Enough is Enough (2): Complementary and Alternative Economies

(Based on workshop by Dr Anna Casey-Cox, Dr Kyro Selket, and Dr Rose Black)

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With so much focus on the financial economy, it is easy to forget there is a diversity of economies, trade and exchange relationships operating in our communities.

The visible part of the iceberg (from Community Economics) represents the capitalist market-based economy, but there is so much of the iceberg we cannot see; so many other relationships and exchanges happening.

Here are some of the alternative economies and complementary economies that exist:



Reciprocity is the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit.

In cultural anthropology, reciprocity refers to the non-market exchange of goods or labour ranging from direct barter (immediate exchange) to forms of gift exchange where a return is eventually expected (delayed exchange) as in the exchange of birthday gifts.


Pay It Forward

Pay It Forward is an economy/interaction where if one is the recipient of a good or service, instead of ‘returning the favour’, a good or service is repaid to someone else.

There are many ways to get involved in local, national and international Pay If Forward initiatives.


Timebanking is similar to Pay It Forward economics in that you receive a good or service from someone without the exchange of money, but you do not necessarily return the exchange with them. Timebanking is an example of a complementary currency, where the currency is time instead of money.

Local Currency

Another example of complementary currency is a local currency, which is currency that can be spent in a particular geographical locality or at participating organisations.

A local currency acts as a complementary currency to a national currency, rather than replacing it, and aims to encourage spending within a local community, especially with locally owned businesses.


There are a growing number of local currencies. Some that are receiving a lot of attention for their success are the Brixton Pound and the Totnes Pound, though there are many, many more.

Collaborative Consumption and the Sharing Economy

Also known as shareconomy,collaborative economy, or peer economy, a common academic definition of the term refers to a hybrid market model (in between renting and gift giving) of peer-to-peer exchange.


Collaborative consumption is an arrangement where participants share access to products or services, rather than having individual ownership.


Cooperatives are enterprises owned and governed by people that have voluntarily united to meet their needs and aspirations. CO-OP offers useful information to understanding what cooperatives are and how they work.


Improving The Current System

As well as incorporating alternative economies into our current system (and recognising where they are already incorporated), there are also ways that we can improve on the business-as-usual approach: even if we want to operate in the capitalist, conventional system, we can improve on it by embedding our values in the way we do business.

Some examples of how we can do this are by being committed to the welfare of the people we work with (e.g. by paying a Living Wage or ensuring Fair Trade standards are upheld), the communities we work in, and the local and global environment.

Social Enterprises are an emerging type of business that work towards social value (like traditional charities) and financial value (like traditional businesses): they are the place where not-for-profit meets for-profit to for not-just-for-profit organisations.

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Image from Ākina Foundation, who support social enterprises across Aotearoa New Zealand



Enough is Enough: Growth, GDP and Alternative Measures of Progress

(Based on a workshop delivered by Dr Maxine Campbell and Dr Beat Huser)

Introducing Capitalism, Neoliberalism, and the Free Market

Capitalism is an economic system based on private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profits. Some of the key characteristics of capitalism include the accumulation of wealth and capital, wage labour, a price system, and competitive markets. It is the economic system that has come to dominate Western countries.

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Image from http://bloggingblue.com/2012/04/free-market-capitalism/

The idea of a free market has become almost inextricably interwoven into the ideals of the capitalist economic system. A free market is an idealised system in which the prices for goods and services are determined by the open market and consumers. The desire is that the forces of supply and demand are free from any intervention by a government, price-setting monopoly, or other authority. However, unfortunately without some universal values towards the environment and human welfare, it has become clear that free market economics can become abusive to people and planet.

Neoliberalism is the political ideology associated with free market capitalism. It calls for a laissez faire approach to the economy (i.e. let it do its own thing without regulation) that celebrates markets, profits, and risk-taking.

Many (particularly but not exclusively the political left) argue that some or all of these concepts are resulting in widening inequality between rich and poor, and are fueling practices that lead to environmental destruction; as their largely unregulated practices mean profits are internalised, but negative environmental and social consequences are externalised and considered beyond their scope of responsibility.

Put simply, if you focus on growth, competition and profit maximisation, you place value on them. Market capitalism and neoliberalism put these things in front of everything else, including the welfare of people and the planet.

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Why neoliberalism, capitalism and the free market clash with environmental and social ethics is because if you are in a closed system (like, say, a planet), because there are a fixed number of resources within the system, anything you gain is at the expense of someone else.

We need to think about how we can be happy with this much:

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Instead of this much:


Maxine Campbell

Many people, across the political spectrum, note that in all of history there has been an unequal distribution of power and wealth. However, that does not mean it must or will always be that way: power and wealth is a socially-constructed, man-made feature of our species. And it can be changed.

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Image from Image from http://www.nydailynews.com/news/occupy-wall-street-anti-capitalist-protesters-demonstrate-wall-st-corporate-greed-gallery-1.963450

Economic Growth, Gross Domestic Product, and interesting alternatives

The videoclip below offers an easy-to-follow description of economic growth and GDP.

Most countries use GDP as the only or most important indicator of success. There is no denying, GDP is a good indicator of economic activity.

However, it is NOT a good measure of progress and well-being, of non-market items (e.g. volunteering). Also, it values all dollars equally, regardless of societal consequences; a dollar spent on health is valued the same as a dollar spent on weapons production.

‘We cut down green spaces and build mental health facilities, but the green spaces were mental health facilities to start with’

Beat Huser

Ironically, the developer of the GDP, Simon Kuznets, warned not to use GDP as a measure of welfare or as a sole measure of success – but that is exactly what most countries have done.

Image result for what is the genuine progress indicatorGenuine Progress Indicator – GPI

Unlike GDP, the Genuine Progress Indicator incorporates aspects of the non-market economy, separates welfare-enhancing benefits from welfare-detracting costs, corrects for the unequal distribution of income, and distinguishes between sustainable and unsustainable forms of consumption.

The GPI is still based on economic activity, but it is more inclusive than the GDP.

There is a strong case for measuring progress with indicators beyond just economic growth, and there are many examples that have been developed, including some which are used around the world, today.

Sustainable Economic Development Assessment

Gross National Happiness – a case study in Bhutan


Urban Biodiversity – Fairfield Project

Urban areas are not only the living areas of humans, but flora and fauna, as well.

Bruce Clarkson, University of Waikato

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The Fairfield Project

Urban design is not just about designing for humans, but for all species. For us, green spaces provide areas for recreation, physical and spiritual well-being, mental health, and more. For other species, they can provide food, safety, and temporary or permanent shelter.

The Fairfield Project is an amazing project taking place in one of Hamilton’s suburbs.

With a population that is youthful, ethnically diverse, and sometimes financially constrained, the Fairfield and Enderley communities decided that there needed to be a local area that encouraged people -especially young people- to be out in nature and involved in their neighbourhood. And so The Fairfield Project came about.

Situated behind Fairfield college was a large, under-used grass paddock, bordered by a neglected gully filled with some native plants and all the invasive weed species one could think of.

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Urban green spaces are the lungs of a city

In an effort to stop it being sold to private developers who would build houses on it, the community came together to transform the area into a hub of learning, ecological restoration, and community capacity building.

Now, work has begun to restore the gully, and replant some of the grassy areas so it can return to native bush. An organic community garden has also been established in the north east corner; with 6-8 small allotment plots, and a large kumara area maintained by the local Tongan community. There are plans to develop a living classroom, a plant nursery, an edible orchard, a rongoā garden, and more.

School and other education groups visit, care for and learn in the space, and it is hoped that as the project continues, more an more community groups will use and enjoy the space.

Lynette Rogers, co-ordinator of The Fairfield Project, says the decision-making is always a participatory process and council is sought from mana whenua and local kaumātua.

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Image from https://www.facebook.com/thefairfieldproject/photos/a.607228189346835.1073741833.545225375547117/1420152774721035/?type=3&theater

Further resources:


Urban Design: People, Places, Spaces


Today, over half the world’s population live in urban areas. By 2050, it may be as high as 80%. Despite cities only occupying approximately 2% of the world’s land surface, they account for approximately 70% of global CO2 emissions, and this is only going to increase in the future.

In addition, spaces are designed for economic growth, rather than people: parks, playgrounds, community centres and dwellings are pushed out of the centre – to make space for businesses and parking lots.

(Full movie available here: https://vimeo.com/162029805)

Image: AcidFlask via flickr.  CC license: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
Sustainable Cities Net http://www.sustainablecitiesnet.com/sustainable-cities/future-biodiversity-the-role-of-cities-and-local-authorities/

So how can we ensure cities and city developments keep people at their heart? And how can we make sure we look after the earth, and the other fauna and flora we share urban spaces with?


A Good Use Of Space…

Until recently, many urban designers were not aware that the way a city is designed determines how people behave, interact, and enjoy it.

A well designed city (or area within a city) will look different to everyone, but some key features are:

Elliott St has become more liveable thanks to Auckland Council's laneways programme.
Elliott St, Auckland  https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/better-business/78403950/laneways-inject-liveability-back-into-new-zealand-cities
  • Foster interconnectedness: there are many opportunities for people to meet and interact. Cul-de-sacs are great for dwellings as they do not have any through traffic, and are often relatively safe. Pedestrianisation of areas has also been found to radically change how people use a space; with more pedestianised areas resulting in more people coming out, walking, and socialising.
  • Foster well-being: there are opportunities to connect to nature, education centres, community services, and these are accessible to all.
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    Fostering interconnectedness and well-being.

    Working within the bioregion: ideally, urban and rural settlements within a bioregion will be self-sufficient, or almost. Bioregional self-sufficiency means the area will be more environmentally sustainable (for example it may have lower emissions, as less needs to be imported), it will have a vibrant local economy (as people will be supporting their local initiatives and businesses), and there will be a stronger identity (as each bioregion develops to suit its local area).

  • Make the most of available resources: good design turns ‘waste’ into resources, utilises horizontal and vertical space, and means features have more than one use (e.g. a living wall can produce food, help purify air, and provide insulation to buildings). Even space itself can be a resource; if buildings are arranged randomly, a lot of ‘lost space’ can exist, but with some care, space that can be used positively is found.


Aiming For Utopia…

After the industrial revolution, many cities became progressively less liveable; congestion, pollution, and unreliable supplies of resources meant many people suffered or lived in poor conditions.

There have been many ideas and movements to try and find solutions. Some have been somewhat successful, and others have resulted in additional challenges. One thing that has been discovered, is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution: to be effective, ideas need to be tailored to the local social, cultural, political and environmental circumstances.


Ebenezer Howard is the founder of the garden city movement. As well as the links, this video offers an informative summary:

Though he and many others have attempted to solve city problems, those that forget to put people at the heart of design may find their ideas less successful.

For example, many past and present city planners like to zone the area they are working in. Zoning is the process of diving land into different zones and encouraging certain activities within each. While this may seem rational and make a place appear more organised, it is likely to be less practical for the people that live, work and play in the city.

In mixed use spaces, everything is much closer and convenient. Zoning can be a result of a disconnect between urban design and the people that use the space.


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Waimārama opens first papa kāinga

Bringing Back Papakāinga…


When New Zealand was colonised, traditional Māori settlements experienced extreme disruption and destruction. With traditional lifestyles threatened, many Māori migrated to growing cities and were made to live in culturally inappropriate houses.

Fortunately, there is now a growing movement to bring back papakāinga.



Introducing Jane Jacobs…

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Jane Jacobs was a writer and activist who was greatly influential in urban studies, sociology, and economics.

Her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities became one of the most influential American texts about the inner working and failings of cities, inspiring generations of urban planners and activists – Project for Public Spaces.

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From Project for Public Spaces

For example, in many cities, 90% of road space is for cars and 10% for people. However, 90% of the street population is pedestrians. So, it is time to stop catering for cars and start catering for people.

City Nature and Nature in Cities…

Ecosystem services are the services an ecosystem provides us for free, and include resources (e.g. raw materials), regulating services (e.g. air quality and pollution management), habitat services (e.g. maintenance of genetic diversity), and cultural services (e.g. tourism).

A healthy, sustainable city values ecosystem services and encourages biodiversity.

Urban areas are not only the living areas of humans, but fauna and flora as well.

– Bruce Clarkson, University of Waikato





Influencing Decision-Makers

Whether raising an issue with your MP, trying to effect change in your workplace, supporting a friend, or something completely different, these 5 tips will (according to our local council) help decision-makers listen to and better understand your message:

  1. Start early – Especially in situations where there are likely to be many people or groups trying to have their voices heard, starting your awareness-raising campaign early means you ‘beat the rush’ of competing ideas.
  2. Build relationships – Finding common ground with the decision-makers you are hoping to influence. Respectful relationships are more likely to foster co-operation than antagonistic and adversarial ones.
  3. Come with solutions, not problems – Or rather, come with suggestions for solutions to the problems or concerns you are raising.
  4. Stand out from the crowd – Do something eye-catching or memorable.
  5. People power – Your issue will have more traction if there is a large, varied community making noise. If you can work with other groups to make your case, do: collaboration helps build momentum.
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Respect Papatūānuku. Respect Mother Earth. Peace(ful) protest against New Zealand arms and weapons expo. Sign made by my 3 year old and I.

The World Needs Changemakers

Related image(Based on a permaculture workshop about creating resilient communities through active citizenship)

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Here, a resilient community is presented as one that is diverse, inclusive, healthy, and able to respond to changing conditions. How can we create resilient communities that are more equitable, self-sufficient and fun through active, engaged citizenship?

Factors that Increase and Decrease Resilience

Jo Wrigley, community activist and advocate, says resilience of an individual, family, or community depends on different factors and circumstances. Having shared values or purposes is a factor that increases resilience. Social connectedness and communication opportunities are also factors integral to a resilient community.

In contrast, isolation (physical, social, or otherwise) can decrease resilience, and the ability to recover after disaster or adapt to changing conditions.

Then there are factors that can increase or decrease resilience, depending on how they are used, for example technologies and different economic models.

Resilience and Inclusiveness

Resilience can grow when there is a diversity of skills, knowledge, and experience. Plus, a diverse and inclusive place can increase compassion, equality, and fun.

When we engage in attempts to increase inclusiveness, often there are many benefits. Let’s take an example of a workplace wishing to increase accessibility by installing a ramp to the door…


One idea Jo Wrigley puts forward is the idea of developing solutions to include the margins, not just the normal/status quo/average. The result is that (hopefully) more people that are currently not catered for may currently have their needs met.

For example, currently most mainstream education systems cater for the ‘average’ student. Those with exceptionally high or low academic skills do not have their needs met in the ‘average’ classroom. But what if we were to design for these groups, instead of the ‘average’/’median’ student? It is likely the latter would still have their needs met (as their abilities are somewhere between the two extremes), but so would the others, as well.

Image from http://justmytype.ca/dare-to-disrupt/

Privilege, Resilience, and Creating Change

Understanding privilege (especially our own, if we have it) can be helpful in understanding our resilience – our own, our family’s, and in our community.

The How Privileged Are You? test by Buzzfeed is far from perfect, but can be a useful resource when beginning the journey towards understanding one’s privilege.

Michael Edwards writes an interesting article about privilege, resilience, and the status quo in his article The Privilege of Being Privileged. And Erdmann offers ideas about how to use privilege for good.

Disrupting the Status Quo

There are many types of activism, though John-Pierre Maeli has usefully categorised them into 12 types. Activism can be peaceful, violent, or something in between. It can be direct, indirect, or a bit of both. It can be for subtle, in-your-face, or somewhere between the two. Activism is as varied as the activists themselves, and finding the space you want to work in will be different for each person, depending on the issue, their experiences, their currently life situation, etc.

Image from www.artkillingapathy.com

Jo Wrigley suggests a way to engage communities and disrupt the status quo is to:


Agitation arises when a sense of injustice challenges. We want to act when we are frustrated or unhappy by what we are seeing. Others want to act, too, when we are able to get them agitated.

Education provides us with hope so we continue to engage in a cause. It also means we can make more informed decision that will help us create the change we want to see.

Organisation brings people together; to feel hope and to act. And the agitation can begin again, as the message spreads…

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Gifts that Don’t Cost the Earth

At this time of year, a lot of people (myself included) do a lot of present giving. I love giving gifts, it is definitely one of my strongest love language.

However I also believe our high-consumption lifestyles, with fast turn around and disposal of products, is one of the main drivers of the devastating environmental and social issues we face today.

For a while I wasn’t sure how to manage these seemingly conflicting ideas, but I have found some ways to reconcile them, and to give gifts that still uphold my social and environmental values. They aren’t fool-proof, but they are a start

1a) Make your own gifts

1b) Support others who make stuff

Left: handmade apron by my friend Surrayya. Right top: handmade candle by my friend Gemma who started the social enterprise Betley.  Right bottom: homemade reusable facial wipes – a gift for me from my mother-in-law 🙂

2) Op-shopping and second-hand gifts. Just before Christmas is probably not the best time to score bargains, but the post-Christmas season makes up for it! I think there is sometimes the thought that it is ‘cheap’ to give second hand shop items as gifts, but I have to disagree – you can find some really great gifts there!

Plus, the environmental and social impacts of purchasing items second-hand, rather that new, are considerably lower. The article Why Thrift gives a good introduction to these ideas.

Second hand shop finds: brand new DVD for my daughter, and a beautiful dress from my mum.

3) Find shops, brands, and companies that have values that align with yours. A fair proportion of the gifts I give are trying-to-be-more-ethical/sustainable variations of conventional gifts (chocolate, alcohol, candles, shower/bath sets, etc) or other items that I know someone might like.

non conventional
Left to right: wine from growers that have won sustainability awards, Fair Trade chocolate from Trade Aid, and Ethique plastic-free bathroom products.
Less conventional gifts that are doing good things for the planet: plastic free and synthetic chemical free deodorant, bamboo toothbrush, reusable drinking straws.

4) Gifting experiences. Like all the ideas mentioned above, this option is not necessarily more socially or environmentally ethical (I am thinking of when I went on a jet boat which was an experience… but the experience was essentially burn-as-much-fuel-as-possible-in-20-minutes-while-scaring-local-wildlife), but nevertheless giving experiences is not giving STUFF.

5) Pay It Forward Gifting

This can be done informally, through your own neighbourhoods or community, or through organisations that do this work internationally.

Oxfam is able to do amazing work around the world, thanks to money it receives by people purchasing Oxfam Unwrapped gifts.

But perhaps the thing that I have to remember most…

6) I am giving to others, not myself. Sometimes, for some people, the thing they will love most, or the things that will be most useful, or most appreciated, does not fit my criteria.

At this point I remind myself that throughout the year I try to engage in low and conscious consumerism, and so maybe once in a while it is OK to buy something that would not usually be on my shopping list.

I mean, I am not going to buy a novelty item that will just be discarded. I am not going to buy something that completely conflicts with my values (toy gun, fois gras, McDonalds vouchers, etc). But, well, if something someone will really appreciate comes in a bit of plastic packaging, or if it isn’t Fair Trade, or the brand doesn’t have any environmental accreditation…. oh well!

To end this post, I am going to finish with George Monbiot’s article from 2012, which -sadly- has ever-growing relevance: The Gift Of Death

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For great, thought-provoking reading, visit http://www.monbiot.com/

Energy and Technology Solutions (for a More Sustainable Future)

Most of the systems we rely on every day are energy intensive and require large resource inputs; whether it be our food, health, transport or other commodities. We are producing, consuming and discarding resources at an alarming rate, and our current energy generation and consumption behaviours are unsustainable. With ecological and social problems occurring on a global scale, it is important to consider alternative technology and energy options for a more sustainable future.


Energy is the ability to do work and is required or present in pretty much everything at all times. Understanding this, and understanding the different types of energy that exist can help us create energy and technology solutions to different problems and challenges we face. Doing this in a way that considers people and planet helps create technology and energy use options that are more appropriate.

Our modern societies are heavily reliant on fossil carbon energy (let’s stop calling it a fossil fuel, as that means we see it as an energy resource we want to burn), and while access to this energy has transformed our lives in previously unimaginable ways, it does pose some major concerns.

Once concern is that fossil carbons are a non-renewable energy source, and because we will not be accessible indefinitely, the lifestyles and resource use patterns we have become accustomed to are not sustainable.

Another concern is the huge environmental impacts the combustion of fossil carbons is having, because this process releases large volumes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which contributes to climate change.

Humans are creative and resourceful, and we are continually developing and changing our ways of doing things. Here are some interesting things we are doing to try and address our energy and technology challenges…

Renewable Energy

Technology to harvest and store renewable energy is continuously improving. Renewable energy can be harvested on small and large scales.


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When we had our domestic solar system installed.


Giant solar system in Japan (https://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2015/06/24/japan-building-giant-battery-systems-to-store-solar-power/)

This video offers an introduction to renewable energy sources:

Geoengineering ‘Solutions’ (please note the inverted commas!)

Geoengineering is the deliberate large-scale intervention in the Earth’s natural systems to counteract climate change.

Oxford Geoengineering Programme 2017

There are many different geoengineering techniques, which are usually divided into one of two categories:

  1. Solar Radiation Management, which aim to reflect sunlight back into space before they have a warming effect on the atmosphere. Examples include cloud seeding, space mirrors, and pumping aerosols into the stratosphere.
  2. Carbon Dioxide Removal, which aim to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Examples include ocean fertilisation, creating biochar as a carbon sink, and carbon dioxide scrubbers (such as mechanical trees).

Appropriate Technology


Appropriate technology is an ideological movement that involves small-scale, labor-intensive, energy efficient, environmentally sound, people-centered, and locally controlled projects.

Pachamama Alliance

This video by Urban Farmer Curtis Stone asks viewers to consider the purposes of technology, and the differences between Hi-Tech and Appropriate Tech.

Further reading:

Appropriate Technology – understanding what it is, with examples (Pachamama Alliance)

10 Cases of Appropriate Technology (ListVerse)


Creating a Culture with a Backbone

I was recently asked to talk about ‘creating a culture with a backbone’ at an even run by Seed Waikato, an organisation that connects young people with their city (Hamilton, New Zealand).

Initially, I wasn’t sure I was the right person to talk: my mum is from the Carribbean, my dad is from Belgium, I was born in the UK, and raised mainly in Germany. Quite frankly, I don’t feel allegiance to any particular country, and can barely scrape together a cultural identity. I actually only moved here, to Aotearoa and to Hamilton, about 4 and a half years ago, knowing no-one except my partner and his immediate family.

So what could I possibly contribute to a conversation about culture in New Zealand, and in Hamilton? 

Well, I decided I could offer a story of creating a community for oneself. Communities create culture, and by far the strongest community I have ever had in my life is the one I have here, in Kirikiriroa Hamilton.

As I just mentioned, I came to this city knowing no-one except my partner, and his family that I had met once before. I also happened to be very pregnant and was pretty daunted by the whole parenting thing. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and I had no village; I didn’t know where to find support, I didn’t have friends, I was in this new country, with people I barely knew, it was pretty dire for a little while.

And so out of sheer necessity, I went and ‘put myself out there’, and here I am today with more social capital that I have ever had in my life, surrounded by aroha (love), manaakitanga (caring), people that have got my back, and groups that will be there when things get tough. That is an awesome community to be part of; that is an awesome culture to be part of.

So how does one do it? How can we create a strong, resilient, caring community; a culture of compassion, respect, and love. A culture with a backbone? Well, I have 5 ideas that I believe are key. (I should make it cleat: I am not trying to suggest this is a step-by-step plan or anything, it’s not ‘follow these steps and thou shalt find your community’, I guess these are maybe… things to look out for, factors to consider, opportunities to seize, or something like that.)

So, in no particular order, here are 5 ways I believe we can create strong communities:

Number 1: Value diversity

This one is important because it is easy for us to find our comfortable circle of friends: the ones we hang out with because we share interests, political views, religious beliefs, cultural backgrounds, or experiences of life. It is great to talk to people that think the same way as we do; we get our ideas confirmed, we know what we are supposed to do and how to act, we feel supported, validated, that is all great.

It is also important that we get tested sometimes, that sometimes our beliefs about the world get challenged, and that sometimes we are put outside out comfort zone. When we hang out with people whose language, or socio-economic background, or lived experience of the world is different to our own, our perspective gets widened. And it is through this I believe we get a better understanding of the world, and of people. And that in turn helps foster more compassion, less misunderstanding, less fear, and more peaceful, mutually-respectful relationships in our lives, and in wider society.

1) value diversity.png
For me, two organisations I have been involved with that have helped me diversify my social groups is IHC (who work with people living with intellectual disabilities and have a brilliant befriending programme through which I met my friend Gail, in the top-right photo), and also the Red Cross Refugee Resettlement Programme (who link volunteers with refugee families new to the country, and your role is to welcome them and help them settle in their new home). 
Through both these organisations you start off as a volunteer, but you may find yourself building long-lasting friendships with people that, let’s face it, you might otherwise never have the opportunity to meet and hang out with.

Number two: Be inclusive


This photo was taken at The Serve, which is a community meal that takes place every night in town. I love this photo because my daughter, right at the back, started off by saying ‘mum can you take a photo of me with my new friend’ (the guy that’s holding her). Then someone else joined in, then more and more people started photobombing… I had to zoom out and step back to get everyone in, it was brilliant; she was just taken in to, and embraced by, this community.

And I feel the photo epitomises the purpose of this community meal; because anyone and everyone can come. There is no ‘us’ and ‘them’, it’s not divided into the people that receive food and the people that provide food; there’s just people that come and cook and serve food, and people that come and eat food, and people do a bit of both.

It’s free, it’s 365 days a year, no strings attached, just people coming for a kai and korero (food and chat) from all walks of life; poor and rich, all genders, all ethnicities, all ages, people working, people unemployed, all of us just together as people. Thing like that makes a strong foundation for a society in which we can all thrive.

Number three: Use your talents (or just your interests, if you don’t feel you’ve got many talents)

3) Use your talents

I suppose I see this as finding something you enjoy and doing something with it. I don’t really mean “find your passion and live every minute doing it” (by all means try, but even if you can’t make your passion your career or spend all you time following your dreams… that doesn’t mean you can’t do it at all!).

I am a bit passionate about looking after the planet and I am lucky enough to work doing the thing I love; I work at Go Eco, the local Environment Centre, and basically I get to spend my days talking to people about nature and caring for the Earth. But it isn’t full time work, and, like many millennials, I have accepted a lower income and less hours in order to have employment that I feel is meaningful.

But, you know, even if you still are in a grinding job you don’t like, that doesn’t mean you can’t find your niche and a community that supports you doing the things you love. And when we spend time doing things we love (or things we enjoy) -whether it is an hour a week or 50 hours a week- and we find people that enjoy doing it with us, well those relationships build you up; they build your community.

Number four: Educate yourself

4) educate yourself
Graduating from my first Maori language course, at the Kirikiriroa Marae.

Ignorance breeds distrust, and distrust breaks communities. I believe we need to understand our local community if we want to be a part of it.

When I came to New Zealand and to Hamilton I had no knowledge at all of any local or national history; I knew nothing about the customs and culture of Aotearoa. But, once I started learning the story of this place, once I began to understand a bit more about the history and culture of the people here… it’s like you access a whole new level in this place we call home.

For example, for my first year here I didn’t know anything about the strange and beautiful building that was just around the corner from where I live. Turns out, it is pretty darn spectacular! I am talking about the Kirikiriroa Marae; a Matawaka marae, which means they welcome all people, from all iwi, ethnicities and nationalities. It has a kohanga reo (total immersion Maori early learning centre), which my daughter attended for a few years, they have emergency accommodation, a rehabilitation centre, a centre for people living with disabilities, and a health clinic where you only pay $10 to see your doctor. They also grow food, make carvings, and have a meeting space… all these things that make for a strong community: right there, and accessible as soon as we take time to look and learn about what’s happening around us. So, I’d like to challenge anyone who doesn’t know their neighbourhood that well to take a walk tomorrow, or in the next few days, and see what you find.

Number five: Give, generously

5) give generously.pngThis photo is of me still at the Kirikiriroa Marae. I go there every week to sort their rubbish and rescue things that can be recycled. It isn’t very glamorous, but the reason I do it is because I get a lot from the Marae services and community, and so it is important to give, too. Because it is not fair to get, and get, and get, but not give back.

I got to send my daughter to daycare there for two years and I didn’t pay a cent. I go to the doctors there, and pay a fraction of what I would pay in other places nearby. They have a table there with free stuff; where you can get clothes and food and all sorts of things. I could pay money for these services in other places but here I don’t have to, so I repay in time instead.

I think reciprocity, and not taking things/services/people for granted is definitely the backbone to a strong community, and a strong culture that has caring for people at its heart. And to be honest I think it doesn’t really matter what people give to their community: giving can be money, time, resources, anything… anything we have in surplus.

We currently have a culture that is very much dominated by the idea of the accumulation of material wealth, and getting as much as we can for as little as possible. I don’t think that helps create strong communities. In fact I think it does the opposite. I personally feel if we have our needs met, why not use the rest, that surplus, to help others meet their needs?

So those are my 5 ideas for creating strong, loving communities. I think if we want to create a culture that cares for people (and for the environment) it is important to start with ourselves, and by being welcoming of diversity, being inclusive, doing our part, continuing to learn, and being generous… well that’s a great place to start!

And I am just going to end with a call to action: your community needs you just as much as you need them, and I have found that when volunteering you receive just as much as (if not more than) what you give. So please, if you are not already volunteering your time in your community… join something! 🙂

Arohanui (huge love) ❤


Other speakers:

Kylee Black

Kylee is a social entrepreneur who is committed to cultivating community and enabling the best in others. In 2009, Kylee founded the not-for-profit Spirit Sparkplugs in order to mobilise community awareness and support of young people with rare disease. Volunteers made items for over 1200 care and encouragement packages, which were sent to nine different countries. Kylee identified a need in this area through her own journey with rare disease and, in 2011, she received an International Heart of Gold award for her contributions. In 2016, Kylee shared her own story in a video for Enabling Good Lives, which became a catalyst for building the platform she has today. Kylee takes every opportunity to use this platform to speak out about important issues facing our society.

Kylee now runs her own speaking and consultancy business and is currently involved in projects with MyCare, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Social Development. As an established public speaker, Kylee has addressed a variety of people within different settings, including parliament, national and international conferences, and a range of local events. Kylee’s goal is to see young people encouraged and supported in redefining their own circumstances, challenging perceptions of how we view others and ourselves, and enabled to live the best life that they can.

Parekawhia McLean

Parekawhia has been with the Transport Agency since September 2016 after five and a half years as the Chief Executive Officer of Waikato-Tainui. Parekawhia has more than 15 years of public policy and public sector management experience including being an advisor to three Prime Ministers whilst at DPMC. Additionally for 7 years she was director of her own company dedicated to advancing the creative potential of Māori knowledge, people and resources.

She brings significant stakeholder management and governance experience to the Transport Agency. Parekawhia is a member of the Waikato Means Business forum, a Director of Sports Waikato, the National Science Resilience Challenge and a Trustee of the Momentum Philanthropic Foundation. Parekawhia has Masters’ degrees in Social Sciences from the University of Waikato and in Public Administration and Development Policy from the University of Wisconsin. In 2014, she received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Waikato for public policy and business.


Ecological Worldviews

(These notes are based on a full-day workshop titled ‘Ecological Worldviews’ facilitated by a colleague and me as part of the Go Eco Permaculture Design Certificate.)

Learning objectives:

  1. Be familiar with the different factors that shape worldviews.
  2. Understand the term ‘dominant social paradigm’ and its role in shaping our worldviews.
  3. Understand the meaning and differences between ‘intrinsic value’ and ‘instrumental value’.
  4. Be familiar with different ideas, philosophies and theories that may foster worldviews more aligned with ecological thinking, including the New Ecological Paradigm, Deep Ecology, and example of some indigenous worldviews.
  5. Be familiar with aspects of Te Ao Māori (Māori world, culture and values), and how it can help describe and develop peoples’ relationships to nature.
  6. Understand your personal worldview, including factors that shape its development, and values that support or create dissonance when trying to develop a way of being that has Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share at its core.

Photo is borrowed. The right wall is adorned with carvings of the most popular Māori gods, and the left has depictions of gods from the main world religions.

We started the day with a mihi whakatau (a less formal version of a pōwhiri) onto Te Aratiatia Marae, the Marae nestled within Fairfield College. We chose for this Marae to be the location for the workshop as the wharenui in this Marae is unique in that it is a place for the celebration of all religions and spiritualities.

For more information about Te Aratiatia Marae and its beautiful wharenui, follow this link: http://www.faircol.school.nz/files/ff4e4b49c519b128/file_attachments/6/Marae.pdf

What is a worldview and what are the factors that shape its development?

A worldview can be thought of as the lens that we see the world through. It is shaped by our personal, family, cultural and global experiences, and there are many different influences that develop it.

Factors that shape our worldview include:

  • Our ideas about higher powers in the universe. Is there a God, or multiple Gods? If there is/are no God/s, what is the ultimate authority in the universe? Is there even one, or are we all autonomous individuals?
  • Our ideas about the world. Where did it come from, and where is it going? Is time linear, circular, or something else?
  • Our ideas about humans. What is our purpose? Is there a purpose? What role do we play? Are we essentially good, bad, or neither?
  • Our values. How we define and determine ‘good’ and ‘bad’.
  • Our ideas about knowledge. How we define and determine ‘true’ and ‘false’. Science, faith, both?
Getting in Touch With Your Worldview
Getting in touch with your worldview

The Dominant Social Paradigm, and a New Ecological Paradigm.

According to David Suzuki, the Dominant Social Paradigm (DSP – the dominant beliefs that shape the way Western societies function) is comprised of three basic beliefs:

  1. technology will spare the planet, and all things detrimental can be resolved with continued pursuit of industrial advancement;
  2. economic growth and prosperity will resolve any disinterest or dissatisfaction with societal problems; and
  3. political representatives in office are there for the benefit of the people and their country, and that ultimately they, and only they, have the capability to handle policies that effect society as a whole.

One response to this has been the development of the idea of a New Ecological Paradigm (NEP), which is loosely based on three ideas:

  1. environmental protection is possible through limitations on industrial and population growth;
  2. planetary demise is directly correlated with human-influenced interactions with natural ecosystems and landscapes; and
  3. humans are one, usually the major, cause of global environmental deterioration.

(Extracted from Environmentalism has failed, or has it?).

The NEP Scale is a set of questions that people can complete to see how far their ideas about the world align with the Dominant Social Paradigm, or the New Ecological Paradigm.

Understanding intrinsic and instrumental value of nature

Intrinsic value is the value that an entity has in itself, for what it is, or as an end.

The contrasting type of value is instrumental value. Instrumental value is the value that something has as a means to a desired or valued end. Instrumental value is always derivative on the value of something else, and it is always conditional.

It is uncontroversial that ecosystems and species possess a wide variety of instrumental values (e.g., cultural value, recreational value, medicinal value, spiritual value, transformational value, natural resource value, and ecosystem services value). What is contested is whether ecosystems and species have non-instrumental value, value as an end, or value in themselves as well (i.e., intrinsic value).

Sandler, R. (2012) Intrinsic Value, Ecology, and Conservation.

Nature Education Knowledge 3(10):4

Image result for ego eco

If we think about the different values we place on people, animals, plants, and ecosystems, it is often very easy to identify their instrumental uses. It is more challenging to think about how and why we assign intrinsic value, or even the ways we might show it.

freeFor example, plants give us food, fibres, and medicines. We use them for fuel and construction. We value the ecosystem services they provide (such as turning CO2 into oxygen for us to breathe), and the aesthetics they offer (flowers, for example, or what plants contribute to landscapes). Less often we think about their value beyond their use to us (for example, other species depend on them entirely, as well). Less frequently still, do we consider their intrinsic value… and even if we do make this acknowledgement, what are the ways we display this?

Deep Ecology

In 1973, Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess introduced the phrase “deep ecology” to environmental literature. The deep ecology movement is about recognising the intrinsic value of all living beings, and that humans are part of and inextricably linked to nature.

The Deep Ecology Platform details the key ideas on which the Deep Ecology movement is based, and the movement itself is about using this understanding to shape how we interact with our environment.

The Gaia Hypothesis

The Gaia Hypothesis was developed in the late 1960’s by Dr. James Lovelock, a British Scientist and inventor.

The Gaia hypothesis proposes that organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings on Earth to form a synergistic, self-regulating, complex system that helps to maintain and perpetuate the conditions for life on the planet. Topics of interest include how the biosphere and the evolution of life forms affect the stability of global temperature, ocean salinity, oxygen in the atmosphere, the maintenance of a hydrosphere of liquid water and other environmental variables that affect the habitability of Earth.

The above is an extract from the Wikipedia entry on the Gaia Hypothesis, which is really a great online starting point for understanding the Gaia Hypothesis.

Gaia, Earth, Home.

Māori creation story

Ngaire Pene shared the Creation Story according to Māori mythology in the form of a guided meditation (which I cannot begin to summarise in any way that could give it justice, though here is a link that begins to explain some of the ideas within it).

The importance and significance of including this story in a discussion about ecological worldviews is because in Māori tradition, just like most indigenous cultures and belief systems, there is great focus on nature, nature-human relationships, and how humans can live within natural systems.

How different religions and spiritualities shape cultures and worldviews

Our personal religions, spiritualities, or atheism help shape our worldviews, as do the dominant and/or historical religions in the culture of our society (wherever we are in the world).

Different religions and spiritualities promote, encourage or (re)inforce different ideas, which help shape the worldview of those that follow it. When looking to understand which ideas different religions/spiritualities foster in terms of human-nature relationships, their Creation story/the-story-of-how-things-started can be a useful place to begin.

The Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosch

For example:


In Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), God created the world followed by humans, and put humans in a position to take charge/care of nature. This creates a hierarchy with humans above animals, plants and the rest of nature, and so sets us apart from the rest of the natural world.

Not that this is necessarily a bad idea, but this idea of separation from and dominance over nature has then become a key concept in Western culture (which has been heavily influenced by the then -and probably still- dominant religion of Christianity). Western culture has undeniably led to very destructive practices against nature, and people.

Other religions, spiritualities and faiths have a different understandings of how the world came to be, and the role of humans. They also place worth on different values and ethics. Reflecting on these differences (as well as the many shared ideas that exist) can be helpful in developing an understanding the different worldviews that exist across cultures and countries.

Of course, our individual experiences, as well as our personal interpretations of our religions and cultural norms, means that there is great diversity in worldviews even among people that share the same faith.

Reflecting on our own worldviews

Reflecting on our personal worldviews can help us make sense of our beliefs and behaviours. There are many different worldview tests available, of which my favourite is the Annik de Witt Worldview Test.

To better understand our worldview, it is helpful to think about what the different influences in our lives have been (family values and upbringing, dominant culture and religion, social norms, personal experiences, etc.).

Reflecting on our values (here is a place to start with that) means we can identify which values are important to us, and which values we express but might be creating dissonance between what we do and what we would like to do.

For example, I created these two tables for myself:

1. Some of the key concepts and values in my worldview that I feel are positive

Value How I currently express it How I can increase it
Community Volunteering Getting to know my neighbours
Compassion Refraining from judgement, and remembering people have different experiences and struggles Practice being more patient, especially with certain friends
Love Through caring for friends, family, and people I meet Be a bit kinder and more loving to myself
Responsibility Doing what I can to minimise the negative environmental impacts of my life/lifestyle Own my ‘failings’/errors more, even if it is uncomfortable

2. Some of the key concepts and values in my worldview that I feel create conflict with how I would like to be.

Concept/idea/value How it manifests in a way that creates dissonance with my ethics How I can challenge/change this
Perfection I have to always be the best I can focus on always doing my best, instead of being the best.Security
My status/ popularity I worry a lot about how I am perceived by others, which sometimes leads me to be somewhat deceptive in order to ‘save face’ I can let go of the idea of needing to please everyone, and be more accepting of who I am (including my shortcomings)
Passionate about beliefs Sometimes I am  unnecessarily argumentative and it ruins the conversation I can be more accepting of the diversity in other people’s opinions and beliefs
Measures of success I was raised in a culture that valued climbing a career ladder, earning progressively more money, and accumulating wealth I can pursue work (paid and unpaid) that makes me happy. If I place less importance on material wealth I won’t need to buy so much, which means I don’t need that high-paying career in the first place

I shall finish this post with a video clip that amazed me when I first saw it: it challenges many aspects of our dominant cultural paradigm, and offers more positive alternatives.