Turning a Lone Waka into a Fleet

For our tupuna, voyages of discovery and the settlement of new islands was a natural part of our culture. They were expert navigators of the unknown and developed sophisticated strategies for both the discovery and settlement of new lands. The initial voyages of discovery were typically undertaken by a single waka with a small expert crew. However once suitable land was found the explorers would return to their people and gather and safely guide a migratory fleet to their future destination. 

A little over a year ago Tokona Te Raki convened a new group of advisors and project partners to join us on a modern voyage of discovery. To honour the ancestral lineage of voyagers and navigators we called them our kaihautū. Our motivation for establishing this ‘think tank’ group was to support our ‘do tank’ of Māori future making. We invited a range of diverse cross-sector leaders to help guide our waka. 

As anyone who has led an organisation in uncertain times knows, crossing uncharted waters can be an uncomfortable process. Innovation is always motivated by the promise of faith, potential and hope. To help Tokona Te Raki survive such a journey, we wanted to surround ourselves with navigators, to help us make sense of what we would encounter and to provide firm direction on where we need to go next. 

Our initial request was that the group was to commit to a ‘voyage’ of five hui spread across a nine month long journey. The role of this group was to challenge our thinking, provoke new ideas, to ask hard questions, and to guide our future direction. Like any navigator their mana came from being on the waka but not being fully buried in the detail of the mahi, instead they were able to look outwards and see the bigger picture of what was going on.

Our kaihautū have helped us to push through fear, doubt and uncertainty. During the last year we have developed Te Korekoreka (our Ngāi Tahu kawa for Māori Future Making), develop future scenarios, publish reports, and develop a proposal for Māori Futures Agency. Over a series of hui this group has ventured into the unknown and crossed thresholds into new horizons. We have now reached the end of that first journey safely and with confidence that we have learnt much and have chosen the right direction.  

As we move towards this next phase, we need to start thinking about movement building and how we invite others to share the journey, align to our chosen trajectory and together build the vessels to get us there.  We have a plan but need to build the fleet so we are not alone but invite and share the journey with those that share our vision. However, the focus now shifts to where to next?  

Discovering new potential is exciting but is a feeling best shared.  Knowing where to go is not much good if you have no-one to share the journey with.  A key task now is to share our learnings and invite others to join us on the journey. 

Rather than taking another cautious expedition of discovery, the next phase is about mass migration.  Having better clarity of where to head and how to get there, we need to think about building the movement so we can build a wave of energy. How can we return and encourage others to join us on our journey towards a new and brighter future. 

Last week we held our final hui and we now need to contemplate how we return, reflect and support our kaihautū to build, gather and launch their own waka to build our fleet and shared journey towards our new future. Our centralized crew of navigators can now become a tribe of navigators each guiding their own waka.  COVID-19 has changed the conditions but our course towards equitable futures remains the same and the coming months will hopefully see us build the fleet so we are not alone and are on a shared learning journey to the new horizon – nau mai te pae tawhiti!

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