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A sense of urgency and tupuna legacy drive indigenous social entrepreneurs

International Funders for Indigenous Peoples - Pacific Regional Hui 9-10 May, 2017

Te Wānanga o Raukawa, Ōtaki, New Zealand


As professionals we attend many conferences in our careers. Despite many being valuable, these events can sometimes blend into one another. Every now and then though, there is one that really stands out.

This May I attended one such stand out event in Ōtaki on the West Coast of the North Island New Zealand.

The location, the locals, the visitors, the hosts and the occasion combined to make it an event to remember.

The event was the International Funders of Indigenous Peoples- Pacific Regional Conference. More commonly referred to as IFIP. This conference is the work of a donor group striving to increase philanthropic investment in indigenous communities worldwide. They host regular events and May 2017 was the opportunity for New Zealand to host the Pacific regional meeting.

For this, indigenous social entrepreneurs got the chance to engage with philanthropists interested in their initiatives to promote cross-cultural understanding, sharing of knowledge, and cultivation of relationships.

Part of what made the event magical was the manaaki and story of transformation by the hosts Te Wānanga o Raukawa. Te Wānanga o Raukawa is a trailblazing school of higher learning, which has been an instigator of indigenous language and knowledge revitalisation for graduates, their families, their iwi (tribes) and the town the school is situated in.

Ōtaki is now poised to become the first official bilingual town in New Zealand. The head of the school Dr Mereana Selby, lecturers and graduates all presented at the conference. Also during the event, kuia from the Wānanga took attendees on guided tours of sites of significance in the town.

The tour of their historical church grounds Rangiātea happened to fall on a drizzly afternoon and effervescent Kuia Rikihana took one look at my high heels and decided she needed to lend me her gumboots (and subsequently nick-named me high heels for the rest of the conference). Such generous and selfless hosting was gratefully received.

At the conference a range of initiatives were presented by entrepreneurs with expertise in various fields. We saw real-world examples of how people are transforming communities and creating employment through restoring ecosystems, disrupting traditional models of health delivery to be more effective and timely, making technology accessible to remote communities, creating indigenous-led land-based ventures, building young women’s leadership and more.

It was evident that indigenous values and knowledge were woven seamlessly throughout the development of their projects. Many mentioned a deep desire to continue the legacy of their tupuna (ancestors) as the driving force for what they do.

I left with an overwhelming sense of the immense drive, urgency, innovation and tupuna legacy that is imbued in the work of these entrepreneurs. They are so driven that I have no doubt that they will succeed with their goals. Without a doubt the philanthropists sensed this too.


“We will not wait, we cannot wait, the community are calling for change now”

(Deidre Otene CEO of Moko Foundation and presenter at IFIP)

“This conference was an incredible experience of learning and knowledge sharing with indigenous leaders and community builders working to make great change globally"

(Veeshayne Patuwai, Director of Urutapu and presenter at IFIP)

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