Te Whare Hukahuka o Tangaroa

Te Whare Hukahuka is an award-winning team of young Māori social entrepreneurs. Their vision is to improve the lives of 10 million indigenous people – starting with the roughly one million Māori living in Aotearoa and Australia.

Their way of achieving this is to strengthen Māori social enterprises and community organisations so that they become world-class, and to develop the next generation of Māori community and business leaders.

Shay Wright (Te Rarawa, Ngaruahine, Ngati Ruanui), is one of the founders of the organisation, (and he was named in the 2016 Forbes Asia ‘30 Under 30’ list). He spoke to us about their rangatahi programme, Ka Eke Poutama, as well as their business coaching and Māori leadership programmes.

Ka Eke Poutama

“We were working with iwi and Māori Trusts all around the country and noticed that they all had a need to attract high quality leaders and succession planning, but they didn’t know how to enable it. Māori organisations often have an intergenerational ethos and strategy, and yet we’re not very good at creating pathways for young Māori leaders to step up into leadership roles. So we developed a rangatahi leadership programme to help develop the governance skills of our next generation of leaders.

“So we looked around and found an interesting programme model called Dev Academy, which is a 18 week bootcamp that teaches people computer programming (based on a US programme), and at the end it connects their graduates to real employment opportunities. To me that is a brilliant example of a real pathway from learning into application. It is training with a tangible outcome, not just training for training sake, and we thought that approach made sense for us to use too.

“So we took this concept and designed a 15 week programme to teach rangatahi the core skills of great governance and social enterprise – practical skills that they can apply once they get onto a board. Te Whare Hukahuka o Tangaroa: building Māori leadership and enterprise skills Skills like, knowing the fundamentals of how to manage risk, how to formulate a strategy, how to set out an effective agenda and meeting process for decision making, what kind of questions to ask in a board meeting, and how to develop effective board resolutions. They then come out of the programme and are connected to real life governance board opportunities.

“In our first pilot programme in 2016, we had a cohort of 46 participants. Forty-five of them graduated and completed the course and between them they went on to hold 63 governance roles – with that number growing every month.

“For our pilot programme we approached the Māori organisations that we were connected to, particularly ones well connected to their community and asked them to nominate people or spread the word. We had nominations from all over the country. Shouldertapping people in my network and doing recruitment campaigns on social media were also very successful ways of reaching potential participants. We had about 110 applications in just two weeks for the first programme, and then after that we uploaded a video highlight reel showcasing the programme, and had 20,000 views on Facebook and about 240 applications over this past year. With application numbers so high we have to rigorously select participants based on whether they can commit to the full programme – their agreement to do what is expected of them.

“Over the last two years we have run three programmes, all hosted in Auckland so far. We bring in dozens of speakers and mentors, not all Māori. We have people who are senior in central and local government like Marama Fox, top entrepreneurs like Derek Handley, governance experts like Robin Hapi and Kristen Kohere-Soutar, expert advisers, kaumatua and esteemed Māori leaders like Lance O’Sullivan. They share practical advice, and it’s a chance for the participants to ask questions and get a dose of inspiration. We also have a programme management team who work with participants more closely around particular outcomes they are seeking.

“The pilot programme was free, but it cost our business a lot of money to run, so last year we required participants to pay one quarter of the cost, or find a sponsor. That proved pretty tricky too, mainly because some of them aren’t that well connected to organisations that will cover their costs. So we’re having to build those sponsor relationships ourselves, and also allow participants to pay off their contribution though weekly instalments.

“To date we have graduated more than 100 young people from the programme and then collectively hold 100 governance and advisory roles. To me it shows the impact this can make to changing the organisations that make up our system. And it’s not just governance either. There’s a whole range of different ways that these alumni are shaping our country’s future, from being part of delegations to international events, to running social initiatives in their community, to taking on senior management roles, to setting up their own social enterprises. Recently, one alumni, a young Māori woman who had been doing research at a university, decided that she could contribute much more to her community by setting up her own enterprise that monitors the water quality in the Waikato River. Another has been leading the Protect Ihumatao movement, and another alumnus has set up a social enterprise, Whenua Warrior, to teach families how to grow healthy food. I think that central government, iwi, and many philanthropic organisations are all wanting to help develop our young Māori leaders, and so we’re getting some strong support.

“We’re now looking at setting up a foundation to scale-up the programme nationally. That will involve building relationships with core partners in each region – funders, boards, iwi mentors, local councils. Once we have all the necessary ingredients in each region, we will start scaling the programme. That is our audacious plan for this year. Business coaching and Māori leadership

“Ka Eke Poutama is just one of our programmes. To date we have worked with more than 100 Māori organisations and trained over 750 Māori leaders across the country. The majority of our learners are older people. They are Māori who are in governance roles in their communities.

“Often these people have taken on these roles without much learning about good governance practice. They just learn on-thejob from others who have also not learned good practice. So we have this proliferation of terrible practice, or lazy practice, amongst many of our organisations. And most of these leaders are so busy in leadership roles and with their day jobs that they don’t have a whole lot of time to upskill. Our goal is to teach them just the few things that will make the greatest difference to good governance. Things they can actually apply right away. We don’t do generic content. We don’t do vanilla, and we don’t do theoretical. There’s already too much of that out there. We reckon that to make it worth everyone’s time it’s best to focus the training on the actual needs of the organisation we’re working with. That’s what delivers strong outcomes. Anything else misses the mark.

“Some of the outcomes that we love to see are when our alumni tell us that finally they are clear about their role, they are aligned around their goals, and they can see progress and achievement. They always have huge ambitions to make impact in their community, but they often run on the smell of an oily rag, so we have to work with that and sometimes help find funding to cover the cost of the training.”

Going global

Shay Wright works alongside seven other team members. You can read about them all at To achieve their vision of improving the lives of 10 million indigenous people, they’re aiming to perfect their processes in Aotearoa, and then license their models and methods to indigenous communities internationally.

Article from ACE Aotearoa Autumn Newsletter 2018.