be brave and open to working across sectors and even more open and brave to explore how we can work with other Iwi to gain collective impact for the development of leadership and growth opportunities.

In closing, our development must happen globally, we cannot afford to be insular in our development and technology enables this to happen. Indigenous structures here and around the world share commonalities’ of inherited structures and the new year will see me explore Silicon Valley in San Francisco to build pathways for the development of Information Technology leadership opportunities. I will also visit Alaska to explore the First Alaskan Institute and Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu and the Ngai Tahu Research Centre. Continuing to fill my kete with conversations and debates that will pave a journey forward for Intergenerational Leadership Development.