Shay Wright, from Far North iwi Te Rarawa, is on a mission, and has come a long way in his quest. So much so that he has been named as part of the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list in the Social Entrepreneur category, which honours the top promising young leaders, daring entrepreneurs and game changers in Asia.
Shay, through the organisation that he co-founded, Te Whare Hukahuka, is helping rebuild local Māori economy through education and training. Te Whare Hukahuka was created from Auckland-based business growth hub, The Icehouse, in early 2015, and focuses on empowering community leaders with confidence and the necessary skills to run world-class organisations. Their alumni base already includes more than 500 indigenous Māori leaders, and are impacting communities nationwide.
Māori generally fall within the bottom 80% of indicators that Government uses to measure wellbeing, and Māori are nearly three times as likely to be unemployed and / or convicted of a criminal offence.
These statistics, Shay believes are unacceptable and changing them is the key driver behind his work. “When we look at these statistics, it is undeniable that the growing inequity in NZ is felt along cultural lines, and in the case of Māori I believe it has come mainly from an intergenerational deconstruction of the Māori-owned economy. Rebuilding that is a huge part of the solution.
“In that regard I am fortunate to connect my heart and mind to my work. I do this because I want to make a difference for the Māori communities like the one that I come from”, says Shay.
“What gets me up in the morning is the ‘knowing’ that I help return pride and opportunity to Māori communities so that we can all flourish. Being responsible, thinking globally but acting locally, and creating solutions that we can share with indigenous communities around the world.”
Te Whare Hukahuka focuses on creating tailored learning experiences, which empower Māori community leaders. The snowball effect is that these leaders can then grow their community organisations to be more productive, enabling their greater community to thrive.
One of the key differences with Te Whare Hukahuka and with the Māori philosophy around economy is that the pursuit of making money must follow ‘doing good’, and is in fact a by-product of cultivating community, environmental sustainability, and cultural preservation.
Te Whare Hukahuka alum, Rawiri Bhana, reinforces this idea from the perspective of his Māori entity, Waiteti Farms Ltd. “It’s about the wealth of our families and the community. What’s the point if we only speak in terms of monetary wealth?”
“Te Whare Hukahuka know what we are diametrically opposed to, and they don’t even go there. They’ve offered solutions that resonate with us and our way of thinking.”
According to Haydn Solomon of Ngāti Paoa, “It gave us great confidence and reassurance to know that these guys, unlike mainstream contractors, understood the context of working in the Māori space; they understood all the issues that we go through. They can speak comfortably in both camps. That was huge. It gave us really good perspective. And to see that they weren’t walking in isolation or silence, they were able to give examples and the experiences of other first nations and indigenous cultures. They were able to give the macro-economic world view in terms of big business, and also able to crystalise it and summarise it into language you could understand at a local and regional level without being patronising or condescending. They were authentic in how they delivered training.”
Looking forward, Shay says they are working on making training accessible to more indigenous communities, including online components, and are in conversations with other indigenous nations and Governments about taking their programmes global.
“Our vision is to impact the lives of 10 million indigenous people, and so we have to continually rethink our approach so that we can deliver quality training on the ground but do it at scale.”
Ideas behind the work
- Economy can and should be an enabler to ensure better socio-economic outcomes for our communities.
- Te Whare Hukahuka focuses on bringing local economy back to rural communities and putting the ownership and control back in their hands.
- Māori philosophy deeply values and is underpinned by the alignment of social, environmental and economic outcomes. Without all three being in balance, there is no holistic sustainability.
- Te Whare Hukahuka is developing a range of training for indigenous leaders and creating case studies with the ambition of sharing these with indigenous communities around the world.