Young people doing great things: Liam Edwards and Abi Schouten, Heretaunga College

Liam and Abi, Head Boy and Head Girl at Heretaunga College.

Liam and Abi, Head Boy and Head Girl at Heretaunga College.

In our second of the series of Young people doing great things, we’re looking at how a weekend with some “people power” supporting you can make a real difference.

As Head Students of Heretaunga College in Upper Hutt, 17 year olds Liam Edwards and Abi Schouten have a unique window into how their school is run.

And as they looked around, they noticed that the rubbish at their school wasn’t being recycled. Abi says, “It was disappointing to see because we all know about EnviroSchools, and recycling is a big deal in primary school.”

“It’s really disappointing to see the lack of care for our environment for our world and as a school community,” says Liam.

So the two Head Students investigated, and found out that 66% of all rubbish thrown away at the school could be recycled. However, there was one catch: implementing a school recycling scheme would take money. So the students started applying for grants and signed up to Upper Hutt StartUp Weekend.

As project-holders at Upper Hutt StartUp Weekend, their project was simple: increase recycling at Heretaunga College, and change the rubbish systems at their school so that it could be recycled. A group of around 30 people from the Upper Hutt community (and beyond) came together over the weekend to support this mahi (work), and two other projects. During a number of workshops, the project goals were split into several parts and broken down into steps.

Then, the community went into action - a small amount of seed money was donated for a worm farm and tiger worms by generous local businesses; pallets for compost bins were obtained from someone’s dad’s work and built in one day; recycling posters were created to put around the school; and best of all, the students discovered that recycling might even save the school money in waste management fees!

Liam says, “At first we had a big plan for general recycling and getting really worried about how much that was going to cost.” Abi agreed, “But the most tangible thing we [got out of the weekend] was the worm farm and compost bins - we can do that, and we ARE doing that. It’s really awesome to see the community help - to see that people want to support us.” Both students recognise that it will be much easier to get their school on board with recycling if it’s easy for the school management to maintain as well. They recognise it will be a (long) process, but will be working towards getting their school on board and getting funding and grants to cover some of the costs.

Long-term, the Head Students plan to work with their environmental committee with other prefects which will help make recycling the norm for the school, and create simple resources which will help new students easily understand how to recycle at the school. Abi says, “There are 13 prefects and we’d like to get a wellbeing/enviro prefect. As prefects, we have a lot to do, but if we implement a good structure before we leave at the end of the year, it will continue on without us and be sustainable.” They would even like to extend the scheme to other schools, helping the project expand beyond their own community.

Well done Abi and Liam and we wish you all the best on the next steps!

See you at Upper Hutt Start Up weekend!

A few years ago we took part in a couple of Upper Hutt start up weekends - the aim being to support youth wellbeing projects across Upper Hutt and give them access to extra skills and networks that could help. It’s a good way to connect into a community and support young people there.

The next start up weekend is on the 18th and 19th of May - maybe see you there! - Christina

Young people doing great things: James and Ishan, St.John's College

We’ve decided to regularly feature a couple of young people doing awesome stuff. The first is Ishan Parmar and James Barr, who protested bad conditions at Hawkes Bay Regional Prison and others around the country, by locking themselves in a metal cage in Hastings’ City Centre for four hours.

James and Ishan are part of an award-winning Young Enterprise scheme, partnering with young prisoners from the Hawkes Bay Regional Prison to create and sell high-end wooden platters. Money raised goes towards the Leg-Up Trust.

Ishan Parmar and James Barr of St. John’s College protest prisoner conditions in Hastings City Centre, 2019.

Ishan Parmar and James Barr of St. John’s College protest prisoner conditions in Hastings City Centre, 2019.

This action is great because it’s a positive social outcome - highlighting the plight of prisoners - and eventually got the support of their principal as well. We’re currently looking at ways we can support more positive youth leadership examples in Aotearoa New Zealand like this one, potentially through an award or competition. Watch this space!

Closed loop systems, engines and Upwards

Some very exciting news in August - after nearly three years working on the puzzle, I've finally worked out how to make the business model a closed loop. This means that all the parts of Upwards (multiple workstreams/sub-brands) work together to help the organisation become self-sustaining after a few years. 

It also explains why it's so complicated! I'm grateful to those people I've talked to a LOT about value flows, economic theories and models, and complex systems - you know who you are. :) 

No wrong door: how do we link Upwards to other initiatives?

One of the areas we're exploring at the moment is how Upwards fits into the wider complex system of youth work in New Zealand, and strategic approaches to the systems issue. During my time co-running a national programme for Government, I learnt a lot about how to make changes in a complex system. Understanding and working with the full ecosystem is key.  

So with complex systems in mind: it's not enough to simply deliver a programme, no matter how effective, without thinking about, "then what? What's the wider impact on all the areas they touch? What do people do next?" 

We want to act as a 'funnel' to offer Upwards participants further opportunities once they've completed the programme, including scaffolding them to mentoring or courses that they might not get access to otherwise. This will both amplify the impact of Upwards, and offer our young people a next step in practicing the skills they've learnt in our courses. 

We're well-placed to do this as we sometimes get asked whether we can recommend a young person for a certain course (because there's funding available for that course but the people don't know any suitable young people). To do this properly we need to be linked to, or at least aware of, what other opportunities are out there across the country, and what the criteria are. This is then coupled with a process for helping our young people work through what they'd like to try out, and then matching and directing them to these opportunities (and working with other people to follow up and make sure they get there).  (If there's anyone out there doing this already, please let us know! We'd love to partner with you.) A mentor yesterday used the concept of 'no wrong door' in relation to this, which I really like. 

This is going to need us to have a pretty good list of the other people out there doing cool stuff, so we can start building relationships with them - better dust off the list I made a year and a half ago....  

What we're up to: April/May 2017

"Are you a not-for-profit, or a business?" This question (which one of our advisors asked in April) has been key to the learning of the past few weeks and months. The answer right now feels like, "both". (Which probably sums up the social enterprise problem in a nutshell!)

A lot of learning, as well as some blocks - we had hoped to run Upwards in Term 2 but unfortunately this wasn't to be. However, we've been progressing in other areas - looking at potential partnerships with other organisations, and other potential business models. 

We learnt that if we're struggling to raise funding, based in Wellington with a strong network, then it's likely also going to be hard for our faciliators in remote parts of the country (and the world) to raise funds to run Upwards school courses themselves. This means we've reshaped how we run this part of the organisation. 

We're also looking ahead to the upcoming changes in how schools are funded - this will mean we have to shift a part of our model there too. 

The focus for May will be on better understanding our business customers and what they need, and building some new courses to meet that. We're also hoping to interview the young people from the first two pilots, and see how they're getting on.  

What we're up to: Feb 2017

I've decided to do a quick and regular update as to what we're working on. If there's anything you can see a way to help with, get in touch! 

So right now we're working on (in brief):

  1. Schools:
    1. Identify suitable schools for this year's programme (get in touch with us if you're interested!)
    2. Reworked course materials, including concept development for the Upwards games (we're partnering with an amazing musuem exhibit designer who makes interactive games!)
    3. Reports from both pilot programmes
  2. Business
    1. Create course content and learning objectives for a team-building course
    2. Test the market for the specific customers 
  3. Funding
    1. Identify and secure sources of funding for the schools we want to subsidise costs for - we need to close a funding gap of about $500 per young person for each course (10-12 young people per term-long course) so we're looking for sponsors. 
  4. Partners: 
    1. Talk to other community organisations who have funding and people already in place and would like to buy our course materials and run Upwards.
    2. See what's going on in Govt in this space (e.g. Health, MYD). 

I believe that the best success for Upwards long-term will be providing awesome course materials which others in the community can pick up and run. Communities already know what they need - and they already usually have people in place, and existing relationships.    

Upwards taking registrations for Term 2 - talk to us now!

We've started working on the new Upwards programme for this year, and we're now taking registrations for Terms 2 - 4. We've refined the programme based on our experiences last year, and what our young people said they liked the most. 

We're also partnering with Juliet at InTouch Design to revamp a couple of our games. Juliet has many years' experience designing interactive museum exhibits and games, so she's the perfect person to help us make Upwards' course materials even better.