Aotearoa New Zealand now joins 74 other countries with access to a British Council Active Citizens programme.

The aim of the programme is to empower participants to make a positive contribution to the development of their local communities by supporting them to deliver social action, become more culturally competent and helping them to deliver sustainability through social enterprise.

So for our ACE providers using a community development approach this low-cost or free programme may provide a valuable professional development opportunity.

The programme in Aotearoa New Zealand is delivered through Splice, a Northern Methodist Mission organisation, and is funded by the Office of Ethnic Communities, DIA, and Foundation North.

Since coming to this country 18 months ago, there have been 11 courses – 10 in Auckland and 1 in Wellington.

Gareth Farry, who is the New Zealand Programme Manager for Active Citizens, describes the course:
“It is a three-day social leadership and intercultural dialogue course. It starts with the self, helping people reflect on their identity, culture and self-perception, then it covers the skills of intercultural dialogue and communication. So this part of the course can be useful for many people involved in social services.

“The second part of the programme is about social action – skills for identifying networks for making positive change in communities, building consensus, looking at the assets in the community and deciding what success looks like.

“Before the course we ask people to provide us with information about their experience and what plans they have for making positive change in their communities or to accelerate the programmes they have already initiated. The Active Citizens Toolkit has many in-depth modules and over a hundred workshop
exercises and methods including modules on women’s empowerment and resolving conflict – so we are able to tailor the course to meet the needs of the people coming. For any one course we are probably only using about 25 percent of the toolkit.

“In our programmes we like to also focus on intergenerational learning, so we are always keen to have some school leavers and some older people or retirees. School leavers can use the course as a reality check, looking at the skills they need in the real world. The programme also builds communication and problem solving skills and helps people to hold assumptions lightly – that is giving space to discover people, not operating from prejudice. These are skills you don’t get at high school.

“For some people who haven’t been in contact with diverse cultures before having ex-refugees and migrants on the programme helps with the development of these skills.”

“Part of the value of course is learning how to collaborate. Too often people head off and try and respond to a certain need or issue themselves when it may be much better to collaborate. Setting realistic goals is important too.

“Our approach also includes a cascade support model for social action projects – so they are supported during the different stages of development. For example, people from Do Good Feel Good, a Pasifika organisation in South Auckland, was on one of our courses. We have since trained the manager Chillion Sanerivi as a facilitator and run a workshop specifically designed for their Youth Voice team participants.

“And once people have been on a course they can come to our alumni meetups. In Auckland we run an annual Marketplace which provides an opportunity for alumni to gather, connect and showcase their projects and actions to other alumni, stakeholders and interested public.

“At the moment we have eight trained facilitators, and we may train more. We have the capacity to run more programmes and we welcome a partnership approach. In 2021 and onwards we are looking to expand the course into different areas of expertise and wider than just Auckland and Wellington.”

Splice is part of Methodist Mission Northern.
Their programmes fall into three groups:

  • Community building: including Splice Cuppa – informal meetups, with speakers and music; Splice BBQ; Apartment Champions providing a conduit for local information for residents; and Splice Tuesdays with various activities including walking groups, cross-cultural activities, a community arts programme; evening presentations and a social justice hour.
  • Connectedness: Including Random Acts of Kindness and Active Citizens.
  • Advocacy and social justice: including, Social Justice for Women – a project looking at policy and process around women’s justice, empowerment and thought leadership.