After more than 30 years of working alongside communities in Porirua and the Hutt Valley, Wesley Community Action knows the power of letting communities take the lead when it comes to solving complex problems such as poverty and food insecurity.
“We have learned that community-led development is where real, profound change can happen,” says community innovation lead Kena Duignan.
At the heart of this way of working is the belief that people are the experts in their own lives. Rather than professional “experts’ delivering a social service, Wesley Community Action is committed to fostering local responses to local problems. Examples include a fruit and vegetable co-operative that provides affordable, healthy produce to 11 Wellington communities, and an ageing well network that provides new ways for older people to maintain their wellbeing while living independently.
But in recent years the organisation has realised the importance of providing backbone support to these innovative initiatives to allow them to grow and develop, as well as the importance of collecting information about what has worked – and what hasn’t – and sharing it with others.
The result is Te Hiko: Centre for Community Innovation. Established in a 2020, its role is to spark and support community-led initiatives. Led by a team of three, Te Hiko is currently tracking 19 initiatives, providing quarterly insights into their progress.
“We realised we needed to lift our gaze from just trying to achieve a particular goal to exploring and learning about the best ways of making change in communities,” says Kena. “We know communities can do amazing things because we see it all the time; we believe Te Hiko will make community innovation more possible and more visible.”