The Mana Rangatahi programme, created by Heidi Renata, co-founder and CEO of INNOV8HQ based in Dunedin, has empowered over 150 individuals aged 18 to 24 to discover their own pathways. Utilising the Mātauranga Māori framework called "Ko Wai Au? Who am I?", participants have found their way towards entrepreneurship, further education, employment, or becoming youth leaders and ambassadors. As leaders, they engage in public speaking, hosting events like Youth Leadership, and participating in university and council meetings.

Launched in 2019 in collaboration with the Ministry of Youth Development and Startup Dunedin, Mana Rangatahi is a free programme open to all. Statistics reveal that 50% of participants are Māori, 30% are Pakeha, 10% are Pasifika, and 5% are Asian. The programme offers both full-time two-week courses and part-time options spanning 12 weeks. It is also accessible online. Participants enter a safe environment where they identify and co-design their personal brand and identity. The programme incorporates real workplace and business experiences, visits to community projects, and attendance at events alongside peers and intergenerational leaders involved in inspiring work. Collaborating with a local Dunedin NGO, the Transition to Work Trust, Mana Rangatahi extends its reach to youth throughout the Otago region.

The programme guides participants on a journey of self-discovery, helping them identify their values and construct their personal brand while navigating their chosen path. It fosters resilience and empowers approximately 45% of participants to consider starting their own businesses. Many participants also express a desire to make a positive impact on society and the environment through social enterprises and initiatives such as clothing repurposing and waste reduction. For those interested in employment, the programme assists in aligning their values with potential employers.

Upon graduation, participants become alumni and maintain ongoing connections. They become part of a whānau (extended family) within the programme. An essential aspect of the programme involves utilising a tuakana teina model, where graduates from previous years return to support the current participants. This model facilitates leadership development, enabling rangatahi to collaborate in co-designing a community event called "Journeys of Influence." This event brings together peers and intergenerational leaders engaged in inspiring work.

This award recognises an adult learning programme for Māori learners that has achieved outstanding learning outcomes through innovative programme development, creative implementation and sound evaluation.

Click here to see the full list of 2023 ACE Annual Award recipients.