A Catalyst for Conversation
June 2020 5 min read download as Masterclass PDF
THE THEMES OF MOST of the conversations that we convene during the Masterclass for Active Citizenship were first offered by the US author and consultant Peter Block in his 2008 book Community: The Structure of Belonging.
In designing the Masterclass, we were excited to come across this set of conversations not just because they provided a useful structure for our workshop sessions, but because they reflected and affirmed the questions and discussions that many of us were already having within our communities.
In 2010, a small group of active citizens started meeting regularly in New Plymouth to discuss the increasingly precarious state of our community sector. Several in this group had been involved in establishing and running community agencies and social service programmes throughout Taranaki over many decades.
But for all the good work that had been achieved, we had become concerned about a gradual erosion of citizen engagement in community affairs, and a decline in the critical role that citizens and communities play in creating well-being.
When we came across Peter Block’s Community, we were grateful because it had certainly come to us at the right time. It curiously seemed a very good summary of the discussions we had already begun, and the questions that were emerging out of our meetings.
But the book also did something else: it challenged and stretched us to think differently about how we could work to transform our sense of citizenship and community beyond what we already knew about running community agencies and social service programmes.
In his book, Peter Block credits the inspiration and influence of many thought leaders from different creative disciplines that he had woven into his work. Some of these had already made an impact on the thinking of community development practitioners here in New Zealand. This included the work of John McKnight and the ABCD (Asset-Based Community Development) network, Walter Brueggemann who is an influential Old Testament scholar, and Werner Erhard whose personal transformation courses had led to the establishment of the Landmark Forum.
We found that Peter Block’s thinking had also resonated with many of the community leaders associated with the Canadian-based Tamarack Institute for Community Engagement. Several of these leaders had been touring and lecturing in New Zealand, or had been visited with and studied by our own social entrepreneurs.
The Community book has been useful in naming an agenda for our consideration. It is a universal agenda that, once filtered through our own different cultures and stories and insights, offers the possibilities for awakening and strengthening our communities.
The six conversations as offered by Peter Block are not some new philosophy or a secular theology of citizenship. They are not a “model”, nor is there any special order to the topics. The conversations have simply proven to be useful containers into which we can pour our own sharing and listening.
Thought leaders from different creative disciplines ... John McKnight of the ABCD network, Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann, and author and consultant Peter Block leading a Common Good workshop in Cincinnati, Ohio, April 2018 photo by Glen Bennett
Community is one of three books that we provide to participants on each Masterclass. The participants are encouraged to read the section about a particular conversation while preparing their own keynote remarks which they will offer to the rest of the group.
Many participants have told us that they found the book immediately useful, and some have credited it as a transformative influence when considering their own community or family challenges and possibilities.
There have been other reactions too ... and not all of them completely positive. Some participants have found Block’s comments naive when considered against the brutality and inter-generational trauma that has come with the colonisation of New Zealand. Also, not every person is a book reader, and many of our participants had found the author’s style of writing not to their taste, or difficult to digest.
So, it would be fair to say that the Community book has received a diverse “community” of reviews.
But, as hosts and organisers of the Masterclass, we could see that this book was also doing its work, whether or not its readers agreed with it, or were comfortable with how things were being said. Providing the book has proven to be an effective catalyst for changing the nature of the conversations we were having with one another.
June 2020 5 min read download as Masterclass PDF
• participants completing the Masterclass for Active Citizenship with 90% attendance over the four-month Masterclass period.
• participants introduced to and experiencing a wānanga style of peer and adult community education.
• participants growing a cultural competency in the skills, attitudes, commitments and action needed for vibrant and thriving communities.
• participants gaining an appreciation of tikanga and mātauranga Māori as important influences and guides for commitments and behaviour in our communities today.
• participants gaining a deeper insight into the nature of their role as citizens and the critical relationship this has to creating the communities they want to live in.
• participants gaining a clearer pathway towards civic engagement, and the contribution they can make to the social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing of their place.
• participants meeting, networking and making peer appointments with a fresh and diverse group of active citizens over the four-month period, opening their horizons to other views and lifestyles within our communities.
• participants co-creating a journey of community conversations within three-hour workshops based around the themes of invitation, possibility, ownership, dissent, commitment, gifts and action.
• participants being introduced to a wider perspective on community development and social change, particularly drawing on the experience and insights of internationally-recognised community development elders.
• participants gaining insight into the process of social innovation in New Zealand today, and introduced to the stories of leading New Zealand social entrepreneurs.
• participants being introduced to a set of social skills and strategic questions which enable their conversations to go deeper and be more effective.
• participants gaining some fresh perspectives on how local organisations can better meet the changing needs and challenges of today, particularly in times of cut-backs and austerity measures.
• participants gaining a deeper understanding of the gifts and assets of our communities and how to take the fullest advantage of these resources for the common good.
• participants finishing the Masterclass with an Action Plan for their own roles, resources and direction as active citizens in our communities.
What Participants Say
June 2020 5 min read download as Masterclass PDF
“The Masterclass has given me a fundamental change in headspace about my work in the community.”
“I definitely feel more empowered. I don’t feel so persecuted by different agendas, and instead I am asking, What’s got my name on it?, and thinking, I can make a difference here.”
“It was great to be exposed to different parts of the community that I'm not usually exposed to.”
“I felt very inspired, brave, incredibly powerful, and have left the Masterclass with a clear direction.”
“I enjoyed the bi-cultural aspect of the workshops, and felt that the Māori leadership was particularly inviting, generous and respectful in opening up windows to Te Ao Māori for the non-Māori in the group.”
“The Masterclass has influenced the way I engage with families in my work.”
“It has given me the courage to do something I have wanted to do for years …”
“The resources are great. They should be essential reading for anyone who is leading in our community.”
“I will now approach my group work much slower. I won't rush in and fix the problem, instead I will try to think outside the square and use a more inclusive approach.”
“The diversity of the group is a real asset. I valued the opportunity to hear other people's stories that I don’t hear in my normal community connections.”
“The appointments are a ‘genius’ part of the design. I want to keep that going now that the Masterclasses are finished.”
“The Masterclass really made me stop and re-analyse all my work, particularly the place of social services versus real community engagement.”
“A central message of the Masterclass is around the commitment you make to your peers, rather than just to the leaders of a community. That's something we have really taken on board here, and that's been a great shift.”
“The ‘above and below the line’ tool has become a special favourite for me, and I use that in my work with whānau.”
“The Masterclass is giving people a shared language to talk about community approaches to development. And if we don't use this language, we will lose it.”
“It has made a great difference in all my conversations. I now ask harder questions, and push harder for community-based perspectives.”
“There is tremendous knowledge held within the group and people were extremely generous in sharing their wisdom.”
“It gave me permission to step outside my own community ‘bubble’.”
“The non-rigid process really worked for me and I liked having lots of opportunities to talk in smaller groups.”
“I am more aware of the nature of conversations now, and more conscious about my efforts to steer them away from trivial matters towards something more meaningful.”
“It's put a fire in my belly and reminded me of how I could be again.”
“The material from Peter Block and John McKnight has opened up for me a fundamental rethinking of the place of services in the community – compared to a deeper focus on citizen, family and community development.”
“I wondered if I would be out of my depth, and I definitely expected that I would be well out of my comfort zone. But this feeling of anxiety passed after the first meeting.”
“The facilitation was really good, focused and helped participants become comfortable with the material and opened up the space for reflection.”
“The Masterclass has re-awakened a desire to do something more in the community ... reminding me of how I felt about things when I was younger and perhaps being more ready to challenge things.”
“Some light bulbs have come on about revisiting the bigger picture again, and raising my head above the daily grind of parenting and other study.”
“I was stunned by the amount of material on the plug-in drive, and I have been cherry-picking it for inspiration.”
“I feel I am now more able to sit back and look for possibilities in some rather negative situations, also make more of an effort to think differently when conflict occurs.”
“The small group discussions were the key to the Masterclass process, as there was a lot of space which gave room for everyone.”
“I felt challenged about just how well I include diverse opinions and ways of working in my projects, and how to draw other people into a real community process.”
“A brilliant and important initiative that brings together different strands of the community, I was fortunate to take part in and would highly recommend participating.”
“It was well balanced with different delivery styles and different people involved in leading the thinking. The structure of Masterclass meant that everyone had the ownership of participation, and after the keynote speeches there was a sense of achievement.”
“The Masterclass has been an opener for my own voice. I've realised that no matter how old you are you can still be introduced into new things.”
“The facilitation was really well prepared and I could feel the love and compassion for everyone. It spoke of small beginnings, but with a wider view and scope.”
“I have applied the Masterclass knowledge to my work environment and integrated it into team meetings where everyone speaks and is listened to. I have also taken the time to welcome new families to our street, and welcome them to our community.”
“The Masterclass has made me ‘feel more like myself’ than I have for a long time.”
Awakening the Common Good
by vivian Hutchinson
June 2020 5 min read download as Masterclass PDF
COMMUNITY IS A state of well-being that emerges after we have got a whole lot of basic things right.
These basics include very tangible things like having access to good work and income, housing, education, health, and a thriving environment.
And the basics also include such intangible notions as a sense of safety, and a sense of connection and belonging to a particular place.
These tangible and intangible threads of “getting the basic things right” all weave together until one day we realise that it’s a community. It has become a “We”. It has become a place that we want to live in and belong to, raise our families, work and trade and create, and discover friendship with one another.
Of course, the details of just what constitutes getting things “right” can be a source of much contest and debate. That’s also the nature of community. A shared notion of what we understand to be “right” is a constantly moving target and the discussion and dissent around this becomes, in itself, part of the warp and weft of how the “We” is created.
The reality of “community” is often completely missed in the mainstream media and in political debates, largely because community is not an ideology. Communities are complex and messy and full of contradictions and paradox. They are hard to pin down because they are living things which learn, adapt and change. And if it’s a community, then it probably looks and feels a bit all over the show. You’ll be struggling if you are trying to find the person in charge. There’s certainly not a CEO.
And yet communities work ... or perhaps more precisely, they have important work to do.
Communities do this work through its active citizens — the people who are taking care of the things we value, and are also constantly trying to make things better. The active citizen makes a critical contribution that should never be disregarded, or side-lined or taken for granted.
When our communities are thriving and strong, it will usually be because we have a thriving and strong network of active citizens. These people will be making an impact on all the practical indicators of well-being that touch our social, economic, environmental and cultural lives.
And with a thriving network of active citizens, a great many of the issues and challenges that are affecting us as individuals and families, and as a nation, just become so much easier and much less expensive to sort out.
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THERE IS A common whakataukī that is often heard at public meetings or at Kohanga Reo: Mā te huruhuru ka rere te manu. (Without feathers, the bird cannot fly).
I see the bird in this proverb as a symbol for community. Its feathers are all those light and fluffy and subtle individual and cultural competencies, all those slowly-built personal connections, all those aspects of shape and design that are unconscious, or hidden, or under the surface, and all those matters of wisdom and insight that are a shared understanding of the best way to make things happen for the common good. It is all these things that knit together to enable our communities to fly.
These feathers are not found in a marketplace. They cannot be bought and bolted on afterwards. They are grown.
As we all know, the ability to fly can be forgotten. Our national bird the kiwi, and many other birds of New Zealand, paid that price when they came to these islands of predator-free abundance.
I would argue that when it comes to “community”, we have also been slowly losing our abilities to fly. But, in our case, it is the abundance and comforts of our consumer culture that have become the predators of our active citizenship, and of our natural structures of sharing and belonging that underpin a thriving community.
The full price of this loss has come in our forgetting. An amnesia starts to spread and strip us of all the competencies that enabled us to grow and exercise the feathers of our community selves. We forget that communities have important work to do. And we forget that one of our jobs as citizens is to actively step up to that work.
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Awakening the skills of community is a mission that has been driving my curiosity and my work for the last decade.
Before this, I had thirty years of involvement in community-based employment and economic development initiatives, and establishing programmes which helped unemployed people to start their own small businesses.
It was at a meeting with my fellow trustees of the Jobs Research Trust, in the mid-2000s, that we started to notice and voice our concerns about some of the deeper changes that were taking place around us. We had started to see that some important aspects of our communities were slowly unraveling before our eyes ... and we acknowledged that we didn’t yet have a coherent grasp of how this was happening, or what we could do about it.
What followed for us was a process of asking questions about what we were seeing in our neighbourhoods, and then getting into the conversations that could go beyond the usual agenda of creating projects and programmes.
As trustees, we felt we needed to open up our thinking to a much-wider craft of community development. And we had to be prepared to re-think our usual ways of doing things.
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COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT is about awakening citizens so that they can play their part in getting the basic things right. It is about re-forging the fundamental connections of “We” so that a fairer picture of our common aspirations can be pursued. And it requires us to face some difficult issues, and have some courageous conversations — while also remembering and celebrating the things we are learning and getting right.
One of the people who has influenced my thinking about community development is the Italian social entrepreneur Ernesto Sirolli. He visited Taranaki in the 1980s and shared his insights on how to support small businesses with a process that he called Enterprise Facilitation.
Sirolli challenged our thinking by pointing out that many of the ideas we had about “development” needed to change. Those of us running organisations and programmes needed to become a bit more humble about our own sense of agency as facilitators. We needed to understand that an economy or a community are living and complex systems. They’ve got a mind of their own.
Sirolli argued you can’t “develop” anything any more than you can “flower” a flower. But you can do a lot to create the conditions in which that flowering can occur. And when we get those conditions right, the flower quite naturally unfolds.
This is much the same with community development. The transformation of ourselves, our families and our neighbourhoods is a gardening job. If we create the right conditions — supporting a basic infrastructure of skills and intelligence for the common good — then people will awaken their own active citizenship and create the communities they want to live in.
The cultural competencies involved in active citizenship and community-building are a set of skills and tools that need to be grown and renewed with every generation. It’s not as if you are building a piece of infrastructure like a bridge that may well last for hundreds of years before you need to think about it again.
These competencies are living things. They are matters of wisdom and maturity that need to be fostered in our young people and further developed as adults. This is a continuous process of education in which every generation needs to find a way of making their own.
And if we do get it right, then we just might notice that the feathers we need to fly are starting to sprout and stretch.
vivian Hutchinson QSM is a trustee and convener of Community Taranaki which seeks to foster active citizenship and generous engagement on our most important issues in Taranaki. www.taranaki.gen.nz
by Awhina Cameron
June 2020 3 min read download as Masterclass PDF
Mā te whakātu, ka mōhio
Mā te mōhio, ka mārama
Mā te mārama, ka matau
Mā te matau, ka ora.
Through discussion comes understanding
Through understanding comes enlightenment
Through enlightenment comes wisdom
Through wisdom comes well-being
THIS IS A fairly well known whakataukī, it has been reproduced by a number of community groups and government departments and is often at the beginning of various strategy documents to complement a staged approach to the attainment of planned strategic objectives. Our reasons for choosing this whakataukī to represent the awakening of communities are slightly different but equally strategic.
For those proficient in Te Reo Rangatira, this whakataukī paints a picture of various shades of light and dark, it identifies a starting point, a starting point which requires interaction with others, it speaks of a journey and it evokes a sense of connected learning as a means of achieving well-being. This is our beginning point, our chance at a first encounter between a writer and a reader, or between the participants and the content of a Masterclass. We begin by acknowledging that understanding is enhanced through interaction, through sharing, through discussion, through conversation.
Through the Tū Tangata Whenua Masterclass we have had the opportunity to engage in such creative, diverse, positive and challenging discussions around civic engagement. Not challenging because the topics and the resources are difficult to comprehend but challenging because it requires a shift away from almost every other personal or professional development workshops or mainstream educational approaches to learning.
Often the most challenging part for facilitators and participants alike is to slow down, to really listen, to trust in the process and to be more mindful of the everyday conversations we engage in.
This is as much true for an individual as it is for a collective. At times it is important for any collective to slow down, to listen, to be observant to both the silence and the noise, to trust in the process and the signs that alert us to when action may be required and being mindful of the conversations we may have input into and influence over across our communities.
That is, this assumes that the many arenas for public, social and community conversations are intact and that we have a place, a space and time to engage in conversations that matter to our collectives. Discussion, debate, wānanga are far too infrequent an occurrence on too many of our marae and across our communities.
The people are simply choosing not to turn up. The most fundamental thing is not happening, the people are no longer coming to together to talk. The warning signs can be seen in record low voter turn outs across the many points of civic engagement, the unprecedented rises in negative health and social disparities and the frustrations voiced by whanau surviving on the fringes of society despite the increasing financial assets of iwi in the wake of post-treaty-breach settlements.
What we are observing is that money does not heal, better branding or resources alone are having little impact on awakening our community spirit for collective action.
This whakataukī reminds us of what we may instinctively already know: that reconciliation, social innovation, development, and activism all require people, relationships and connection. The starting point for our journey to well-being is being open to the new understandings that come through conversation.
Awhina Cameron is the CEO of Tū Tama Wahine o Taranaki, a Ngāti Mutunga Tangata Whenua Development and Liberation Service. www.tutamawahine.org.nz
Tū Tangata Whenua
by Ngaropi Raumati
June 2020 3 min read download as Masterclass PDF
Pakia mai e te tūpuhi,
Ka hinga ko te pūriri o te taiaha,
Ka ara anō ko te raupō o te poi.
MATARENA MARJORIE RAU-KUPA (1913 - 2010), MBE, aka Te Pou Kuia Matarena or Aunty Marj, articulated then gifted to community the phrase, “Tū Tangata Whenua” in an attempt to describe in te reo Māori, an activist citizen.
Tū Tangata Whenua is not a delicate term, so it was not created lightly, nor is it intended for the faint hearted. Aunty Marj was not a woman who used words in an unintentional manner. She was a Wahine Tapairu, mātāmua and a chiefly woman in her own right as a descendant of Rangatira lines. Being totally conversant in Te Reo Rangatira and the “Queens English” enabled her to comfortably engage in a fully bi-cultural manner in society.
Absolutely comfortable with any culture she was exposed to, Aunty Marj was a truly international woman, and she understood implicitly the power of words. Careful and cautious consideration would have been exercised prior to her resolution to co-opt the descriptive term Tū Tangata Whenua and its application to active citizenship.
Spending time with Aunty Marj was quite simply fascinating and always thought provoking because she took such an active interest in her whānau, hapū, and iwi affairs; she followed her local community development projects and events and also the political manoeuvrings of public servants local, national and international. She understood what was happening in her country and the world and she expected others to make an effort to do so as well.
As Aunty Marj became older, she increasingly expressed her concern about the silent majority within New Zealand society and particularly in her own neck of the woods, New Plymouth. She was acutely aware of the ongoing effects of colonial oppression on Māori in Taranaki and concomitantly on non-Māori.
She was adamant that the ripple effects of committing and ignoring crimes to achieve individual prosperity and privilege not only affected, but infected, the wairua of many residents. Thus creating an un-named disquiet rendering many unable to express their discomfort about what she viewed as the disintegrating moral integrity and health of our region and Nation.
She perceived that communities were actually being pushed apart rather than being encouraged to be inclusive and consolidate their assets, strengths and potential. Additional distraction was created by central government policies and local government interference with their short sighted, tunnel vision commercial and market driven decisions that promoted and benefited small elite sections while marginalising even further other sections of the community.
However, possibly the most unforgiveable aspect from her perspective was the apathetic opting out of participation and also what she surmised as citizens not taking seriously their responsibility to grow relationships as citizens. Simply put, she believed that this is achieved by actively expressing one’s views and turning up to encourage, question or challenge officials and elected representatives. Aunty Marj considered that the community silence she perceived to be a symptom of spiritual poverty which was evidenced by community reluctance to articulate their concerns and to effectively challenge arrogant, entitled and privileged behaviour; and to require accountability from elected public servants.
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Kui Matarena understood as a Māori woman and as a Ngāti Mutunga woman that her people had lost more than they would ever regain. However she was explicit in her affirmation of the words spoken by Dr Kuni Jenkins when she described “knowledge as power” at the Hui Taumata in 2005; and the obvious advantage of working directly with whānau and hapū to rebuild capacity. Dr Jenkins said:
“A society that has ready access to a pool of talent from which to draw is a society that can and will build a strong infrastructure. With knowledgeable people they become more self-reliant at all levels of their social, economic and civil services. [….] powerful societies are not despotic regimes led by corrupt dictators who have little care over the welfare of their people – they are politically motivated societies who recognise that the wealth of their country rests in the well-being of their people”.
Aunty Marj generously gifted the expression “Tū Tangata Whenua” to help substantiate and position active and activist citizens as being relevant and making legitimate contributions to reclaiming and re-building the intellectual infrastructure of community.
Ngaropi Raumati is foundation member, Director and Senior Family Violence Programme Facilitator and Educator for Tū Tama Wahine o Taranaki, the Ngāti Mutunga Tangata Whenua Development and Liberation Service. www.tutamawahine.org.nz
ACE Award 2020
Ngaropi Raumati (Tū Tama Wahine o Taranaki), vivian Hutchinson (Community Taranaki) and Charissa Waerea (ACE Aotearoa) — pictured outside Te Raukura, Te Wharewaka o Pōneke, Taranaki Street Wharf, Wellington Waterfront, during the ACE National conference June 2021. (photo ACE Aotearoa)
The 2020 ACE Aotearoa Annual Award for Community Programme of the year Tangata Whenua has been awarded to Tū Tama Wahine o Taranaki and Community Taranaki. Several hundred people have participated in the Masterclass which uses processes based on tikanga Māori and wānanga as well as community-led adult education practices. This social innovation is having an impact on civic engagement, on race relations, and on wider strategies of adult education for the common good.
The Shape of Our Masterclass
— some elements of design
by vivian Hutchinson
June 2020 35 min read download as Masterclass PDF
The Taranaki Masterclass for Active Citizenship is a strategy of education for the common good. It brings together a diverse group of local people to awaken their involvement in civic life, or in hapū and iwi affairs.
It seeks to have an impact on civic engagement and race relations by strengthening the skills and connections between active citizens who want to make things better in our communities.
There are some key strategies that shape this not-so-usual form of citizen and community education. These are elements of design that are both obvious and not-so-obvious to a Masterclass participant.
The Masterclass has eight main workshop sessions which take place over four months. If we chose, we could do the whole series of classes in a very full week ... but we have deliberately spaced out the main sessions so that participants can take their own time to explore the written material and resources.
Our schedule also enables participants to carry on with most of their working or voluntary activities while only taking one morning, once a week, to attend the Masterclass or to have a catch-up appointment with another member of the group.
As Masterclass hosts, we are not simply trying to run events, but are creating the space where relationships can grow, and personal transformations might be possible. And we recognise that everyone involved is on a different timeline of when these things can best happen.
So we have designed our classes for slow learning. It is a bit like the slow food movement that was started in Italy in the 1980s. It allows for more depth of conversation and absorption of what you are exploring, rather than just getting to the end. This form of adult and citizen education is not looking for an efficient use of time, but invites a deeper presence within our time.
Slow learning means that important new relationships can grow at their own pace as people get into conversations or make appointments to meet with one another. Participants can explore the books and development resources and reflect on how this information might make sense or be useful in their own lives.
Most citizens are already living in a world which over-values the fast and the busy, which often means they are juggling many responsibilities amidst hurried, stressed, and impatient schedules. Coming to the Masterclass itself is a signal to slow down, breathe, connect and reflect.
There's plenty of time here.
The circle is part of a long-established social architecture within which humans have always come together to have the conversations that matter. A circle is also the universal symbol of community.
The Masterclass does not take place in a traditional schooling environment — with seats and rows of desks in front of a teacher and a whiteboard. By using a circle as the basis of our learning environment, we are making it plain to all participants that we are not gathering to listen to a tutor or an “expert” on anything.
We are citizens and adults. We are primarily here to learn from each other and to invite the wealth of our own lessons and expertise into the room. This does not mean that there are not hosts or facilitators or elders or specially learned people also gathered with us ... it just means that they, too, are a natural part of a diverse and healthy circle.
Circles can be created in a way that is self-managing ... if you ask participants to stand or sit so everyone can make eye contact with each other, then they will automatically form a circle.
The circle itself is not just a shape or a technique. It is an instrument for learning. It is a container for listening, being heard and being respected. But more than this ... if we get it right, the circle can become a place where we can think and create together.
THE TERM MASTERCLASS
“Masterclass” might seem an odd title for this form of citizen education. Our learning environment usually looks very different from a traditional “class”, and we offer no qualifications or certificates to indicate any level of Mastery.
We are using the term Masterclass to simply refer to an immersion style of education where some useful skills can be learned or remembered. We have deliberately tried to keep the definition vague so that more people can find their own level of permission to attend.
Our use of the word Masterclass is similar to, and influenced by, the term “wānanga” in te reo Māori which usually refers to a seminar or series of workshops where people meet to deliberate on matters of cultural, religious, historical, genealogical and philosophical knowledge.
The Masterclass seeks to awaken people to their own mastery as a citizen. It seeks to awaken the role that they can play in creating the communities they want to live in, changing the things that are not working, and taking care of the things that they value.
This awakening involves gathering the life skills, the practical capabilities, and the community connections which can make things happen.
Calling our workshops a Masterclass recognises that this awakening can also be an initiation journey ... an apprenticeship for all ages of people who want to step into the competencies of their own active citizenship.
A LEARNING COMMUNITY
The four-month Masterclass is also essentially a short term learning community which, in many ways, can bring up all the experiences of learning – good and bad – that participants have had in the past.
On our first day of the Masterclass, we try to address this by inviting participants to talk about what learning communities they have been a part of ... and what made them work well?
Many Masterclass participants have memories of an education system that may have neglected to foster some important life skills, like:
— how to have a conversation that can go deeper to the things that matter
— how to have difficult conversations with friends, colleagues and strangers
— how to listen for common ground
— how to ask questions that open up insights and possibilities
These life skills are part of the basic toolbox of an active citizen. Yet many of us have never had a formal lesson on how to grow and refine these skills.
The Masterclass is a learning and practicing community in which we get to do this. It also builds a shared infrastructure of public intelligence about how these competencies work to serve our communities.
The chart “New Skills in the Art of Conversation” gives a quick overview of the switch in thinking that is involved in this change of perspective. It contrasts the prevailing and oppositional practice of “debate” with the skills needed to develop a deeper “dialogue” between participants.
A Masterclass is organised in a way that performs the principles it is trying to foster. So instead of treating this learning journey as something that is separate from our communities, the Masterclass itself is an expression of the sort of community that we are trying to encourage.
So it is with the invitation process, which takes place in the 4-6 weeks before the Masterclass starts. We are not looking for customers or consumers ... we are looking for citizens. The invitation process is not an open, free-for-all search for consumers of your event management. Instead, it begins by recognizing, honouring and inviting prospective participants as the citizens they already are. This is their often-overlooked birthright, and they need no other qualification to come to the workshops.
Our preference is for the Masterclass organiser to deliver a specially-printed invitation on which the name of the invited citizen has been written. If there is not already a personal connection to the invitee to hand it to them, then the printed invitation is delivered to their home address.
A hand-delivered printed invitation is our preference because our daily lives are already flooded with emails and Facebook or other social media requests, most of which are automatically disregarded.
The style of our invitation is sufficiently unusual and old-fashioned in this age of digital marketing and email mailing-lists, and we have found that it certainly grabs the attention enough to spark curiosity and consideration.
There are of course many cases where we do not have a personal connection to a prospective participant, or do not know their home address. We may only have an email contact. This is especially true if our intention is to invite people beyond our normal networks or associations. In these cases, we produce a one-off specifically named PDF file which we email to the invitee with the subject line “Your Personal Invitation to our Masterclass for Active Citizenship”.
It is a citizen choice to be at the Masterclass, and we are deliberately asking for engagement at this level. We discourage people coming to the Masterclass if they are being required to attend by their employer or community organisation, or feel they are obliged to be representing their own organisation or anyone else. It is much better to wait until it is the right time for these people to attend as an expression of their own citizenship.
Saying “Yes” to a Masterclass means saying “Yes” to this level of engagement. It means being open to sharing what is important to you, being curious about what matters to others, and being ready to stand for, challenge and stretch your own views and skills as part of a dynamic community.
Not everyone is up for this learning journey, or are not up for it at the time it is being offered. These choices need to be respected. But if you get the invitation right, and the person does reply “Yes” ... then this is a journey that is already well on its way.
If you are hosting or organising a Masterclass, then — sooner or later — you are going to have the “Money” conversation.
Our approach to fundraising is in itself an important part of the strategies behind the Masterclass. How you deal with the money, or the lack of it, can be a significant way for you to demonstrate many of the principles of generosity that the Masterclass is trying to foster.
The Masterclass is not “free” — but the hosts and organisers do try to provide this education in a way that does not involve a monetary cost to participants.
It is a deliberate part of the design because this learning journey seeks to take people into a deeper consideration of the concepts of “invitation”, “ownership”, “commitment” and “gifts”. In order for the hosts themselves to issue a genuine invitation, it makes sense that they offer it as a gift, and with as few strings attached as they can manage.
This is not made possible by any wishful or magical thinking. Instead it involves a fundraising challenge that is already very familiar to community groups who may be under-resourced or leading a precarious existence.
In Taranaki, we have been able to provide the Masterclass opportunity because it is subsidised by the workshop leaders, the community host organisations, and it has had the support of local philanthropic trusts and government institutions. We also have a programme of encouraging past participants to “pay-it-forward” with donations.
These are all the creative ways that a community makes ends meet, and accounts for the costs of its own education and regeneration. All these funding sources are also unpredictable and insecure, which makes the fundraising a risk which on many occasions does not meet its goals.
The Masterclass is not “user-pays”, because we already recognise that, in the bigger picture, it is a community investment that pays us all back in 1,001 unexpected ways. Many of these outcomes are either impossible or inappropriate to put into a funding application beforehand. The Masterclass is about changing the climate of possibilities, and every participant will carry their own particular perspective on how this learning will make sense to them, and be of value to their community activities.
Our decision to provide the Masterclass without a financial charge is also made with the recognition that over 40% of the individuals and families in our communities are living week-to-week financially. They are not in a position to pay for this learning opportunity.
In this context, a “user-pays” financial strategy is one that effectively excludes most of this population from doing this learning. Their diversity and their gifts do not get a chance to enter the room.
Of course, a Masterclass is not at all “free”, and value-for-money is only one part of a decision to participate. This four-month learning journey brings with it many other costs in terms of time, commitment, attention, reflection, connection-building and accountability.
These are the other qualities that also dominate the balance sheet of an active citizen.
CURATING FOR DIVERSITY
Participation in the Masterclass is not provided on a “first come, first served” basis, but it is “by invitation only”. This is not done to create a form of exclusivity ... but to enable the hosts and organisers to curate a sensible level of diversity amongst the workshop participants.
The purpose of this diversity is to get a bigger cross-section of people and points-of-view into the room. The Masterclass group needs to purposely look like the communities that these workshops are serving ... warts and all.
This does not just mean focusing on age or gender differences, or focusing on an ethnic, religious or political mix ... although these may well be an important consideration.
Curating for diversity also means welcoming different types of people – workers as well as leaders, the outspoken as well as the quiet, the “helpers” as well as the “clients”.
The host’s choice of people to invite also has a pragmatic side — the invitations might focus on the relationships that the hosts want to develop and weave with other sections of their community.
The invitation might also involve a value judgment on whether or not establishing a relationship with the person is worth the fundraising efforts that organisers also need to do in order to provide the Masterclass opportunity.
We have learned not to have too many people in the Masterclass group who are in the management of social services, philanthropic foundations, or in paid community development jobs ... however tempting it might be to offer them a unique experience.
It is not always the case but, if there are too many community professionals in your group, they can find it more difficult to step back from their job titles and simply be in the workshop as fellow citizens and peers.
The Masterclass does its best work when the participants are as diverse a collection of kinship, friends, colleagues and neighbours as your communities can manage. There should be plenty of people who don’t know each other – or at least don’t know each other well.
The Masterclass series of workshops begins with everyone having breakfast together at a local hotel. We do this because this is what communities do: welcome people with food.
The breakfast lets participants know that they are welcome, and they can relax now because they are in the right place. It also helps them understand that they haven’t come to a training programme ... they have come to a community.
Our introductory breakfast is a chance for participants to overcome the shyness that comes with turning up to a place where there are strangers – because many of the people won’t know each other.
But the breakfast is more than just a process for introducing people to one other ... it is part of a culture of manuhiritanga or hospitality. It is a first stage in whakawhanaungatanga – the remembering and weaving of kinship and community connections that exist in the room.
We also usually have an open invitation to past participants of the Masterclass to come along and be part of the hospitality – to share what this learning journey has meant for them, and the impact it has had on their everyday lives and community projects.
The workshop sessions over the following months also provide light snacks, with tea or coffee and cold drinks on a side stable. These may be organised by the hosts, or later by the participants bringing a plate themselves.
This is not done simply to provide a refueling station ... but is part of our manuhiritanga. The food and refreshments are provided to create an ongoing atmosphere of welcome and hospitality from which we can do our learning together.
We open our Masterclass sessions with a karakia or prayer because it is usually being held in a Māori-led environment, and this is the usual protocol for Māori gatherings.
The karakia are the first words. They are also a personal invitation to bring all of you into the room.
The Masterclass is not promoting any particular religion, or any strain of Christianity or indigenous spirituality ... and we recognize that our participants come from a diversity of faiths and devotional practices. Or they may be atheist or have difficulties with any religion at all and would prefer a non-spiritual approach to their learning.
It is important for us to be able to host a Masterclass in a way that is welcoming to all these perspectives. Our participants are actively invited to share the wisdom that various traditions have to say about creating healthy communities. Both our spiritual and secular traditions contain teachings and insights that we need right now.
Our prayers or blessings seek to honour these traditions, although the opening of a workshop session may also include a poem, or music, or simply a time of silence. The goal is to open up the type of space in which communities can do their best learning.
It is about inviting all that we are into the room – our minds, our bodies, our feelings, and our spirituality. In many cultures, this invitation also includes the trans-personal – the spirits of the natural world, of the buildings that are containing our gathering, and of the many generations of people who are no longer with us or are yet to come.
A good host will know they have adequately done such an opening when the room feels alive with listening, and with the possibilities of discovery. This is the perfect place to begin our conversations.
THE CONVERSATION THEMES
Our Masterclass workshops follow a series of eight conversations. (Most of these themes were first offered in the book Community by Peter Block.)
The Citizenship Conversation
An active citizen is someone who has woken up to the contributions they can make to a common good. We are the people who remember that “community” has important work to do, and some of that work has our name on it.
The Invitation Conversation
Transformation occurs through choice, not mandate. The invitation is a call for active citizens to create the communities we want to live in, change the things that are not working, and take care of the things that we value.
The Possibility Conversation
This conversation asks us to imagine what we want our future to be as opposed to problem-solving the past. It frees people to innovate, challenge the status quo, break new ground and create the possibilities that will make a difference.
The Ownership Conversation
Community is created the moment we decide to shape what it can become. This requires us to believe that an organization, neighborhood, community, is ours to bring into being, and to belong to. It also asks: How have I contributed to creating the current reality?
The Dissent Conversation
If you can’t say ‘no’, your ‘yes’ has no meaning. It is only when we fully understand what people do not want that a choice becomes possible. Genuine commitment begins with doubt, and saying ‘No’ is an important way people find their own space and role in the possibilities.
The Commitment Conversation
This is about making promises to fellow citizens about your contribution to a common good. Commitment is the answer to lip service. It also asks: What is the price I am willing to pay for the success of what we want to achieve?
The Gifts Conversation
Rather than focusing on deficiencies and weaknesses, we focus on the gifts and assets we bring to make our best contribution.
The Action Conversation
This conversation uncovers the “instruments of life” that are abundantly available to any active citizen. It also explores how to do things that have your name on it, how to make time work for you, and how to find the assets and allies you need to create initiatives that will make a difference.
THE WORKSHOP SESSIONS
While the first workshop (Citizen and Community) and the final workshop (The Action Conversation) have their own unique schedules ... The rest of our community conversations have a similar shape comprised of four main sessions.
9.30am Welcome / Prayer / Karakia / CHECK-IN
9.45am KEYNOTE SPEECHES FROM PARTICIPANTS
10.30am SMALL GROUP CONVERSATIONS
11.15am STRETCH SESSIONS
12 noon WHAIWHAKAARO / SHARING CIRCLE
Each Masterclass workshop begins with a “check-in” from participants with one another. People are invited to pair up, and we encourage them to do this with someone they haven’t spoken to before, or don’t know well. We ask them to share for 5-7 minutes their response to the question: What has happened to you in the last two weeks that connects to what you are learning in this Masterclass?
The discussion might be about something that has happened in their family, or at a community project or activity, or something they have read, or noticed in the news. It doesn’t really matter which ... the goal here is to get participants engaged with each other, thinking about what they are learning, and drawing the connections they can make between this learning and their families and communities.
This check-in is generally not shared back to the whole group as it would take too long.
We use whakataukī to weave a Māori perspective and world-view into our community conversations.
Whakataukī, or proverbs, are a poetic form of the Māori language often drawn from significant speeches or songs. They may refer to historic events that still carry an underlying message for today.
Whakataukī play an important role in Māori culture and education, where oratory is often anchored in a reference to such a proverb. The whakataukī may open up layers of insight and meaning that might not be so obvious on the surface of things. It also becomes a way of remembering many of the key points being made by the speaker.
The whakataukī used in the Masterclass were chosen by Awhina Cameron of Tū Tama Wahine o Taranaki, and several of these proverbs reflect Taranaki history and traditions.
The whakataukī first appear as part of the preparatory reading for each of our workshop sessions. They are briefly explained at the start of the workshop, or during one of the “stretch” presentations later in the morning.
KEYNOTE SPEECHES FROM PARTICIPANTS
The first main section of the workshop contains the keynote speeches from participants (... not the hosts). These speeches have been prepared in response to the particular conversation topic that is the overall theme for that day.
At the start of the Masterclass, all participants are allocated a topic (possibility, ownership, gifts etc...) to give a keynote about. During this session they are asked to stand and speak for 5-7 minutes.
It is an oratory session, and they are welcome to speak from notes. The content of the presentation is completely up to the individual, but it usually involves sharing a little about their own lives, and then telling stories that are connected to the conversation topic.
In preparation, speakers are encouraged to read any of the relevant chapters in Peter Block’s book Community, or take a look at the community development resources in our Masterclass Database. These resources can be used as a spark to getting in touch with their own stories and inspirations.
The participants are discouraged from planning to use whiteboards, PowerPoint presentations or videos, or leading the rest of the group in interactive exercises during their keynote time. In these presentations we are seeking to emphasise a more fundamental and simpler form of citizen oratory.
A keynote is the sound that unlocks. It speaks to the heart of the matter, and it also leads to the rest of it.
A keynote does its work through stories. And these stories can contain the many and various ways of drilling down to the basic infrastructure of an idea or value or principle.
Our Masterclass keynote sessions are a way of affirming that any group of active citizens already contains a great deal of wisdom and insight concerning the things that are important to us. The challenge is to value this natural resource, and then invite it forward so that these stories and values can thrive and do their work.
The keynote sessions are also another way of affirming that the Masterclass is not for spectators. We are asking each person to authentically step up and speak to the things that matter to them.
Many participants have told us that the idea of public speaking is daunting. This is to be expected. Such speaking is a serious act of taking ownership of the learning process. To be heard with respect, in a circle of peers, is also an initiation into a deeper level of your own citizenship.
We live in a majority culture that has devalued the common forms of community oratory and, at most of our public events, people are encouraged to become consumers of delegated speakers, celebrities, politicians and performers. We are not usually invited to speak to one another.
Yet standing and speaking in a circle is one of the oldest capabilities of our human species. The ability to speak with one another about what really matters to us is also the primary asset in how communities heal and regenerate. This speaking is a heritage and a muscle that every active citizen needs to revive and exercise.
SMALL GROUP CONVERSATIONS
The next section of our workshop involves breaking the large circle of participants into small conversation groups of 3-5 people. The host invites people to purposely seek out other participants whom they may not know very well.
The small groups then take 30-45 minutes to talk about the theme for the workshop, and to discuss what struck them from the keynote presentations.
While it is important for the group to have the unique conversation they need to have, each group is also given a small card of strategic questions which they can choose to use as a prompt for further conversation, or to help them stay on track.
The small groups are where the real work of our Masterclass starts to get done. Participants are reminded that this is a time to practice the skills of paying attention, suspending judgments in favour of curiosity, asking deeper questions, and exploring the things that you hadn’t thought of beforehand.
Peter Block describes a small group as “the unit of transformation” within community conversations. And he defines “transformation” here as a change in the nature of things, and not just an improvement.
In a small group, it is much easier to cross the threshold of everyday talking and give each other permission to have the conversations that matter. A transformation becomes possible because the small group has the space for reflection and for exploration – important first steps in reconsidering what you already know, and imagining what might be possible.
Small groups have got the room for trying out your quarter-thoughts, for being respectfully challenged as to your assumptions, and for gaining courage in talking about some of the more difficult things that are concerning you.
The small group also allows all voices in the room to be heard by someone else, especially those who are shy or do not have a great deal of experience or confidence in speaking up.
The small group is also a place where the “I” can begin to become the “We”.
In the small group, we get to speak and share in a way that is based on our own uniqueness and individuality, but we are doing so in a circle of peers who are there to remind us that we are a part of something that is larger than our own lives and activities.
And this matters, because within such a conversation, we get to remember that we are much wiser, together.
STRETCHING THE CONVERSATIONS
The next major section of the workshops are the “stretch” sessions. These are a time when the Masterclass hosts, or invited local elders, get the opportunity to present their own perspective on the workshop topic.
They take about 15-25 minutes, and their session might include PowerPoint or short videos.
The purpose of a stretch session is to pull the particular conversations in a transformational direction. Their job is to sharpen, challenge and extend our collective thinking about how our communities address their challenges, and can thrive and prosper. The stretches are also a time to weave personal and cultural histories, community development experiences, and local tikanga and knowledge into the topics of the workshop session.
During the Masterclass in Taranaki we offer two “stretch” sessions which are designed to provide a bi-cultural lens into aspects of the conversations, and perspectives on community, hapu and iwi development.
The invitation to local elders to create their own “stretch” sessions can itself become a feature of the Masterclass experience. It can be a challenge to ask older and experienced friends and colleagues (of all cultures) to “step into” their eldership. Yet, in doing so, this can be an important bridge in introducing the work and practical knowledge of a previous generation to a younger group of active citizens.
While the workshops are usually held once a fortnight, we describe the Masterclass as a weekly commitment because we are also encouraging participants to make one-to-one appointments with one another. The appointments are a chance to get to know each other better, and to reflect on what they are learning.
The meet-ups are also an excuse to do the personal weaving of connections that build and strengthen our shared sense of community.
The participants are encouraged to make appointments with the people they know the least ... and they can meet up at their own homes, or at a local café.
We encourage them to turn up with a question. It might be as simple as: What are you learning at the moment? Or it might dig a bit deeper: What is working well in your community right now? What is inspiring you at this time?
We distribute three books during the Masterclass which are gifted to participants. They provide background reading and much more detail about the ideas, issues and practical examples of the community and cultural strategies we are exploring together.
Workshop 1. The Citizenship Conversation
Community: The Structure of Belonging
by Peter Block
ISBN: 1523095563 (2nd Edition 2018)
also available on Kindle and Audible Audiobook
Peter Block’s “Community” is distributed at our first workshop session. It gives participants an overview of the six themes that Block offers as a framework for community conversations. It also comes full of insights and provocations about how community change happens, as well as links to other thought-leaders in community development and transformation.
Workshop 3. The Possibility Conversation
How Communities Heal: Stories of Social Innovation and Social Change
by vivian Hutchinson and the New Zealand Social Entrepreneur Fellowship
Publisher: The Florence Press
also available on Kindle
available from Florence Press / The Jobs Research Trust
Also freely available on Website: www.taranaki.gen.nz/hch
The second book we distribute is “How Communities Heal” by vivian Hutchinson, and it is handed out during the Possibility Conversation. This book tells the local stories of a remarkable group of New Zealand active citizens and social entrepreneurs who are leading practical projects in their communities, and in our nation.
The New Zealand Social Entrepreneur Fellowship was a unique learning community which met over seven years (2006-2012) to explore systemic and sustainable solutions to New Zealand’s social and environmental challenges.
The book profiles the personal stories of these innovators and their activities for social change. It also includes a series of articles on social entrepreneurship, and the tools and ideas that are helping make these projects happen.
Workshop 6. The Commitment Conversation
Te Wheke: A Celebration of Infinite Wisdom
by Dr. Rangimarie Turuki Pere CBE
Illustrated by Nancy Nicholson
Publisher: Ao Ako Global Learning New Zealand Ltd
Enquiries to Box 14, Tuwai P.O.,
Wairoa, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
Publisher Website: http://aoakogloballearning.co.nz/te-wheke/
The third book is “Te Wheke” by Dr. Rangimarie Turuki Pere, and it is handed out during the Commitment Conversation. The book is a guide to aspects of tikanga which underly a mātauranga Māori perspective on many of the conversations on the Masterclass. The concept of Te Wheke (the octopus), as developed by Dr Rangimarie Pere, has become part of many training and education programmes in this country, particularly in the arenas of health and mental health, education and social services training. This book itself has become a taonga that has introduced many non-Māori to an indigenous world-view.
OUR MASTERCLASS DATABASE OF COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT FILES
At the start of the Masterclass, we also hand out a private internet keycode to each participant, which gives access to an eclectic database of videos, radio interviews, papers and documentation on elements of our community conversations as well as aspects of community and iwi development. There’s also some artwork, poetry and music that we like.
The purpose of the Masterclass Database is to spark the curiosity of participants into a whole range of inspirational and critical thinkers, as well as practical tools and ideas for community-building activities.
The selection points to a lively ecosystem of approaches to community development and social change which have informed the design and content of our Masterclass. This collection also changes slightly with each workshop depending on the research and further discoveries of the hosts and organisers.
The Masterclass Database files are stored on a Google Drive online archive which is accessible on any desktop browser, tablet, or mobile phone. The Google archive directly plays any audio and video files, and also has an in-built viewer for PDF documents.
WHAIWHAKAARO / SHARING CIRCLE
Each Masterclass workshop session is completed with a whaiwhakaaro or sharing circle. This is much more than a “check-out” exercise ... it is a time to reflect on and summarise the nuggets of wisdom and insight that have emerged during the session.
Participants are encouraged to stand and speak about what has “struck” them during the sessions, and what are some of the conclusions and questions they are going home with.
The term whaikōrero refers to a familiar form for oratory on a marae. This is a formal form of speech-making usually made by men during the powhiri or welcoming ceremonies. During the whaikōrero, an expert in oratory will display his knowledge of language, genealogy, and pūrākau. This is done to join or bind people together and to wake us up to our connections and interconnectedness to each other and the environment.
In community meetings and adult education throughout New Zealand, the term whaikōrero has more recently come to be used in a more casual or informal sense. In our Masterclass, we have chosen to use a different word, whaiwhakaaro, to refer to convening a simple circle which can encourage the sharing of more considered thoughts amongst our participants.
In this type of sharing circle, there may be the use of a “talking stick” which is passed between speakers. Speaking is not expected, but it is certainly encouraged. People usually only speak once ... and they are not interrupted or asked questions. They can speak for as long as they choose, but they are expected not to speak again before everyone else in the room has been given a chance of participating. People usually stand to speak in a random sequence determined by when the speaker feels it is their time. Alternatively, a host might choose to guide an order that will proceed around the circle.
Our form of circle sharing used in the Masterclass in Taranaki is influenced by the process used by Kuia Matarena (Aunty Marj) when she was hosting gatherings at Parihaka in the 1970s. She often used an informal oratory circle as a simple way of welcoming visitors, encouraging them to introduce themselves and to personally step into the history and traditions of the marae.
During our circle sharing sessions at Tū Tama Wahine o Taranaki, we pass around a tokotoko or walking stick that had belonged to Kuia Matarena. It has become a tangible connection to her ongoing mission of encouraging friends and strangers to have the conversations that matter with one another.
MAKE IT YOUR OWN
While you are welcome to share and copy this Masterclass resource, we certainly encourage you to make it your own. Every community is different, and every active citizen arises from a different network of relationships and personalities.
Some of what we have shared in this Guidebook is generic and may prove immediately useful. But you will also have your own resources of local stories and elders and unique ingredients which can help you shape the citizen education that will be right for your place.
In Taranaki, this initiative has grown out of communities that are Māori and Pākehā. In many parts of Aotearoa, your community might more usually be Pacifica, or African, Indian or Asian immigrants.
Creating your own Masterclass can itself become a way of reaching out to this local diversity, and inviting them to share their gifts of insight and understanding with other citizens.
Your Masterclass is going to look different ... so be open to surprises. And make sure you treat our Guidebook of resources as a starting point for making-your-own learning journey.
And let's keep supporting each other as our communities embark on these learning journeys. Please keep in touch ... and let us know what you are discovering and how you have improved things. All the best!
Notes and Links
vivian Hutchinson QSM is a community activist and social entrepreneur who has worked mainly on issues of race relations, social justice, job creation and philanthropy. He is a co-founder of Community Taranaki www.taranaki.gen.nz, and author of How Communities Heal — stories of social innovation and social change (2012. He is also one of the creators of How Communities Awaken - Tū Tangata Whenua - a Masterclass for Active Citizenship which is run in partnership with Tu Tama Wahine o Taranaki www.tutamawahine.org.nz.
First published online in June 2020
This paper Some Elements of Design is part of a larger series of essays by vivian Hutchinson entitled How Communities Awaken. For more information, visit www.taranaki.gen.nz/hca
Tū Tama Wahine o Taranaki and Community Taranaki were awarded the ACE (Adult and Community Education Aotearoa) 2020 Award for Community Programme of the Year for the Masterclass for Active Citizenship. For more information, visit www.tutamawahine.org.nz/masterclassguide
ISBN 978-1-92-717642-9 This paper is licensed for distribution under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/nz/deed.en
Our Masterclass at a Glance
July 2020 5 min read download as Masterclass PDF
How Communities Awaken – Tū Tangata Whenua is a four-month Masterclass for Active Citizenship which was first established in Taranaki in 2011. It is designed to bring a diverse group of local people together to awaken their involvement in civic life, or in hapū and iwi affairs, and to strengthen their skills and abilities to make things better in our communities.
The Masterclass achieves several objectives at the same time:
– adult education ... where participants are encouraged to reflect on their own citizenship, remember their gifts, and
re-examine how communities can awaken, heal and thrive.
– community-building ... where participants are encouraged to get to know each other better, and explore friendships and connections with strangers.
– transformation ... where participants are inspired to renew their own sense of belonging, and to reclaim the deeper meaning and purpose of a common good.
Our Masterclass has been part of a string of local activities that represent a citizen-based response to community development and education on our most important issues.
Amidst the problems and challenges and urgencies of everyday life, these activities have been a way that we can pay attention to what it looks like when our communities are well, thriving and abundant.
Several hundred people have joined us as participants on the Masterclass, coming from church committees, marae committees, sports clubs, service clubs, kaumātua groups, local authorities and social service and economic development agencies.
We have encouraged them to turn up not as representatives of these organisations, but as citizens, friends, neighbours and family members.
The Masterclass workshops are held once a fortnight and are facilitated with processes which are based on tikanga Māori and wānanga as well as community-led adult education practices.
✽ ✽ ✽
Our strategy for transformation is based, very simply, on conversation. Our conversations focus on the cultural competencies which enable citizens and communities to develop and prosper.
The topics for conversation were first offered by the US author Peter Block in his book “Community – the Structure of Belonging”, and they include: Invitation, Possibility, Ownership, Dissent, Commitment, Gifts and Action.
The content of each workshop is initiated by the participants themselves, as they are invited to give a keynote on one of the competencies — drawing from their own life stories and cultural heritage. We also invite local elders and thought leaders to “stretch the conversations” with their own perspectives from tangata whenua and community development traditions.
In terms of Mātauranga Māori, these “stretches” have included insights into Tū Tangata Whenua, Tikanga, Rangatiratanga, Whanaungatanga, Māramatanga, Ōhākī and Koha.
We also examine the local issues of peace, reconciliation and healing that arise from a history of colonisation, and the inter-generational impact that this has had on our communities.
We give participants three books for their study and reflection during the Masterclass. And we also provide them with links to a database of articles, audio interviews, videos, poetry and music which connect to a wider movement of citizen-led initiatives.
In the weeks between workshops, the participants are encouraged to make an appointment with another member of the group and talk about what they are learning. This helps to weave the participants more informally, and also deepen relationships that are outside their normal networks or areas of activity.
Participation in the Masterclass is by personal invitation. We fundraise beforehand so that this invitation is a genuine koha or gift to the participants.
We do this to make the Masterclass completely accessible, and also to ensure that this learning journey demonstrates what we are advocating – the fostering of community commitments that are based on invitations, generosity and our gifts.
✽ ✽ ✽
The Masterclass has emerged as a social innovation that is having an impact on civic engagement, on race relations, and on our wider strategies of adult education for the common good.
This impact might be local and modest, yet it also seeks to play its part in the bigger picture of national and global challenges that the average citizen needs to engage with at this time.
In our evaluations, participants report a significant influence of the Masterclass on their personal lives, and on the conversations and activities they are engaged in with their families, their workplaces, their faith groups, and with hapū and iwi.
This has many ongoing and unexpected results, as the Masterclass participants come to realise they are now connected to a network of active citizens contributing to the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of our place.
[ Because we do ]
We gather, because that is what active citizens do
in times of challenge, confusion and change.
We turn up, because having a deeper conversation
is the first action point in breaking the stuckness
and exploring new possibilities.
We connect, because that is how we hear about
the new things being learned by old friends,
and about the gifts of strangers.
We are curious. Because you have just said something
I never really expected.
That’s got me thinking.
— vivian Hutchinson