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New Platform Provides Kiwis With Agency To Make Change, In The Wake Of COVID-19

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, a new online community has emerged that encourages Kiwis to take action and help build the future that they would like to see.

BrightSpots is a non-profit community and website that seeks to raise awareness of the new possibilities emerging from our current crisis. In a time when many people are experiencing the feeling of a loss of control over their lives, BrightSpots co-founder Chris Clay (and also Director of Futures Thinking at Auckland’s Diocesan School for Girls) hopes to help provide them with a new sense of agency.

“The idea behind BrightSpots is to illuminate new possibilities to create better futures,” said Mr Clay. “Imagine all the other things we can learn from this crisis if we all took time to notice the BrightSpots amidst the darkness?”

BrightSpots works by encouraging people to search online for pockets of positivity that can lead to better futures. Users can submit the stories they are coming across, and be inspired in the future to enact change in their own neighbourhoods and communities.

One of the first “bright spots” submitted last week highlighted workplace accessibility issues:

“Now workplaces and uni courses can be accessed online, they should be accessible like this from now on. How can we make sure this happens?” asked one BrightSpots user.

Prior to the emergence of the Covid-19 crisis, Statistics NZ suggests that just 22.3% of disabled people were currently in employment, compared with 70% of non-disabled people. This is largely due to the fact that a lack of accessibility systematically excludes disabled people from the workforce.

Last week’s digital Asia-Pacific Legacy Summit featured All is for All founder Grace Stratton, who said “I am not disabled by my impairment, but rather by the environment I navigate. By innovating mindsets and tangible environments we enable everyone to flourish in an accessible environment”.

The lockdown of most of New Zealand’s labour force has meant that nearly all of our workers are experiencing a new appreciation of those in our society who face accessibility issues. Mr Clay thinks this is an example of one of many seismic shifts in thinking that can lead to societal innovations and seed possibilities for a new normal.

“Many commentators suggest that we are unlikely to see a swift return to normality at the end of these four weeks of restrictions. We are encouraging people to envisage what a new normal might look like. How can we come out of this crisis as a more just, inclusive, and regenerative society?” said Mr Clay.

Other BrightSpots submitted to the website include 3D printers in schools being deployed to create important health resources such as PPE; and the creation of a new online video game where the simple act of gameplay involves designing proteins that researchers can use to find treatments for COVID-19.


Chris Clay is an educator who has spent more than a decade developing practices that help communities develop collective intelligence. He has a background in Science, Technology and Futures Studies; was named Global Innovative Educator of the year; received the NZ Innovator Award for Social Innovation alongside colleagues of The Mind Lab by Unitec; and was formerly Project Lead for Singularity University NZ Youth Programme. Chris is also the Director of Futures Thinking at Diocesan School for Girls.

In addition to Chris, the BrightSpots team includes renowned futurists and designers from around the world including Chris Jackson of We Create Futures, Peter Bishop - former Director of the Graduate Programme in Futures Studies at The University of Houston and Tanja Hichert of Stellenbosch University’s Centre for Complex Systems Transition.

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