At the end of August 2019, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the launch of the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy. Most media attention has been drawn to the free lunch in schools trial programme, however the significance of having a holistic vision for the wellbeing of children and youth cannot be overlooked.
The strategy acknowledges the need for collective action and sets goals across a range of wellbeing factors including material, mental, emotional, cultural, and social. It acknowledges that young people want to be involved and contributing to their community and to the wellbeing of the environment.
Te Ohu Whakawhanaunga has been working with community organisations to develop listening sessions where opportunities are created for people to come together and share stories about what matters. In one listening session with a group of Catholic youth, we heard the immense pressure that young people face around mental health. For Pacific youth, we heard about the challenges of navigating the expectations of living in two cultures. During the listening session, older members of the community had an opportunity to engage inter-generationally on issues that are not commonly talked about in daily life.
It is these face-to-face engagements that bring community together around a common sense of purpose for the wellbeing of the whole community.
The Wellbeing Strategy was built around conversations with over 6,000 young people and commits to continue public engagement and including youth voices as the strategy is implemented. As community organisations, it is important that we continue the ongoing work of listening to each other and identifying together the common interests of our communities.
Over the next few months, Te Ohu Whakawhanaunga hope to do more listening with organisations and begin to identify areas where we can organise our collective power for social change. The tools of community organising such as relational meeting and table talk brings the processes of community problem solving to the grassroots without needing expert facilitators. At the heart of the organising process is the strengthening of relational power across diversity.
If we want to see children, families and communities flourishing, we each have a part to play as active citizens to hold decision makers accountable to the vision and strategy set before us.
We invite community, union and faith organisations to join us on this journey of listening and building power across our diversity for positive social and political change.