Children and Parents Flourish through Social Connectedness – Innovate Change

Established in 2011, Innovate Change uses creative and participatory approaches to build social connectedness that enables youth development, whānau well-being and positive ageing. Working closely with communities and organisations to design and deliver services, policies, and programmes that meet people’s needs, Innovate Change places these needs at the heart of all its activities.

Innovate Change’s initiative Harakeke – Parents for Parents is a parent-led initiative that creates stronger connections between parents of under-5s. It supports parents and communities to build stronger social connections and is based on the belief that people are more likely to thrive when they have positive connections to family, friends, community, and the places they work, play and learn.

Originally launched in Waitakere in 2014, Harakeke expanded into the Kaipatiki area of Auckland in 2017. Scaling to a new community has been very successful but didn’t come without challenges that Innovate Change met head-on.

“We needed to work with community leaders and champions of the Kaipatiki area to ensure that there would be community support and buy-in for this new initiative. We did this by holding multiple community stakeholder interviews, conducting empathy interviews with parents of under-five year olds in Kaipatiki, and holding a Whānau Dinner for the community. Now, Harakeke has moved from being two separate communities to one whole Harakeke community working in two areas,” says Kataraina Davis, Project Leader Māori.

Co-designed by parents, Harakeke tackles feelings of isolation through running weekly activities that provide opportunities for social interactions in a child-friendly environment. The hypothesis is simple: when you’re connected to, and supported by other parents, you parent better. Social connectedness acts as a protective factor against risks that prevent children from thriving.

Feedback has been incredibly positive. Lee, one of the participants had this to say: “To have a place where you can come and hang out, be yourself, have a cup of coffee, and let your kids do what they want safely, is really quite special.”

Corrin, a Parent Leader, added: “If we need anything, we can just stop over at each other’s houses; its helped us to get more familiar with each other and it gives us a purpose to get out there.”

Harakeke now has 60 Parent Leaders running weekly activities in both Kaipatiki and Waitakere, with eight of these activity groups run by dads, for dads. This means that every week, over 360 families benefit from the connections they have formed through this initiative.

Innovate Change recently merged with Innovation Unit, a social enterprise with a bold vision: they want a world where more people belong and contribute to thriving societies. Visit the website to learn more.