Embracing Te Tiriti O Waitangi, Fostering Community.

Exciting seismic shifts are happening in New Zealand’s cultural political landscape. The regular use of Te Reo, recognition of Te Ao Māori, and a growing understanding of Te Tiriti o Waitangi demonstrate a movement with the potential to radically re-orientate Aotearoa New Zealand to be a better place for all.

Community-led development (CLD) is one strand that can support this movement achieve effective and lasting change. By fostering connections between diverse groups, we can help shape the aspirations of local communities, grow local leadership and support new relationships that are inclusive and restorative.

CLD views communities as adaptive, complex systems. Communities are living social groupings that are critical in shaping the wellbeing of people and the environment. CLD recognises and affirms the talents and resources that people already have and has a default setting that backs people to contribute to their own wellbeing and development.

Inspiring Communities (IC) is a network of CLD practitioners with a deliberate focus on ‘place’, understanding that transformative change becomes more possible when contributions of all those who have an interest or connection to a place are activated.

This naturally brings into the conversation mana whenua, the people who are of that place, along with the history of what has happened between the many groups connected to place.

We must foster the respect and understanding of all groups, including, where feasible, opposing groups. This isn’t easy. But by hosting conversations between people with diverse backgrounds and views we help foster healthy and resilient communities and facilitate a deeper appreciation of our diversity – as well as what we hold in common.

This deeper engagement and connection can lead to subtle shifts that open the possibility for new thinking and ideas to emerge that hadn’t existed prior. Resiliency is formed through the mix of connectedness and diversity.

Globally there is growing interest in locally led change. The challenges of inequity, climate change, racism and environmental restoration are renewing interest in the key role local citizens hold. This is reinvigorating the old concept of the Commons – those resources or parts of nature that one cannot own. These trends reflect emerging fields in science that flow across many disciplines and emphasise a more inter-connected, relational and natural world view. This ‘new’ thinking within ‘western’ science circles has similarities with indigenous knowledge systems that have been passed between generations and survived the challenges of colonialism.

This ‘freeing’ up of knowledge from narrowly defined Eurocentric world views enables indigenous knowledge like Mātauranga Māori to claim its rightful place in helping shape more just and sustainable ways of living.

Whananaki on the east coast of Northland is an example of this approach in action.  Locals have set aside many years of the ‘us and them’ mindset to bring the best of both worlds together for the betterment of their place. The community is noticing that shift and say their place is much richer for it.

A number of initiatives have flourished; from development of the marae, to planning a local community hub, a youth-led social enterprise project working to produce natural and Māori medicinal plant-based balm and bath bomb products, to the development of a large-scale native nursery. An indigenous lens has been applied to pest and weed eradication. Previously, contractors from outside the district did the work. Now, the contractors key role is to teach locals the skills so that the community develops self-reliance practices. While it will take longer, the expertise will remain in place with the community.

Whananaki local Pam Armstrong says the adoption of community-led development approaches sitting alongside Mātauranga Māori has firmly shaped their vision for a culturally connected caring community. You can read her full account here.

This bringing together of different world views is not a new concept for Aotearoa. In 1840, Te Tiriti o Waitangi brought together two markedly different world views into one document – albeit with numerous versions. Mātauranga Māori met rational European science and law.

The shared intent of both parties entering into the agreement was a desire for an agreed framework to guide the on-going boundaries and relationship between all parties. Unfortunately, a great opportunity was squandered by the colonial mentality of European controlled governments.

By 1840, Māori had already demonstrated their adaptive capacity to integrate European technology into their tikanga. Imagine what could have formed if Pākehā demonstrated the same openness to integrating Te Ao Māori at this historical juncture?

To arrive at an agreement, Māori debated and interpreted Te Tiriti’s value and meaning from their indigenous body of knowledge and the significant evidence they had accumulated on the relatively new arrivals. In contrast the overarching British approach was informed by over three hundred years of conquering and colonising and the legal and political frameworks that had been established to maintain their global empire.

The resulting power imbalance and the brutal suppression of rangatiratanga (chieftainship) meant the opportunity to jointly shape the interpretation and application of Te Tiriti was radically diminished.

From a Mātauranga Māori perspective a ‘deal’ between different groups requires ongoing work from everyone that is party to it for it to maintain value and aliveness. Clearly for the majority of New Zealand’s Pākehā history this didn’t happen. The current Te Tiriti movement is addressing this fact, as one party to the agreement plays catch up. Community-led development and its related tools provide helpful resources to address this neglect and support bringing life to the vision it established.

And what of the role for government and its institutions? A current trap is their failure to appreciate how their way of working reflects dominant Eurocentric assumptions. Communities as living systems are not well served by either market-driven or state-driven responses. Non-financial transactions are invisible and not considered in policy solutions.

Policy analysis has become a craft that minimises the deep wisdom and insights of people experiencing the issue and their capacity as actors in driving solutions. Open participatory conversations in communities are different to government hosted consultations.

If government maintains the same operating system, then it risks the outcomes being simply a new Treaty veneer – lacking the necessary deep systemic change required to do justice to our foundation agreement. Too many command and control or paternalistic approaches erode the connectedness between citizens and the Crown.

Te Tiriti is not a problem to be fixed or conversely the answer to all our problems but must be valued as a resource to guide on-going innovation and renewal.

Crown leadership, exercised correctly, is essential to honouring Te Tiriti.  CLD necessarily extends the range of leadership styles. It values community leaders as hosts and brokers of relationships. This contrasts with our common expectation for leaders to have all the answers. CLD places an emphasis on open processes, sharing of information and hosting conversations. On-going learning and adaptive approaches are encouraged as opposed to rigidly sticking to set plans and timeframes.

While not a speedy process, it has potential to deliver more lasting solutions (which ends up being the quickest route to the desired destination). Inspiring Communities practitioners know well the wisdom of moving slowly to go far!

Rather than placing the sole responsibility on a narrowly defined Government to fix the problem, local communities’ step into their leadership and become part of on-going solution seeking and sense-making processes. What evolves may look different in each place with unique local context and history shaping different priorities.

CLD can embellish the current Te Tiriti o Waitangi movement. It can help reenergise citizens and is able to hold the diversity and contradictions that exist in our complex world. This shifts Te Tiriti from being seen by most Pākehā as a ‘Māori’ issue, to it being a special and unique resource for all citizens to pave new approaches. In doing so, we can strengthen the vitality of local communities, strengthen democracy, foster connections between diverse groups, develop leadership and affirm the strengths and taonga already within our places.

Please read the full length article from David here, alongside Pam’s article, The Strength of Whanananki.

Working with Tāngata Whenua

Woman wearing korowai (traditional cloak).

Relationship-building between tāngata whenua (people of the land) and tāngata tiriti (all others who have come here) organisations, groups and communities is a core component of Community-Led Development in Aotearoa. The following resource provides three different tools to support communities in developing relationships with tāngata whenua.

Inspiring Communities is committed to a Treaty-honouring Aotearoa in which people actively participate in shaping their communities. Here’s some information on Our Engagement with Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Stakeholder mapping

A stakeholder is any person or organisation that has an interest or influence in what you want to achieve. Once you have identified your purpose or outcome, it’s useful to think about who might be useful to engage with to support to support your community-led change efforts.

So let’s get started

There are many different ways that stakeholder mapping can be approached. They generally involve a mix of:

Read more…

Identifying: listing the relevant groups, organisations and people who will have an interest in or connection to the outcome or purpose you are interested in.

Analysing: going deeper to understand stakeholder perspectives and interests.  This can be done informally (e.g. through brainstorming and conversations) or more formally (e.g. through surveying, structured meetings/engagement processes). 

Mapping: visualising how particular stakeholder relationships might link and connect with the objectives and outcomes you are seeking. For example, the Forest Stakeholder Map below (from an earlier version of the UK Forestry Commission website) visually links different layers of interests and connection to the forest.

Forest Stakeholder Map


Prioritising: ranking stakeholder connections and interests to help work out who to engage or involve and how or how deeply.

It’s useful to intentionally think about who to work with in terms of their:

  • Stake in the issue/vision/project
  • Possible influence on the outcome
  • Willingness to be involved
  • Potential contribution (funds, information, land, mana, networks)

Levels of stakeholder participation and collaboration

Stakeholders can collaborate with you at varying levels. Some will want to be more involved than others.

Read more…

An example of a stakeholder mapping wheel.

A stakeholder mapping wheel

The Tamarack Community Engagement Wheel can also be adapted for stakeholder scanning and prioritising in terms of the who factors above.

The Working Together Continuum explains more about the different levels of collaboration between you and your stakeholders or partners.

The Different Levels of Collaboration

Core to Success: This initiative won’t happen without them. Their active participation in solution-making and decision-taking is critical. (Partnership/integration/strong collaboration)

Involved: They have a direct stake in the outcome and should be linked to and contributing to what’s happening.  (Collaboration)

Supportive:  They care about the vision and need to stay lightly engaged, receive updates, etc.  They can help if called on.  (Co-operation)

Peripheral: They receive information and know what’s happening, but don’t need to be directly involved.  (Communication)

A template follows to help you brainstorm and prioritise key stakeholders to engage and involve follows next:

A final check

  • Are these stakeholders reflected in your stakeholder scan? How?
  • Who else might have a stake in the outcomes but not have influence, money or an initial desire to be involved?
  • What else can you do to engage with and involve them?

The Working Together Continuum

Children playing tug of war.

Understanding different kinds of working relationships is crucial to getting the most out of key stakeholders within your community. From local government, to businesses, to residents, to funders and everyone in between, having an understanding of the types of working relationships you’re likely to encounter – and which ones you will strive to have – will only strengthen your ability to connect with people community-wide.

This explanatory document will introduce you to the types of relationships and their characteristics and allow you to constructively plan ways of communicating and bringing people together to work within these relationship types. It might also encourage you to move a working relationship along the continuum, because it’s important to note that partnering isn’t necessarily the ultimate goal for every relationship.

Also, this worksheet may be useful to print and use in mapping out current and intended relationships.

Putting Pen to Paper

The cover of the Pen to Paper publication.

The Putting Pen to Paper series was produced by The Department of Internal Affairs in 2007 and other stakeholders to offer guidance on putting partnering principles into practice.

The first report focuses specifically on

  • the development of inter-agency partnership agreements
  • guidance for those entering into new multi-party agreements
  • briefly analysing key opportunities and challenges to date (2007)

Putting Pen to Paper, split into sections, so you can choose the most relevant parts for you.

Working with complexity

It’s inevitable that you’re going to encounter some complex situations on your CLD journey and the best thing to do is to be prepared. On this video with Inspiring Communities’ David Hanna he explains Mark Cabaj’s Certainty-Agreement Matrix, which helps us understand the different ways we need to approach different situations. Some are simple, and a recipe book approach will work. Complex situations require much more experimenting because there are no simple answers. Check out these resources to find out more about the different styles of leadership needed for different situations we find ourselves in.

The certainty-agreement matrix provides leaders and managers with a lens for viewing the underlying cause-and-effect relationships and stakeholder positions of a situation and to adopt an appropriate orientation addressing it. It’s a detailed document which gives clear instructions about how to assess situations, and recommended courses of actions depending on the variables.

At the Heart Resource, Part Three – this video discusses working with complexity and Action Reflection

Community engagement tips

Reach out to a diversity of people, in fun creative ways to have lots of conversations

All communities are different, so community engagement approaches need to be tailored for each context and culture – the why and the who strongly influences your how. Your why or purpose should determine both who you are engaging with and what/how things are set up. What do you want to learn, share or achieve as a result of the interaction? Once you have your clear engagement purpose in mind, it’s important to do some background work to get prepared. 

There is no one size fits all when it comes to engagement. Depending on your role, you might use a variety of methods to engage with diverse people and groups: for example, one on one or (small or large) group meetings, phone conversations, and online communications. Some will be formal meetings that may need preparation beforehand, e.g.  developing agendas, making a presentation or organising an event.

Others will be smaller in scale, requiring a different style and level of formality, e.g. a scheduled café meeting or a brief conversation at a community hui to build relationships, exchange information and get to know what’s important to each party. Some may involve working with other partners in joint community engagement activities and could involve the creation of an engagement plan.

For getting started as a new community group or in a new place or role, here are some useful community engagement tips:

Make time to understand the local scene, who’s here and how things happen 
  • Do some googling 
  • Chat with neighbours, colleagues, others in the community you may know 
  • Attend community hui/workshops/meetings to get a sense of local people, place, and context Who are mana whenua? What about tangata whenua, taura heremātāwaka and tauiwi relationships?  
  • Which key community leaders, organisations and networks will be useful to have on your radar? 
Be positive, proactive and observant

Take every opportunity to meet new people and organisations. A friendly smile goes a long way! Also look for cues in terms of formality, style, tactics and different ways of engaging by watching and learning from other effective community leaders you meet.  

Do what you say you’ll do

If you say you’ll follow up by phone next week or that you’ll forward information, do it, or let people know if something’s no longer possible. This shows respect and helps builds trust and confidence. 

Relationship building between tāngata whenua and tāngata Tiriti

Relationship building between tāngata whenua and tāngata Tiriti (all others who have come here) organisations, groups and communities is a core component of CLD in Aotearoa.  Here are some resources to support you in developing these relationships.

Read more…

Here’s a resource on developing relationships with Tangata Whenua. Many of the key messages, for example in Atawhai Tibble’s 5 Wais of Māori Engagement (this can be read fully fleshed out in context here), also apply to engaging with communities more broadly.

Ideas for how to reach out

Community hui (meetings) are necessary but not enough to engage people around growing local visions and inspiring local action. Only some parts of the community will show up to meetings, for all sorts of reasons. So, we need to get creative about going to where people are and having lots of conversations. From those conversations, we can shape doable small actions to get started.  

Read more…

Once you are clear on your why (e.g. you know more about this community’s history, hopes and dreams) and have some ideas about what you want to ask, here are some creative examples about how to reach out, that have worked for others: 

  • Knock on doors street by street and have one-on-one conversations 
  • Invite people out into a suitable place on their street for a cuppa and a chat 
  • Use an artificial Christmas tree in a shopping area for people to add their wishes to and as a conversation starter 
  • Use PhotoVoice or a similar tool to engage people whose voices don’t always get heard 
  • Engage children in classroom discussion with art materials, props, stationery…  
  • Encourage the children to go home and talk to their parents about the same questions 
  • Invite people with disabilities, new migrants, older people and other groups commonly left out to help you design new ways to engage with them and their networks 
  • Plan a fun community event like a community dinner or family fun day and get people drawing, talking and building images of what they would like as part of the event 
  • Use existing connections to grow connections, e.g. finding out who has links with the local hapū or iwi and who are the appropriate people to start connections with 
  • Use a large map of the area as a focus point and discussion opener and ask Where do you live? before going into deeper conversation  

Make sure you are inviting participation and sharing information about how people can be involved, not just collecting ideas for ‘someone else’ to action. People might decide to do something together straight away, or to share contact details. Otherwise, let them know how to stay connected.  

If you are working with children, check out these fun, educational activities for primary and intermediate students on valuing, enjoying, improving and caring for one’s street, neighbourhood and community from the Ranui Massey Back to Back Project: A booklet for teachers and A booklet for students.

What can go wrong? 

There are many things that can get in the way of positive community engagement, e.g. lack of time, transport, childcare or interest, people’s busy schedules, lack of experience or information, poor organisation or communication, a history of bad past experiences, leadership styles/attitudes/behaviours and the sheer fatigue of overcommitted people.  

The best way to know how things are going and/or to understand why they are not going well is to intentionally and openly ask. You don’t have to be the expert. Rather, you can ask people from the groups you want to be more engaged about what you need to do differently. When inviting feedback and encouraging constructive dialogue around outcomes, barriers, possibilities, you need to be prepared to honestly and openly listen, reflect, clarify and identify potential changes that could be made. And ideally you will work with those same people to co-design and implement a new way forward. You can turn failure into stronger trust and respectful relationships for the future. 

The use of images to communicate

PhotoVoice is a process that was developed in 1995 by Caroline Wang to gather information from women living in rural China.  It’s an opportunity for community members who aren’t often heard, or find it hard to communicate, to talk about things that are important to them.

An opportunity for community members who aren’t often heard, or find it hard to communicate, to talk about things that are important to them.

VOICE stands for Voicing Our Individual and Collective Experiences.

Each PhotoVoice project is different, and how it’s facilitated will depend on who you’re planning to connect with, what you’re trying to achieve, and how many people will be in attendance. It will also depend on the individualities of participants and the community itself.

Learn more and visit the PhotoVoice website for more information.

Strategies to build your community

Community change and collaboration is not going to happen overnight. But with planning and methodical action, it’s absolutely achievable.

Initiating discussion is the first step to uncovering a community’s strengths. From here we can learn about how our community can work together, find resources for creative solutions and helps turn people’s energy into action.


These two resources are great places to start:

How to get community conversations started

What do you need to know and why? Here are a few examples of powerful questions you might choose from or adapt. They are strengths-based and reflect an Appreciative Inquiry approach. They help us clarify our why – purpose or vision, what – actions people have energy for, and how – how people will work to draw on the strengths the community already has.  

People eating and talking.

The kinds of questions you ask can have a big impact on the way people engage with you, the type of information you gather and on the involvement or action that follows. Strengths-based questions bring out community pride and help identify assets for addressing challenges. These questions invite conversations about community issues that need to be addressed, but don’t start by focusing on a problem or on something that’s missing.

Closed questions generally elicit yes/no responses. The more open-ended your question, the more powerful they are in triggering deeper conversations and encouraging people to think more creatively. As a result, new possibilities emerge and often provoke next questions.  

We want to begin a conversation and grow a relationship. We want to gather information, but we are also building trust and together exploring possibilities for future engagement.

Examples of powerful questions

Choose a few questions to get community conversations started that are fit for your purpose.

What we already have

  • What makes (name of our place) a great place to live, work and play in?  
  • What do we love about this place e.g. about its history, culture, physical/natural environment, people, facilities, etc?  
  • What’s happening?
  • What matters to people?
  • What is working well? And how?  
  • Who are key people helping make it a great place?  

Our future aspirations

  • What would make (name of our place) an even better place to live? 
  • How do we get more of the good stuff? 
  • What are your hopes and dreams for this place? E.g.  if it was the coolest neighbourhood for you and your whānau/family to live, work and play in, what would it look like/be like? 
  • What needs to change? Why?  

Making it happen

  • If together we could take action on one thing to strengthen this place/community, what would be most important to you?
  • What could we do? 
  • Two years from now, if we had been successful, what would you see? 
  • What opportunities do you see? 
  • What do people have energy for? 

How will we do it?

  • How would you like to be involved? 
  • What would you love to be part of? 
  • What’s important about how we work together? 
  • What are doable next steps? 
  • Who else in this space might be interested in helping us? 
  • How can we draw on what we already have here? 

If you’d like to know more about designing your own powerful questions, see this resource on how to design your own powerful questions.

Other useful resources

Use the active listening checklist as a tool to help you or your group review what needs to be in place to have engaging conversations with the people you talk to, and check this tool to help you brainstorm ways to reach out to a diversity of people, in fun creative ways. 

Here’s some further information about mapping community assets and strengths and Appreciative Inquiry as a strengths-based approach.