When to bring the outside in


In practicing community innovation, we’re looking for sparks that make a break from the way things have normally been done. We are working on innovations that emerge from a specific community and are shaped by that community’s knowledge and values.

Sometimes that means we work on ideas that are springing up from the community itself, but sometimes it means we bring in an idea in from another community or place. We have a whole menu of ideas that can be borrowed or inspired from what we see happening in other places – so why not make a feast?

But how do we make sure that, when we are looking at an idea that’s coming from outside, we are still practicing in a community-led way?

We ask ourselves some questions. The first set make sure that the local community is in the driver’s seat and will have a positive experience engaging with an idea:

  • Are we privileging community voice? Can you hear and see local people active and holding power in it?
  • Who will reap the major benefits from this idea? Who is the ‘hero’ in this story? Will it be local people?
  • What else does this idea bring to the local community? Will it help build up local people’s capacity, experience, wealth and skills?
  • Does this idea help the community to build diverse and trusting relationships?
  • What does this idea assume about the local community? Is it building on a positive vision of them, or a negative one?
  • Is there room for the community to change and shift this idea as they get their hands on it?
  • Are we being respectful of people’s trauma and taking a healing approach? Are we working in a Kaupapa Te Tiriti way to support decolonisation?

The second set of questions makes sure that there is value in the set of ideas we are working on, whether or not each one of them fails or succeeds. Part of community innovation is to play and learn within an ecosystem of responses that builds up mana, capacity and skills- not hold closely to anyone ‘solution’:

  • Are we making new ideas (big and small) visible?
  • Are we testing ideas (big and small)?
  • Are we sharing, growing and debating ideas with others?
  • Are we contributing to bigger impact and growing capability?

There are a number of different ‘outside’ ideas we have introduced in communities

Porirua Timebank

Timebanks are an international movement. It has been really interesting to see how Porirua East, a community that is already so generous with sharing their time and skills with each other, has engaged with this idea, with much more collective credit earning rather than the simple one-to-one exchange of hours that some use Timebanks for. Now that we have tried it for a few years, we are interested in how Porirua East can make changes to make it work for them in their way.

Wellington Regional Fruit and Vege Co-op

When trying to work on the aim of shifting our food bank away from a charity model, we started playing with the idea of a fruit and vege co-op in Porirua East (with the help of Regional Public Health and others). We wanted to know how we could shift our mindsets and tweak the food systems so that people in Porirua East no longer needed to access emergency food parcels. Being gifted all the info and processes we needed to start a co-op (from Food Together in Christchurch – ngā mihi!) meant that we got a head start on trying this out. Other communities saw the value in that too and jumped on board with us to provide a co-op in their communities.

But some ideas spark straight out of the community itself – and then they can be the ones introduced to others.


When Meth started to show up more and more in our community the community came together to respond. NZ 'P'Pull started in Waitangirua to help whānau by sharing knowledge and lived experience so that we could better understand the 'pull' that 'P' has on people. Now this movement has spread across Aotearoa.

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