What will be our new normal?

As I write I am hearing the words of economists warning on the dire consequences of the economic shock we are experiencing as a result of the global pandemic Covid-19. The talk is of unemployment rates potentially hitting 11-25%, whole industries wiped out and a new landscape that will be changed forever. Amidst the doom and gloom I came across an article by climate risk and resilience advisor, Sam McGlennon – a thought provoking and confronting read and yet hugely optimistic in its challenge to us all to aspire to a new and improved future rather than revert to the ‘old normal’.

Universally we all have a desire for our whānau to be safe, comfortable and secure to live their best lives; a world where all our tamariki grow up inspired by their future and supported along every step of their life journey. Here in Aotearoa this speaks to our shared values of a free, just and equitable world built on Treaty partnership and a shared commitment to work together for a better future.

This aspiration is yet to be realised with many forces overt/covert, conscious/unconscious, personal/systemic maintaining inequality in Aotearoa for the past 180 years. Given the early and already devastating impacts of covid-19 crisis, the potential to magnify these existing inequalities for Māori will likely be heightened, or the alternative scenario – we individually and collectively come together to aspire to create the future that best serves us all – to emerge better, stronger and more united – if there is a silver lining then this is it.

I believe that what is currently missing from the economic conversations is an equity lens. Historically Māori have always borne the brunt of economic shocks – we are always last on and first off – and this is no accident. The history of pandemics, however, shows they are transformational, and society never emerges the same again. Transformation offers the potential to fix our systems and welcome a new and stronger future. This is our moment to raise our gaze as Māori and tell a different story.

The post Canterbury earthquake rebuild is a good example of moving beyond colonial dominance to embrace a new and more equitable bi-cultural partnership that has resulted in positive community outcomes. Not only was our built environment transformed by the intrinsic weaving of Ngāi Tahu design concepts through many of our central city buildings, but so too was our civic culture. Our mayor sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with our Ūpoko (chief) in every major event is, a fantastic example of what authentic Treaty partnerships can achieve. Imagine what could be achieved if we are emerge from Covid-19 with an authentic Treaty partnership and equity for Māori hardwired into our recovery.

A programmatic approach focuses attention on short-term visible responses. These are important at this time but need to be complemented by strategic responses to the crisis, taking stock of where we came from, making meaning of what’s going on and determining pathways for where we could go to next.

Like everyone else, our team is adjusting to our new virtual and home based way of working. Considering our current reality our work around growing Ngāi Tahu capability to lead innovation and working with partners to transform their practice has been placed on hold. For the time being our focus will be on equipping rangatahi, whānau, rūnanga, iwi and our broader community with future-focused insights to lead change in the recovery.

As we move into unchartered waters, we need good information to understand what is happening, what’s working (and needs to be sustained) and what’s not working (and needs to be a priority for innovation). We need to be able to map our external context so we can know how best to navigate changes.

We also need to be able to anticipate what is on the horizon so rangatahi/whānau can make informed decisions about how best they adapt to a new world and determine their pathways in a post Covid-19 world.

It is hard to predict where things will be in two months let alone 12, but it is important that we start thinking about strategic and transformational responses to Covid-19 so that we are armed with the insights that will create a new and much improved normal for our people.

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