Creating opportunities for rangatahi in South Invercargill

‘If we can’t take the rangatahi to the opportunities, we’ll bring the opportunities to the rangatahi’ – If there was one way to describe Stacey Materoa’s role at South Alive, this would be it.

Stacey began working as the Rangatahi Project Co-ordinator in January 2023, after South Alive received funding from Te Rourou, One Aotearoa Foundation through its Invercargill Initiative. The purpose of the role was to provide more opportunities for rangatahi in South Invercargill, and over 10 months, those opportunities have been coming in fast.

School holiday programmes, community picnics, rangatahi-led podcasts, and support service satellite events are just some of the ways Stacey helps to enable equitable access for young people in the south.

“We want to be the bridge that connects south Invercargill rangatahi to the rest of the city,” Stacey says.

“Transport is one of the biggest barriers for young people in the south, which means they’re not able to utilise many of the existing support services around the city.  By bringing those services and opportunities here, we’re helping to break those barriers.”

Every project falls under any four focus areas:

  1. Trust & Connection
  2. Spaces & Places
  3. Agency & Empowerment
  4. Exposure & Education

Importantly, the role is continuously shaped by the rangatahi Stacey works with, including a ‘rangatahi events crew’ who help to decide what initiatives are most important to them.

“For me it’s about giving them opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have. It’s giving them a say and making sure they’re heard. It’s about showing up for them too; the type of things every young person needs.”

Te Rourou, One Aotearoa Foundation community catalyst Mandy Smith says Stacey has been a huge asset to the Foundation’s Invercargill Initiative.

“The mahi Stacey does directly addresses many of the difficulties raised in our interactions with rangatahi. We know young people in South City are experiencing disproportionate rates of disadvantage and there are clear benefits in supporting a role like this in our community,” Mandy says.

The Rangatahi Engagement Co-ordinator role has already received funding from Te Rourou’s Thriving in Murihiku contestable fund for Stacey to continue her amazing mahi.

Lexical Liberation: Demystifying Philanthropy through the Abandonment of Jargon

(Why We Should Talk Like Normal People in Philanthropy)

Shaz Reece, Murihiku Insights, Te Rourou, One Aotearoa Foundation


The language we use in philanthropy is super (duper) important and should be accessible to all, as in, everyone should be able to understand what you’re talking about.

As of last week, I’ve been in the philanthropic world for one year. Before this, I couldn’t have told you much about it. In fact, it was probably a year ago that I typed ‘philanthropy definition’ into Google (you know you’ve done it too). Little did I know that this would be the first of countless sneaky Google searches as I began my journey into the depths of Philanthropic Jargon (words and terms used by a specific profession or group).

As funders, we have been slowly making progress to acknowledge the overwhelming power imbalance held over grant recipients (we hold the funds, we hold the power). We need to keep the momentum going, questioning more than just our funding methods, and ensuring we are interacting with the community in an equitable (fair) and accessible way for all.

My title at Te Rourou, One Aotearoa Foundation is ‘developmental evaluator’…lol, what does that even mean?! Well, turns out it means that I gain insights from our Invercargill Initiative; learn from, reflect on, and adapt the mahi as the initiative unfolds (as opposed to evaluating after the fact). That makes sense to me…now…after a year. But I can tell you how it reads to our community partners and grant recipients: developmental EVALUATOR. Not a term fondly welcomed into any organisation who is constantly having to prove their worth in a world of competitive funding (jumping through hoops to get funded).

The title ‘Person who researches and collects data to make sure we’re doing things good’ paints a better picture of what I do, but I prefer ‘Murihiku Insights’. What’s in a name? Everything.

A while ago, I had some rangatahi ask me to explain the words I was using when interviewing them. In that moment, it became clear that the Philanthropic Jargon brainwash had reached its final stage. I had finally levelled up to Gatekeeper of the Sector, ready to promote an unnecessarily complicated vocabulary to the next generation of philanthropists.

“Why didn’t you just say that in the first place?”

I’ve got no answer to that, but I did gain some insight: Gen Z are coming, and they don’t have time for our nonsense.

At a recent Youth Advisory Group (YAG) retreat, I heard similar frustrations from my fellow youths (see: ‘fellow kids’ meme) working in philanthropy. Our young people are being made to feel out of place because they can’t instantly translate a secret language made up by those looking to protect their privilege – a language which is continuously loaded with increasingly pointless acronyms (or AIMLESS – Acronyms and Initialisms Making Language Extremely Smug and Stupid).

We need to regularly acknowledge philanthropy’s long history as a system steeped in privilege and racial inequity (where minority populations have rarely had a say about their own wellbeing). The people working on the ground are far too busy doing the actual work bettering the lives of those in their communities, they don’t have the time or energy to decipher our cryptic messages.

If we’re giving young people a platform to have their say, if we’re aiming for a fair playing field for everyone; young people learning to give grants, organisations receiving grants, and the people benefitting from those grants, let’s make sure that the invitation is in a language they can understand.

(If you have to follow everything with an explanation in brackets, you’re doing it wrong)



Passing the Rākau to Rangatahi – A Fund for and by Māori Youth

Poipoia te kākano kia puawai

Nurture the seed and it will blossom

How could we possibly know what’s best for rangatahi Māori? How do we know where best to invest toward the future aspirations or our Māori youth? What do they want? Need? Well, it turns out the answer is easy – let rangatahi Māori decide what’s best for rangatahi Māori.

Over the past couple of months, Te Rourou’s community catalysts have been working alongside Murihiku rangatahi to develop the Te Ōhanga Tīwhera fund – a collaborative fund that is designed with, by, and for rangatahi Māori throughout the rohe.

The fund came as Te Rourou’s response to overwhelming feedback from rangatahi Māori in Murihiku who said they needed to be heard, to be better connected to their culture, and to be valued in society. So, the Foundation allocated $200,000 to the fund, and were joined by funding partners the ILT Foundation, The Clare Foundation, and Community Trust South who added a combined $75,000 to the pot.

The money was ready – the next step was for the rangatahi to decide what to do with it.

Each of the eight young participants were chosen by their respective Murihiku papatipu Rūnanga; Te Rūnaka o Awarua, Te Rūnaka o Waihopai, Oraka-Aparima Rūnaka and Hokonui Rūnanga. From there, with the help of the community catalysts, the rangatahi were upskilled in lessons of governance, from conflicts of interest to applications, and right down to the nitty-gritty of the funding process.

What started as a group of eight young (perhaps a little apprehensive) strangers, quickly blossomed into a collaboration of unique and ambitious minds, eager to have their voices heard. They all quickly learned how closely their values aligned, and from there the structure of Te Ōhanga Tīwhera fund came to life.

A connection to culture, a platform to elevate young voices, and a sense of belonging in the community were just some of the general themes that came from their lively korero. These young people took the fund and carefully crafted it into an opportunity to best impact and support their fellow rangatahi.

They collectively decided the best way to make use of the fund was to divide it into three pools of funding. To apply, there is a short form and then an opportunity to present to the panel later in October. You can find out more about the funds available here. 

We already know that young people have a unique understanding of their own communities, their own challenges, and what it will take to enhance their own wellbeing. By making sure they have a seat at the table and a voice for their own futures, we can assist the next generation into success.

Ka rere, ka rere: becoming OHI Data Navigator

Mā te huruhuru ka rere te manu. Adorn the bird with feathers so it may soar.

Data is incredibly useful. It helps us tell stories, measure change, identify patterns and make decisions. At Te Rourou we believe OHI Data Navigator is a great example of this – a tool that provides accessible, relevant data that can shape advocacy, service provision, understanding, and outcomes for rangatahi (young people) in Aotearoa. It’s a project that we have been developing since 2018, and one we’re incredibly proud of. So, how did it come about?

Te Rourou launched in 2002 and has been focused on supporting better outcomes for young people since 2007. In 2017, we launched a bold new strategy, with the goal of halving the number of young people experiencing exclusion and disadvantage in New Zealand within 10 years. This audacious goal required us to better define exclusion and disadvantage; and to explore the question “how will we know when we get there?”.

Our goal was informed by a literature review, our own experiences, insights from community partners, and a 2016 Treasury report entitled Characteristics of Children and Young People at Risk. This report was based on information collected from a number of sectors, including education, social welfare and justice, as well as Statistics NZ surveys. Its findings and methodologies (both those we liked, and those we didn’t) underpinned and informed much of our subsequent work.

We engaged Deloitte, Nicholson Consulting, and the Centre for Social Impact to help us explore how we could use data, literature, and the voices of lived experience to understand the challenge and track changes over time. For three years, we worked together to explore different tools and frameworks before landing on a free, publicly available, data-based solution – OHI Data Navigator.

What we wanted to create was a tool that would generate impacts across the system. We wanted to democratise access to information, shape a strengths-based narrative from administrative data, influence government and philanthropic investment, and inform the development of services for young people.

In 2021, the data platform achieved MVP status (minimum viable product) – incomplete, but good enough to share. We established an independent Steering Group, published a report based on data insights, hired a project manager and launched the tool publicly at parliament. Since then, OHI Data Navigator has gone from strength to strength, developing its own strategy and identity, engaging with users and the broader community, and working to embed the principles of Māori Data Sovereignty.

We think there is so much potential in the information OHI Data Navigator offers. That’s why we’ve committed to operating as an umbrella for this work until 2027. It is our hope that, over the next few years, the tool will develop a life of its own, embed its usefulness in the sector and create significant contribution above and beyond the needs of Te Rourou. Our job has been to build the foundations of a tool. We’ve cloaked OHI Data Navigator with the resources it needs to start flying. Now it’s our job to step back to let it soar and see how it grows and serves community.


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 Te Rourou, One Aotearoa 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 tūi, e ketekete te kākā, e kūkū te kererū” – the tūi squawks, the kākā 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 kererū. And then we need to go and spend time in the forest ourselves, and ask the kererū what it is they really want. If we don’t, we risk further entrenching the inequity that exists within Aotearoa.