CHRISTCHURCH — Reflected in Global Eyes

By Huia Lambie.

This article was first published in the Press on the 23rd of October. Huia works with creative and regenerative projects within Christchurch City through her work as an event and project manager.

Three weeks ago, Christchurch stepped on to the global stage by hosting the 2017 Social Enterprise World Forum. Approximately 1600 delegates from 45+ countries came, saw and left absolutely inspired and energized by both the Forum and by what is happening in Ōtautahi Christchurch and Aotearoa New Zealand in the social enterprise space.

The Forum certainly held a mirror up to our life in Christchurch: it reflected how hard-edged and raw the central city environment still is. A number of delegates mentioned how they had to go sit on the banks of the river, under the trees and by the water, to experience the softer more elemental side of the city.

The Forum also showed how many amazing projects and innovative initiatives are alive and well in our city. As the city is rebuilt, I often hear comments about where we need to get to and in that process I think we often overlook what we have. Many Christchurch citizens aren’t yet aware of how many good things are happening here. Overall, the news is great! Christchurch offers innovation, energy, and thought leadership in abundance!

In my role with the Forum as Transitional City Lead Coordinator, I lead a small team which pulled together many tours, talks, and identified allied events to broaden the experience for both the public and for delegates. From these activities a key theme emerged: the power of storytelling and the importance of sharing our stories with citizens and visitors alike.

As Christchurch recovers from its earthquakes, a different city is developing. At this time the role of storytelling is important. It is a way to share with many the messages of the physical and social changes that are occurring. I witnessed this in the opening and closing videos by Sydney based Digital Storytellers who listened deeply, and quickly crafted incredibly beautiful works that shared our story with the world.

Similarly the social enterprise Five and Dime from Wellington, together with our very own city’s social enterprise Narrative Campaign, took a locally based event to a global audience within 48 hours through storytelling using social media. Ably assisted by images from Peanut Productions they were able to signal to Christchurch, New Zealand and the world that something amazing is happening here.

I see storytelling as a key to our city repositioning itself from a city of “survivors” to a city of opportunity dwellers and thought leaders. I am around a lot of city thought leaders who are very articulate about the changes taking place in the city and also the changes needed for the city. In my opinion, however, there is a gap of understanding between those thought leaders and the general public who are less familiar with local social enterprise initiatives.

However, Christchurch people want to know and to share the pride. On the 25 social enterprise tours that we designed, members of the public who joined us consistently said “we need more of these [tours]” and, “we need lots of people to know what these groups are doing”. So with that in mind, here is a small selection from the Forum week of the socially oriented initiatives in our city and some of the exciting work they do.

Matapopore — the mana whenua mandated organisation skilfully inserting the cultural identity of Ngāi Tūāhuriri into the rebuild of the city through cultural storytelling with architecture, landscape architecture and art-forms.

Te Pā o Rākaihautū, where global delegates were moved to tears by the holistic approach of education and growing young citizens at this unique and thoughtful school.

The walking tour lead by Gap Filler and Greening the Rubble inspired others around the world who face similar “gaps” to fill, and Cultivate Christchurch together with Ōtākaro Orchard shared their story of local food projects in the central city.

Trees for Canterbury and Richmond Community Gardens spoke about their land-based work in the city, and the Avon-Ōtakaro Network took a small group around the Avonside Residential Red Zone.

Te Rūnanga o Koukourārata had a busload visit to hear about growing heritage potatoes with assistance from Lincoln College staff.

Ohu Development, XCHC and Spacecraft Systems/WikiHouse spoke to, and judging by comments received, amazed and inspired people with their focus on building community by building buildings.

On a two-hour guided walking tour around Lyttelton, Project Lyttelton shared stories about this “seedbed of social change”.

Pathway Trust, Kilmarnock Enterprises and Can Do Catering impressed with their work in empowering people with disabilities and differences through providing employment.

Common Good — Addington Coffee Company spoke about their social enterprise Liminal Apparel — based in Addington. “Inspiring”, and “amazing” were some of the comments we heard.

Trade Aid lead a tour of the first 100% fair trade chocolate factory in the world — located right here in central Christchurch.

Eagle Protect at Ferrymead, shared their story as one of New Zealand’s first B Corporation — a not for profit model of business certified to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.

Christchurch based Hale Compound Conditioning and Patu Aotearoa ran exercise sessions in Latimer Square for anyone of any colour or size to attend, and join they did!

Time and again, when being shown another innovative Christchurch project or social enterprise, international delegates at the Forum said:

“Make sure you share this story with the locals!”.

So city leaders, don’t underestimate the power of storytelling and the connections that flow from sharing our stories via social media. Telling Christchurch stories helps to amplify the great movement for social change already happening here, and will allow us to shift the perception of our city to the creative and thoughtful city that it is.

Huia Lambie

Transitional City Lead Coordinator
Social Enterprise World Forum 2017