The Invercargill Initiative — Creating a Bright Future with Invercargill’s Young People

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  • 2022

  • Social Impact

Designed In:

New Zealand

A place-based social impact project creating a better future with New Zealand youth. Spanning design research, community engagement, system mapping and strategic positioning, this participatory design project is part of a six-year investment in Invercargill, New Zealand by Vodafone Aotearoa Foundation.


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  • CHALLENGE
  • SOLUTION
  • IMPACT
  • MORE
  • Commissioned by Vodafone Aotearoa Foundation, this project builds on a goal to halve the number of excluded and disadvantaged young people in Aotearoa by 2027. Invercargill, New Zealand’s southernmost city, with a population nearing 60,000 has young people experiencing exclusion and disadvantage at significantly higher rate than the national average. This design research provides themes, insights and solutions arising from engagement with youth and community stakeholders, set alongside insights from quantitative data. It provides a holistic approach to investment to enable swift, sustainable and measurable change for youth in regional New Zealand.

  • The design solution responds to the brief by providing a youth voice and focus to a philanthropic funder interested in investing in a regional centre to reduce inequitable outcomes. The outputs were an evening event communicating the findings to 100+ community leaders and stakeholders, a publicly available report and presentation to the Board of Directors. Amplifying the themes, insights, and potential solutions voiced by youth, and in collaboration with community stakeholders, this strategic visioning for Invercargill will, we hope, enable long term positive change.

  • “I think places need to get better at listening to the youth. We’re the ones that have the problems, but they tell us we’re fine. I think they need to listen.” This social impact design research, culminating in a strategic vision for the Vodafone Aotearoa Foundation, has enabled it to hear the voice of youth and build a solid groundwork for its work in Invercargill. It spent 2021 building relationships in the region, listening to local perspectives, hearing the community’s thoughts on what is needed — all to direct funding, skills, technology, and relationships in creating better outcomes for young people.

  • Interestingly, this commission sought to generate partnership and connections not just across the local community (including iwi, stakeholders and funders), but across the design sector itself. Bringing together three design organisations — Toi Āria: Design for Public Good (Wellington), Innovation Unit (Auckland) and creative agency Curative (Auckland) — to deliver in partnership the youth engagement, system mapping and designed outputs is a success story in itself. This approach shifts the design industry from a competitive to a collaborative model and demands the joining of skills, approaches and knowledge for the greater good and better outcomes for youth.