Last month I met some amazing people at the first TEDx Manukau. Hosted by Ko Awatea, 10 ‘Bright spots’ – everyday people, shared how they help people across South Auckland and beyond to live well – with dignity and meaning and to build a sense of community.
The idea behind this work is that if people are living satisfying and fulfilling lives they will be less likely to require health care services and more capable of supporting others to live similarly satisfying and fulfilling lives; creating a virtuous cycle.
The event, which amazed, inspired and at times triggered tears from the audience lived up to its theme: Bright Spots; inspiring ideas, transforming lives. I’m joined by Alex Twigg, Ko Awatea Campaign Manager to tell us more. TEDxManukau began as a project called ‘40 Bright Spots’ commissioned by Ko Awatea’s Director, Jonathon Gray. Through this process, a remarkable collection of people and organisations were discovered providing amazing services to their communities. What we learnt from these bright spots is that they are:
- Social innovators, responding creatively to a need within their community
- Motivated by a deep sense of personal conviction
- Their initiatives are all characterised by strong relational commitments to the people they are working with. They avoid targets and transactional activity
- They are risk takers willing to act and reflect on their actions
- They find the regulatory requirement of funders and social policy makers restrictive, risk-averse and often unsupportive of their efforts and
- Most surprising, many of them did not know each other, even when they worked in the same South Auckland suburb. While they all wanted to be part of a community of social innovators, they did not have the time or resources to make the effort needed to build this network of social innovators.
One such bright spot is Susan Dunlop, principal of Yendarra Primary School. Over the nine years that Susan has been principal, the school has transformed what students eat and drink. As a result students’ learning, attendance and behaviour have all improved. Some obvious questions that arise from Susan’s talk are (1) Why after nine years is this initiative still only limited to one primary school (2) What if this initiative was spread across all schools across our District, could we eliminate the incidence of type 2 diabetes from our population? and (3) What would it take to make this happen and who can help?
TEDxManukau also took learnings from former stand-up comedian and ambassador of the Key to Life Charitable Trust Mike King. Mike told a story of visiting a school in the Far North that had a spate of youth suicides (five). Students told him they were frustrated at being given pre-packaged solutions from visiting “experts”. Mike stressed the importance that youth be involved in creating their own pathways towards help, and urged parents to more consciously communicate with their children. “How we talk to our kids becomes their inner voice.”
The chief executive of World Vision New Zealand Chris Clarke spoke about a 12-year-old Syrian refugee called Adel. Adel’s father died when his village was bombed, and Adel, his mother and five sisters fled to Lebanon, where they lived in a freezing tent. Adel rose early and spent his days chopping wood and digging for potatoes to repay a debt the family had incurred. He told Chris proudly he was reducing this debt by $2 a day.
Angry and baffled Chris told TEDxManukau delegates the situation caused him to shake his fist at the world and its suffering. But then he thought of the active grace of Adel himself. “A young boy aged 12, not with a fist shaking but a hand open. In Adel lies the response to injustice and unfairness,” he said. Whether it be chopping wood, building a skate park, improving a school’s nutrition or handing out soup. “We all have the choice of shaking our fist or opening our hands.”
For a full list of all the speakers and their bios go to TEDxManukau (use Firefox). This is just a small sample of the great work taking place in South Auckland’s dynamic and diverse communities .
An enormous thank you to MCs Sarah Longbottom and Waikare Komene, both experienced TEDx speakers as well as bright spots in their own right. Thanks to the Partners who funded and supported TEDxManukau and the great team who helped make it happen.
Here’s to many more TEDxManukau events to come. To read the press release click here
Alex and Geraint
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