My international learning journey

May 3, 2024

My international learning journey.

Nā Kaya Staples

My experience in Wales and Portugal was a once in a lifetime opportunity that not only grew my knowledge internationally, but grew my appreciation for my homeland and mahi.

Going to Wales was about learning directly from those who were, or are engaged in The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 about how we might apply their approach to Mō Kā Uri: Ngāi Tahu 2050.  For me it was extra special to travel alongside our iwi spearheads who have so much knowledge and experience in working with our iwi and whānau. I was very much a tēina in this space and I was absorbing not just the kōrero but the mauri of our leaders.

One of the biggest highlights was the welcome we received from the Welsh medium school ‘Glantaff’. Not only did they welcome us with a beautiful warm embrace including our culture, reo and flag, but they were very willing and open in sharing the approach their school is taking in terms of a heavy focus on the four conditions:

    1. Ambitious, capable learners, ready to learn throughout their lives.
    2. Enterprising, creative contributors, ready to play a full part in life and work.
    3. Ethical, informed citizens of Wales and around the world.
    4. Healthy and confident individuals, ready to lead fulfilling lives as a valued members of society.

What I appreciate most about these conditions is the simple shared language that doesn’t restrict school curriculum design, but rather provides a holistic approach to learning for its students. Their bold vison of being anti-racist by 2030 is influencing their approach to education and is an important lever of change. I could see the connection with their vision and  the mahi we are doing here to remove streaming. As we know this practice has a racist whakapapa and we need the courage to call it out for what it is. Our context may be different but like Wales it needs intentional mechanisms to unlock and understand its impact.

The other highlight for me was the hui we had with the energy company Bute.  This was the engagement I least expected to blow me out of the water, but that is exactly how I felt after walking out of their very beautiful building. I never expected to see a model for youth leadership in a Welsh energy company have so many synergies with our approach at Tokona te Raki!

Not only did their youth leadership model impress me but also  their passion for social value and community regeneration. This model although it is yet to be proven showed me the value of how the Future Generations Act is influencing not only new ways of thinking, but also the importance of equipping youth to be leaders and to have a seat at the decision-making table. The Bute model is a great example of valuing people over profit by investing the profit back into the people! Fo me this speaks to the whānau voice we have been collecting in Ngāi Tahu 2050  and the desire  for the hauora of whanau to be at centre –flipping the narrative to be that Ngāi Tahu is not just rich in assets but rich in wellbeing.

The trip to Portugal left me feeling even more empowered by the value and learnings I have gained as a Māori future- maker a part of the Tokona te Raki rangatahi academy. I knew we were very privileged to have this opportunity but the experience at the ‘Future Days’ conference solidified this for me!

At Tokona te Raki we are world leading in our thinking. What sets us apart is how the mātauranga from our tīpuna influences our mindsets and approaches for creating change for our people. The simple lens of always thinking as a collective rather than an individual, and of including the voices of those impacted makes sense to us when looking for authentic solutions, but seemed to be new to those outside of Aotearoa. It was a humbling experience to be part of something over three days, that for the first time, what I was hearing didn’t sound new to me. Rather, it made me see the value in all I have gained at Tokona te Raki and how I have not only carved out a new path, but also a new mindset.

My biggest learning from the conference was how important whānaungatanga is in  conference or wānanga spaces to ensure that connections are made prior to learning to encourage full participation.  I also took away the importance of simple language so that knowledge is more accessible and relatable to understand – for me this speaks to the value of less is more.

I remember completing the last conference lab which was about designing actions Portugal could take to create more inclusive, diverse, and equitable governance. They were blown away by the concept of designing with community, connecting with community, and collecting existing and new data sets. Additionally, the importance of feedback loops and ensuring the data collected is consistently made sense of with those involved.

This approach is natural for us, but seemed to be foreign to many of those at the conference, and the simplicity was hard for them to make sense of.  I also remember designing solutions in a workshop around Portugal 2050, and the mega trend being their aging population which is the complete opposite to us as Māori here in Aotearoa. To me it was obvious their systems were not fit-for-purpose to cope with this trend, however, when I shared my idea of creating a new system to cater to their aging demographic, it seemed too out of the box for most in my group to wrap their head around. Their solutions were more about altering the current system.


Overall, my biggest lesson from the conference was walking away with a sense that our indigenous superpowers are cutting edge, and we are born navigators of systems change! I mean I knew that what we are doing is powerful, but there is nothing like stepping outside of your bubble to really see the magnitude mātauranga Māori has in creating real value, intergenerational impact, and systemic change!