I had a burning desire for a long time to see more humanity in the workplace, and I stepped sideways from the advertising industry a few years ago, in search of a new way. I went on to study social entrepreneurship at AUT and found myself to be the biggest geek in the class. Up the front, asking all the questions and talking to the lecturer afterwards. I was in.
I wanted to be working in a world where organisations and businesses were solving real human problems, everyday. And after a series of serendipitous events I found myself on the couch with Eddy, Director of Curative, enjoying a cup of tea and discussing our parallel working experiences in big advertising agencies. By chance, that casual cup of tea then turned into a job offer and here I am four months later, feeling part of a whānau who truly live what they believe in their work. It’s been extremely grounding.
The morning I started at Curative there was a powhiri to welcome me in. I was encouraged to bring a support crew so my husband Bill, best friend Aimee, and her 9 month old boy Charlie, joined me. This in itself was huge for me. In nearly 15 years my family had never been formally invited into my place of work so this gesture on day one was particularly welcoming. Singing waiata with my new work mates took me back to my true home, in the Hokianga, where Māori culture had been such an integral part of community life when I was growing up. The pōwhiri instantly broke down the work/home barrier and made us all equals. There were no Chiefs or Top Dogs. Only smart and brave people, living what they believe in their work. It truly was the most heart-warming introduction into a working community that I have ever experienced. There were tears but they were tears of hope and commitment. Happy tears.
But what I didn’t realise when I took the job is that I was actually going to find a new sense of personal belonging in the world, which has had a big impact on me and I get a lump in my throat just thinking about it. This came about at the ‘Design for Social Impact’ (DSI) symposium in Christchurch last month.
The kaupapa of the symposium was an extension of the experience I’d been having in our office with Curative and innovate change. A welcoming place where everybody respected and honoured the land and the people of the land, before they spoke about social innovation. And every person at DSI there was on their own journey to solving a human problem. There I was in a room full of real life innovators and problems solvers, who were bringing about positive and tangible change in New Zealand. I gotta say it was pretty humbling to witness.
The new sense of personal belonging came during a workshop I attended, on diversity and Māori culture in the workplace. I found myself entwined in a discussion around heritage, belonging and identity. Being Pākeha, I haven't ever felt a real physical connection to my British heritage. And I have always swayed between feeling incredibly connected to the land and the people in New Zealand, to feeling somewhat like an invader. I always accepted this mild inner conflict as simply part of colonisation, and continued to live with my connection to family and place being grounded in Aotearoa.
This was when I learned about a whole new concept: Tangata Tiriti. That we are the people of the Treaty, the people of Aotearoa who honour this agreement and feel that connection to Aotearoa. The concept of Tangata Tiriti was a mind blowing shift for me. It makes me emotional and wish I’d known earlier, but mostly it finally gives me a concept connected to the feelings I’ve always had. I don’t know too much about the concept yet, and I intend to investigate it further, but I do know that it feels right, just like working at Curative.
When I first met Eddy she said that at Curative we bring our whole selves to work. I definitely understand that more now, and I know that when you have the permission to bring your whole self to your work, whatever that might be, you can develop in ways that you hadn’t imagined.