Creating stronger social connections between parents of under-5s

Harekeke: Parents for Parents

With Innovate change and Innovation Unit Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand

The hypothesis for Harakeke – Parents for Parents – is simple: when you’re connected to and supported by other parents, you parent better. Social connections are especially important for families with low incomes who are struggling to make ends meet. Parents of under-fives want safe, easy to get to, child-friendly places to go and affordable things to do with their children. They also want opportunities to meet other parents in their community.

The challenge


Aotearoa New Zealand children live in low-income households

“Lack of money means you have a lack of things to do, you can’t get out of the house, you live in a suburb which is not good, you feel unsafe. You can’t get a computer to search for jobs. Even in the day scary people hang out in the park. When it’s raining you are stuck.” West Auckland Parent

Parents and child Mother and son Mother and daughter

290,000 Aotearoa New Zealand children live in low-income households. We know that a lack of income is particularly harmful for those parents who are socially isolated. It affects the ability of parents to buy healthy food, affordable childcare, to get to the doctor, shops or friends, as well as their ability to participate in the community.

When we asked parents and families what would make a difference to support their parenting, the most common suggestions related to reducing social isolation and increasing social support.

In Harakeke parents design and deliver their own weekly, hour-long, free to low-cost meet-up activity for other parents in their local area. This could be spending an hour at a local playground with a few other parents and their kids, hanging out at a nearby cafe, or just about anything else parents choose.

Parents volunteer their time – however, a monthly grocery voucher is given as recognition of the time and effort Parent Leaders put in.

Parents promote their activities on and offline. We print any flyers, posters, and other printed material they need and provide various kinds of signage for meet-ups if required.

Parent Leaders are supported and coached by our team, and attend monthly Parent Leader meetups. Here, they discuss successes and areas of improvement. This meet-up also provides a chance for Parent Leaders to connect and support each other.

Our impact


Parent Leaders run weekly activities for parents of under‐fives in two communities in Auckland

Over 300

parents attend these activities weekly

Close to 1500

parents in Auckland have benefitted from Harakeke - Parents for Parents over the last six months

Parents share their experiences of Harakeke (previously called ‘S.K.I.P Waitakere’)

Harakeke – Parents for Parents aims to:

  • Increase the number of parents who have supportive relationships in their community
  • Increase the number of parents who know about local opportunities and support
  • Increase the number of parents who lead community parenting initiatives


How to connect parents of young children and build stronger communities

Insights on Positive Parenting in Waitakere

Promising Approaches for Positive Parenting in Waitakere

A parent-led photographic exhibition (in collaboration with Edith Amatuanai)