Opinion // 21.04.2015 // Curated by Ed.

Playing Your Part in Growing Better Futures

What do you do if your favourite place in the world isn’t actually a crash hot place to grow up?  If you’re marketing professional like Shaun Lines, you start making waves that ripple into higher learning and beyond.

Shaun’s been on a mission ever since he decided the wine lovers’ paradise of Hawke’s Bay was the ideal place to retire.  The big downer was the Bay’s seedy underbelly – high rates of family violence, child abuse and poor health.

“Every time I came back to Hawke’s Bay, I was stunned at how bad it was.  I thought, ‘Gosh, it sucks to live here’.”

Shaun decided the region was massively failing its children and had a chat with a few community workers.

“Everyone saw it similarly or worse,” he says.  “There were a few conversations where I walked away afterwards shaking my head, thinking, ‘what do we do now?”

What Shaun did was convene a meeting back in April 2014 of a whole lot of local organisations, including Government agencies, iwi and educators, hoping to reverse the trends by joining forces and finding new ways of addressing long term social issues.  The result was Thrive HB, a ‘collective’ committed to making sure the region’s children can realise their full potential.  While still in its formative stages, Thrive HB now has what it calls the ‘backbone’ to develop co-operative projects targeted at five key focus points.One of Thrive HB’s focus points is education.

Making it as far as tech or uni isn’t a straightforward option in the Bay.  Hawke’s Bay’s horticultural backbone and lifeblood means seasonal work makes more than 17% of the school population transient.  Some children change schools up to 10 times by Years Three or Four.  Starting secondary school without a solid foundation is pretty much doomed.  Shaun Lines believes those itinerant children are probably among the 750 school leavers each year who drop off the radar.

“I don’t think they’re abducted by aliens and taken to Outer Space.  I genuinely think they fall through the cracks,” he says.  “Letting people fall through the cracks and doing nothing is a destructive way of developing a region.”

Thrive HB wants to keep tabs on school leavers and redirect them to alternative educational, training or employment pathways, set-up with just them in mind.  Its Leadership Group is in the process of working out how best to make this and other ideas a reality through a strategy known as Collective Impact that involves, “getting a community to agree on a way forward”.  Thrive HB is still only in the first phase of Collective Impact’s three-phased framework.  Shaun admits it’s a slow process but also a necessity when so many groups are involved.

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Shaun Lines, Convenor, Thrive HB

Shaun Lines reckons a Collective Impact approach with its common goals, shared measurements, continuous communication, and mutual reinforcement has the potential to empower small communities and young people all over New Zealand.

In the meantime, he hopes Thrive HB will make Hawke’s Bay a more caring community, with the next generation having a bigger, more positive and more productive role within it.

“You’ve really got a choice – you either move, or you say, ‘Okay, I’ve got a part to play in changing how we do as a region.’  The second option was way better.”