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Māori Futures Academy A First For Aotearoa

Ngāi Tahu and the University of Canterbury have today committed to establishing a centre for indigenous social innovation led by Tokona Te Raki Māori Futures Collective.

Arihia Bennett, CEO of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu says the “The Māori Futures Academy is a key strategic initiative that will give meaningful effect to the existing partnership agreement between Ngāi Tūāhuriri, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu and the University of Canterbury.”

An overarching desire for equity in education, employment, and income for all Māori by 2040 is behind the bold initiative. “When we reach the 200 year anniversary of Te Tīrītī o Waitangi we want to be able to celebrate that one of the fundamental terms of Te Tīrītī has finally been realised, turning the tide on intergenerational patterns of disadvantage to create a platform of equity that can launch Māori into new and prosperous futures. This will not only benefit Māori but all New Zealanders,” says Bennett.

Inspired by the Stanford d.school, the Māori Futures Academy is designed to provide rangatahi with cadetships in tackling complex challenges and in doing so grow the next generation of future-makers who bring leading-edge thinking, research, expertise, and innovative tools to create a better future.

Bennett says, “Our vision is that the Academy will provide an opportunity to grow whānau and hapū capability so that whānau are empowered to lead change and build solutions that work for them. It is wonderful to be embracing a new and innovative approach to growing our future leaders who will take the iwi forward. If successful we will be an Indigenous remix of Stanford’s d School with global reach and in time, impact.”

Tokona te Raki is a Ngāi Tahu social innovation lab which operates as a standalone entity with Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu as its sole shareholder. Over the past two years it has achieved national prominence as a futures lab with expertise in research and unique indigenous design processes to support innovation in a rapidly changing world.

“Not only does the academy concept fit well with our strategic objective to have a direct and innovative partnership with Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, it also offers a vehicle to pioneer degree programmes and micro-credentials, with a particular focus on futures thinking and social innovation on a global scale. This is something new for the university and hugely exciting for us to be a part of,” says Professor Cheryl de la Rey, Tumu Whakarae |Vice-Chancellor of the University of Canterbury.

“The relationship between the University of Canterbury and Ngāi Tahu has been evolving over a number of years through the Ngāi Tahu Research Centre. The Academy provides an opportunity to further strengthen this relationship and ensure we are delivering on our obligations as authentic Treaty partners.”

The Māori Futures Academy is set to launch in April. It will bring on board 10 interns per year for the next three years through paid internships. Tokona Te Raki Executive Director, Dr Eruera Tarena says, “The Māori Futures Academy supports rangatahi through a cadetship in future-focused skills where they are equipped with insights, strategies, and tools before being supported to apply these skills in real-world projects. We train rangatahi as leading-edge researchers, facilitators, innovators, and change makers where they learn by doing and creating impact in our Māori communities.

Tokona te Raki Co-director, Sacha McMeeking says, “Our rangatahi have strong cultural knowledge, technical expertise and the audacity that only youth can bring to help them transform complex challenges into principled solutions and pathways into the future. Supported by seasoned pakeke, our partners gain the double benefit of next generation solutions and a safe pair of hands, while we journey through indigenous innovation.”

Philanthropic funders, J R McKenzie Trust and Rata Foundation have confirmed their position as strategic funding partners and as such have both made a three year commitment to the Academy. Start-up funding has also been received from Te Puni Kōkiri.

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