Helping young people to thrive in Te Hiku

Kaitaia Youth Project

With Ministry of Social Development, Aotearoa New Zealand

To thrive, young people need friendship and respect gained through positive relationships with their peers and elders; access to education and employment; services that support them; and meaningful activity to give them purpose. We worked with local youth workers in Kaitaia, to develop actionable solutions to engage young people in their community.

Adults in Kaitaia hold negative views about young people.

The challenge


of adults in Kaitaia are worried about the lack of employment pathways and opportunities for young people.


of young people in Kaitaia are concerned about the empty town centre and lack of places to go for young people.

The Ministry of Social Development advises the NZ Government on social policy, and provides social services. The Ministry commissioned Innovate Change to lead a social innovation process that worked with youth and youth workers to develop actionable ideas to encourage positive behaviour, and reduce the incidence of bullying of young people in Kaitaia and Te Hiku.

We took a participatory approach to working with young people and youth workers. Participatory design is about capturing different perspectives, ideas, experiences and working together towards better solutions using creative techniques.

Following the principles of positive youth development, we focused on young people’s strengths, enabled meaningful youth participation, supported positive social connections, and built capacity in the Far North youth sector.

The process involved:

  • collaborating with young people and youth workers to come up with many ideas that support young people to thrive in Te Hiku.
  • selecting several of the most impactful ideas and working in partnership with young people to prototype and test them.
  • selecting the most successful aspects of the prototypes and creating a plan for making several activities a reality.

As part of the prototyping process, we worked intensively over a one-week period with young people, youth workers and the wider community to co-design, develop and run a pop-up youth space.

You can see the space that young people created and their thoughts and feelings toward it in the Moana Creative video below.

Our impact


Young people contributed to a survey that asked their view of the challenges and opportunities in Te Hiku


Young people and youth workers participated in a brainstorming session


Young people & youth workers visited the project’s pop-up space over one week

Through an enhanced understanding of what young people want and need in Te Hiku, we supported the community to back youth-led activities that promise to make a difference to the lives of young people.

The participatory process reinforced social connections between young people in Kaitaia, built capacity in the youth sector, and celebrated young people’s strengths.

As a result of participating in this project, many young people have increased their creative confidence and found meaningful work or education. In addition, adult’s perceptions of young people have changed for the better.

“Youth were able to be heard through this approach and be part of the journey all the way through. I saw this as empowering and true co-design.” Advisor

Helping young people to thrive in Te Hiku Helping young people to thrive in Te Hiku Helping young people to thrive in Te Hiku

“It's empowering, having young people have their say... they often feel like they don't. To be able to create the prototypes based on their visions was very cool.” Young person

“You've helped to illuminate many of our assumptions, limitations and strengths, and kept our attention on what our youth say, think and feel.” Community Development Coordinator