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Change accelerator participants making positive social impact
Mon, 6th Nov 2017
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Frances King, Ngāti Porou Hauora manager, is still celebrating after being given the chance to design an app that could make all the difference to babies being born on the East Cape.

As with all of the community organisations to take part in the inaugural Vodafone Foundation Change Accelerator programme, the drive to find technology solutions to everyday issues stems from real life experience.

“In our community there are very long distances to travel to access health support which has an impact, particularly mental health, drug and alcohol issues, early-age parenting, and unplanned pregnancies.

“At a workshop up the Coast, after one of the facilitators had presented on foetal alcohol syndrome, one of our young mums went up and said I didn't know, if only someone had told me,” Frances says.

 Being selected as one of five community organisations from around the country for the Change accelerator enabled her organisation to take a game-changing idea from concept to reality, using the technology and expertise of Vodafone.

“Pepi Ora is an app for parenting that can earn someone points that can be redeemed for rewards. It has a calendar feature for appointment dates, it has handy hints for parents, and a lot of health information at different stages of the pregnancy, or that relates to the baby and toddler as they grow.

“This is Fly Buys for better parenting. We intend to take it home and trial it in our community. We have a lot of people quite excited it. We want to develop the app, and also engage with reward partners. We'll have several hui to talk to Mums, so they can see what they think and try it out,” Frances adds.

Lani Evans Vodafone New Zealand Foundation manager couldn't be more delighted with the outcome for all the community organisations.

“The participants are leaving the Change Accelerator with something tangible – whether that's an app, a website, or a building plan. They are all on the path towards changing the lives of a vast number of young people living in Aotearoa today,” Evans says.

Each of the groups received grants of $15,000 to cover their expenses during the six-week programme and contribute to their organisation's kaupapa.

They can also apply for the Vodafone Foundation's Innovation Fund at the end of the accelerator.  

“Our goal is to halve the number of excluded and disadvantaged young people in New Zealand by 2027.

“The Accelerator programme is one of our strategies for change, and it's been incredible to see our community partners' step into this new space.  I believe that we can leverage the power of Vodafone – our people, and our technology - to create scalable, transformative change,” Evans adds.

For Cindy Lee of Bay of Plenty's Sexual Assault Support Services (BOPSASS) developing the CONNEKT NZ app is a game changer in helping young people access help.

“We have a problem in our country. Here in New Zealand one in 6 boys are sexually assaulted by 16, and 1 in 4 girls. We want to break the silence and prevent this harm from happening.

“CONNEKT NZ allows young people to choose trusted family, friends and helpers that they would want to connect with if they needed help, and offers them connection to these people easily through a medium that they use every day – their cell phone. If a young person feels unsafe or in imminent danger, they can ask for help at the press of a button. A text is sent to their pre-chosen helpers, with their location – and their helpers respond,” Lee says.

The app came about after consulting more than 300 young people across New Zealand, and with next steps underway to test and refine the prototype, there'll be many more chances for feedback.

For long-time Vodafone Foundation partner, Central Otago's Sticks ‘n Stones Karla Sanders, using the time at the Change Accelerator programme to develop a collaborative online training programme is the next step in making bullying a thing of the past.

“In New Zealand at least 1 in 5 young people are bullied – made to feel worthless, like they don't matter. The impact is huge, and it can stay for a lifetime. Only family violence has stronger links to low self-esteem, depression, and worse and it does not have to be this way.

“It Starts with You” is an online training programme which develops practical social and emotional learning that can be applied in real life, with themes like Understanding bullying, Being bullied, and Taking positive action. We want young change makers, especially in small towns and rural areas, to be supported through mentoring and we want them to create change, one person at a time.

“Learners can share stories and feedback with each other, and this online space offers this learning to anyone with an internet connection. It spreads our work further than we ever could in person. We'll be taking this prototype, with an aim to pilot it with young people and build from there,” Karla says.

The future for Paora Smallman of Thrive Taumarunui is tiny – with good reason.

The Change Accelerator has meant being able to take a tiny house building plan back to Taumarunui, with potentially huge results.

“In Taumarunui there is a large amount of 15-18 year olds being raised by caregivers who are finding it hard to raise bond and rent in advance to send these young people away to study. Our goal will hopefully relieve some of that financial burden for them.

“The aim of the “Study Box” is to employ young students from one of the local trade schools to build transportable housing for young people wanting to go away and study, for tertiary education. That means regional job opportunities, as well as solving a housing problem. Thanks to Vodafone we were able to obtain three prototype sketches, explore them, and then create our first building,” Smallman says.

Nga Rangatahi Toa founder Sarah Longbottom works with some of the most high needs young people in New Zealand and their families to inspire change.

“Over 2,000 13-15 year olds are removed from mainstream school every single year. They lose access to registered teachers, resourced classrooms, guidance counsellors, and ultimately to a clear pathway to success. When they need the absolute most from us, they receive the least.

“The consequences are dire. By the time they are 18, over 60% of them have no qualifications. We don't accept that as an outcome for young people at all. So since 2009 we have been levelling the playing field, providing services and support – and they do go back into school, they do go on to tertiary study, and find work – 86% of them to be exact.

“But we know we need to do more – we need to scale so with Vodafone support we've been developing the idea of the NRT Creative Academy” Longbottom says.

The Academy would link South Auckland's high schools, tertiary provider, and business, with homes.

“The ingenious model creates an integrated network of support with key players in a young person's life – providing the wraparound intensive support that they need. This would turn off the tap from mainstream school because we will keep our young people in school and moving towards the future that they deserve,” Longbottom adds.

For Vodafone Foundation manager Lani Evans, successful outcomes for each of the community organisations is immensely satisfying.

“These wonderful people created these projects, and have also created a whānau. I feel incredibly lucky to be part of this. We may all be heading back home to different parts of the country, but the relationships don't stop there. Vodafone Foundation love long relationships – so you can expect to see much more from these amazing people.

“New Zealand has some statistics we can't be proud of right now, statistics around youth suicide, around homelessness, around incarceration – but these are the people who are going to change that – and we are proud to support them,” Evans says.