Tokoroa youth create change in community

Issue: Volume 97, Number 13

Posted: 26 July 2018
Reference #: 1H9jiQ

They call themselves SWYVI, South Waikato Youth Vision and Innovation, and this group of Tokoroa teenagers is making the changes they want to see in their community.

SWYVI members work together to come up with innovative solutions for issues in their town.

Seventeen-year-old Hawea Solomon wanted to make a difference in his community. Specifically, the Year 13 Tokoroa High School student was concerned about the levels of addiction in his home town.

So, when he saw the local YMCA was inviting students with an interest in the community to meet up and drive change, he was keen.

“I guess it was just being able to give back to our community,” he says.

Hawea was one of about 60 students who worked together over a six-month period to come up with solutions for a range of issues they identified in the community. He was part of a sub-group that focused on gambling in Tokoroa.

“We had a meeting and we were just coming up with random ideas, ideas that might work or ideas that we could work on to try and come up with solutions. The idea that we came up with was ‘fingertap’ and we just thought that might actually work because it’s realistic and everything that could make it work is achievable.”

The fingertap concept involves a mandatory fingerprint login at pokie machines, which will show the user how much time and money they’ve spent on the machines as well as their net wins and losses.

Hawea knows he wants to be involved in the next phase of fingertap, which is coming up with a prototype, because of what he got out of the first phase.

“Working with others to come up with solutions for our town, that’s the main reason we all came together.”

Design Factory New Zealand, Wintec

The SWYVI initiative was driven by Tokoroa youth with support from community partners, including Waikato District Council,  Waikato Regional Council, Tokoroa Council of Social Services, YMCA and Wintec’s Design Factory New Zealand.

Design Factory NZ Coach and Facilitator Debbie Preston says it worked with youth to help them understand design thinking, a collaborative process that uses a range of perspectives to find creative and innovative solutions to complex problems, to explore what kind of difference they wanted to make.

“Design thinking starts with empathy, so that’s really understanding the problem and the people it impacts and getting to know those people really well – why it’s a problem, what it means for them and what it could look like if it was different.”

The students spoke with community leaders, businesses, other youth, whānau, friends and people on the streets who were impacted by each of the problem areas they looked at. They even visited another town to see whether each problem existed in that town and considered why or why not, Debbie says.

Following this, they narrowed their areas of focus, came up with around 100 solutions, decided which ideas had greatest value, and then developed these into concepts and prototypes.

A key point in the process involved a two-day symposium, where the group shared their ideas with the community. This included a session where four local schools came together to learn about SWYVI’s research and how the students proposed to solve the problems.


The programme began when the YMCA reached out to both local high schools (Tokoroa High School and Forest View High School) to find students interested in science, innovation and technology. It was open to any student with a genuine interest in their community.

South Waikato YMCA Team Leader Julius Daniels says students initially looked at the three core focus areas of the Waikato Regional Council’s plan for the area – community, economy and the environment.

“We split the kids up into those three different groups and they went out and researched the issues and problems in those three core areas,” he says. “There was a long list of issues they identified and then we reduced it down to four main problems.”

These issues were gambling, littering, increasing the use of te reo Māori and reducing the cultural divide between schools and the community.

Although they initially assumed increasing the amount of rubbish bins would solve the issue of litter, from their research the students found this problem was a behavioural one rather than a logistical one.

Their solution used humour to incentivise behaviour – when a rubbish bin reached a certain combination of weight and number of items it would let off a humorous fart noise.

This concept tested well with the youth being targeted by SWYVI. The students will further develop this concept so it can be implemented within wider society, including adults, during the next stage.

To help promote the use of te reo in Tokoroa, SWYVI proposed an app similar to Siri, but with a focus on indigenous languages. The app would allow users to ask questions in Māori, as well as other Pacific languages, and practise these in their everyday lives.

Although the students are still working on reducing the social and cultural division between schools and the community, the founding of this community-focused group is already a step towards this goal.

SWYVI and their community partners are now working on securing funding to continue the implementation of their solutions. For Hawea, there is still much work to be done for the benefit of everyone in the community.

“It’s important because I live in it, I see everything that happens, I see everything that goes on in the streets and what I think needs to be improved.”

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 10:08 am, 26 July 2018

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