Growing a sustainable future for agriculture, amplifying rangatahi voices & more: GovTech 2022 teams take on social good

From tackling migrant exploitation, to developing a new approach to foster care, 14 GovTech Accelerator teams that have been taking on Aotearoa’s biggest social and environmental challenges presented at the 2022 Innovation Showcase.

Govtech Accelerator cohort on stage at the innovation showcase

Wellington – 8 December 2022: Boosting rangatahi engagement and supporting young women into sustainable agriculture careers are among the issues that 14 projects have tackled in New Zealand’s only government innovation programme, the GovTech Accelerator.

Delivered by Wellington’s innovation hub, Creative HQ, the 13-week GovTech Accelerator aims to fast-track projects that solve some of the most urgent challenges in Aotearoa, facilitate collaboration, and upskill participants with innovation skills.

To mark the completion of this year’s programme, the 14 teams showcased their projects at the Beehive Banquet Hall during the fifth annual GovTech Accelerator Showcase yesterday afternoon. 

General Manager of Government Innovation at Creative HQ, Jonnie Haddon, says it’s more important than ever for the private and public sectors to embrace innovation to solve the greatest challenges of our time.

“The status quo no longer cuts it in the face of modern challenges. Innovation must be accelerated to remedy the issues facing Aotearoa. GovTech is our way of supporting changemakers to make New Zealand more environmentally, culturally, and socially sustainable.”

Jonnie Haddon
GM Government Innovation, Creative HQ

“Strong cross-sector collaboration is needed to tackle some of New Zealand’s biggest challenges, it’s not up to one sector alone. The teams can support each other, collaborate and share learnings to accelerate their solutions that will ultimately make Aotearoa a better place,” says Haddon.

This year for the first time ever, Creative HQ opened spaces for startups and NGOs looking to collaborate with the government.

Amplifying rangatahi voices: UpSouth

GovTech team UpSouth from Auckland City Council has developed a digital platform that facilitates rangatahi engagement with government, businesses, and organisations so their voices are heard and valued. UpSouth enables rangatahi to communicate in whichever medium they feel most appropriate and rewards them with cash micropayments for responding to ‘call-ups’ on the platform.

“Traditional rangatahi engagement is often perceived by rangatahi as tokenistic and lacks reciprocity, which makes it difficult for them to participate in government or community decisions. We’ve found a way to amplify their voices,” says Tanya Moredo, UpSouth Youth Empowerment Specialist. “Micro-payments are a great way to recognise their valuable contributions while encouraging them to have a say in decisions that will impact their futures.”

During UpSouth’s two-year pilot, the team engaged with over 4,000 South Auckland rangatahi and worked with 57 private and public callups that distributed $50,000 to the community.

“One of the rangatahi we’ve worked with used the micro-payments to buy a computer she needed for school, others have gone on to work in the social services sectors to continue using their unique voices to contribute to social good,” continues Moredo. “The GovTech Accelerator allowed us to engage with wider stakeholders to scale our UpSouth journey and build foundational partnerships that will support the development and success of UpSouth across Aotearoa.”

Growing the next generation of sustainable farmers: Girls Who Grow

The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) has a target to fill 50,000 skilled new roles by 2025, of which only 11,500 have been filled so far. Further, only 6 per cent of school leavers are entering the primary industries, which Catherine van der Meulen, the founder of Girls Who Grow, partially attributes to climate-conscious young women struggling to see sustainable career pathways in agriculture.

“This generation is more environmentally-minded than ever before. Couple that with a pretty toxic narrative around farming, and young women aren’t considering agricultural careers,” says van der Meulen. “Young women are exactly the change-makers we need to transform the future of agriculture, applying their passion for the environment to sustainable farming practices.”

Van der Meulen entered the GovTech programme this year to refine her vision for Girls Who Grow into an actionable pilot built around a series of school imagination-centered workshops, on-farm lunches, creative learning sessions, and sustainable farm immersions for young women aged 15-17. The pilot is expected to open up to around 500 students across Central Otago early next year. 

“Entrepreneurs have so many ideas and can see so many opportunities to better the world around us,” says van der Meulen. “The GovTech Accelerator gave us a way to get our ideas down into something tangible that we could measure, pilot, and test, to get it out into the world early next year.”

A word from our sponsors

Creative HQ was delighted to have the Westpac NZ Government Innovation Fund as a GovTech Accelerator sponsor for another year, alongside WellingtonNZ, Amazon Web Services, End Game, the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment, the NZ Productivity Commission and Aro Digital. 

Ngā Mihi, a digital platform where family members and community donors can buy pre-approved items for prisoners, were the recipients of the $50,000 grand prize, sponsored by the Westpac NZ Government Innovation Fund.

With this prize money, Livi Taufao, one of the leaders of Ngā Mihi, hopes this platform will be picked up by Corrections and used in prisons across the motū.

Brent Chalmers, Westpac NZ Head of Public Sector and Chair of the Westpac NZ Government Innovation Fund investment board, is proud to see the depth and breadth of projects and agencies participating this year. “We believe that through collaboration and innovation, all our sectors can deliver positive change by creating new solutions for complex issues that impact all New Zealanders. .”

In the previous four years of the NZ GovTech Accelerator, Creative HQ has worked with 38 project teams across NGOs, businesses, and central and local government. Twenty-five of those projects are still active, with 19 having been successfully funded. 

The full range of teams in this year’s programme are outlined in the appendix below.

Name: UpSouth
Team Members: Jerome Phoenix, Joel Umali, Tanya Moredo, Dhaya Haran, Rosie Anderson and Raquel Barbiellini.
UpSouth is a call-to-action platform that empowers the voices of rangatahi in Tāmaki Makaurau and the wider Aotearoa.  Based on a successful pilot, the project aims to develop a viable social impact venture to transform this rangatahi (youth) engagement platform into a widely used positive social impact tool that supports an economy of mana.
Name: Screen Futures Wellington
Team Members: Liam Sutton, Tristan Bunn
This project builds on the success and international achievements of Wellington’s screen and creative sectors by preparing for future trends and developments in the creative technologies sector. It aims to understand the sector’s needs in relation to universities and government and what can be done to address systemic challenges to support a thriving screen industry in Wellington.
Name: Connection Amplifier
Team Members: Zoe Epps, Logan Anderson, Matthew Hippolite, Alice Jacobs, Ini-Isabée Gunn
Collaborating on the design and delivery of a pilot digital ‘connector’ platform to connect stakeholders to critical resources and partners within the environmental project ecosystem. It’s an opportunity to digitally connect the vast and diverse environmental network and better leverage the knowledge, data, experience, and connections out there, providing increased accessibility.
Name: Modern Regulatory Practice
Team Members: Lisa Ng, Lisa Collins, Terina Tairea, Cherreen Exeter, Stacey Lean, Tara Campbell
This project will give Te Mahau a collective view of our current regulatory practice, enable a shared vision of modern regulatory practice, and produce a tangible plan for collaboratively achieving the desired future state.
Name: He Kete Taiao O Ngāpuhi
Team Members: Tania Pene, Caroline Wells
Hapu and iwi authorities often have limited capacity and capability to respond to time-bound requests from the government for consultation. Therefore, this project looks at developing a communications system to better inform our people of process requirements, participation opportunities, progress and milestones, and outcomes.
Name: Te Waka Redesign
Team Members: Sarah Scott, Kena Duignan, Andrea McKenzie
Te Waka Kotahi, Wesley’s foster care service, has been operating for 25+ years, funded by Oranga Tamariki. It has become increasingly obvious that the current delivery model is no longer fit for purpose. This project will develop a new approach, with mana whenua, that works for all rangatahi and their whānau – that weaves matauranga Māori and international knowledge.
Name: VERI
Team Members: Dhilum Nightingale
VERI is a tool that will help to combat migrant exploitation, create a more level playing field for businesses and ensure manuhiri in Aotearoa are treated fairly and with respect and manaakitanga.
Name: Awhi Analytics
Team Members: Debs Hancock, Adel Salmanzadeh
Building a tool for measuring experienced wellbeing over time that offers youth development organisations a dual benefit with real-time data and a social impact indicator of experienced wellbeing. 
Name: Girls who Grow
Team Members: Catherine van der Meulen, Te Miringa Parkes, Aimee Blake, Ellen Varoy, Eli Pohio
Wanting to re-capture millions of tonnes of carbon from the air through New Zealand agri-businesses by unlocking the mindsets of the next generation of diverse New Zealanders woven with indigenous wisdom to reimagine the systems of agriculture.
Name: CommonKind 
Team Members: Kelly Olatunji, Olive Riley
CommonKind seeks to collaborate with iwi and governments, supporting stakeholders to pool resources and create efficiencies in the procurement of durable goods that reduce material hardship. They facilitate fit-for-purpose solutions, build innovative supply chains and manage projects that increase efficiency and deliver maximum impact. 
Name: UsedFULLY
Team Members: Bernadette Casey, Deborah Crowe, Peter Thompson
UsedFULLY’s mission is to support the planet and all beings through systemic change and the circular design and decarbonisation of clothing and textiles. We aim to achieve this through the UsedFULLY Resource Management Platform and the development of second-generation products.
Name: Prosperous Communities
Team Members: Benjamin Alder, Mark Pascall, Gregor Neumayr
The Prosperous Communities team is a cross-government team exploring how emerging technologies such as Blockchain and Web 3.0 can drive efficiencies and create more appropriate, inclusive and diverse governance practices that increase public engagement in democratic decision making.
Name: Ngā Mihi
Team Members: Valeria Osorio, Zoe Matthews, Jessica Parkes,Nati Gebremichael, Kafolau Tila, Maria Perriton, Siosaia Maka, Jacob Gallagher, Livinistone Taufao
Ngā Mihi is a social enterprise that facilitates the purchase and delivery of pre-approved goods to individuals within New Zealand Corrections Facilities (“NZCF”). Ngā Mihi has been on a mission to make things easier for both New Zealand prisoners and their whānaus by implementing a hassle-free and secure marketplace that allows the whānau and friends of prisoners to purchase prison-approved items.
Name: Netsafe
Team Members: Shelley Hirst, Leanne Ross
Netsafe’s proposed solution is to develop interactive, online, micro-learning moments from existing educational content that is more likely to be picked up and used by teachers, parents and others in the community. The material will be housed on Netsafe’s new online Learning Management System, available 24/7, where data analytics can inform further iteration.

About the Westpac NZ Government Innovation Fund:

The Innovation Fund is a joint initiative established in 2016. Funded by Westpac NZ and mutually governed by an Investment Board made up of Westpac NZ and government representatives, its aim is to drive innovation and change at a government level to solve real-world issues and help create tangible solutions valuable and inspiring for all New Zealanders.

We listen to those who want to make a difference – government agencies, organisations, businesses or everyday New Zealanders who have identified a problem worth solving – and provide funding and expertise to explore, validate, or implement smart solutions. We help connect potential partners and customers in the government and private sector, bringing people together with shared problems or experiences.

About the NZ GovTech Accelerator:

The GovTech Accelerator 2022 is a programme that supports New Zealand’s government agencies and departments to create new services, solutions and products for the challenges they face. The NZ GovTech Accelerator encourages public servants to look at the problems they face in their roles and supports them to develop new solutions – in a similar manner to startups.

GovTech has adapted Creative HQ’s tried and tested innovation process for a government context. Teams complete a series of sprints using innovative methodologies with the support of their innovation coach and workshops, training, and speaker sessions. They also facilitate the development of a cross-sector stakeholder group to provide guidance, support and connections.

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