Wellington.Scoop » Talking to our future selves


Kāpiti Coast District Councilor Sophie Handford with Festival for the Future panelists Heidi Parks, Kii Small, Pok Wei Hung and Tiana Jakicevich.

by Stephen Olsen
Talking to our future is one of the many ways to think about the event that is the Festival for the Future, which held its last edition last week at the TSB Arena in Wellington.

This rooftop event feels like one of Aotearoa’s best-kept secret sources for future thinking; inspired and supported by the Poneke-based engine for uplifting the young: Inspiring Stories.

As a distillation of the many stellar panels, it was hard to get past the question posed for The Next Generation panel, which was “where to go from here?”.

In just 90 minutes, Heidi Parks, Kii Small, Pok Wei Heng, Tiana Jakicevich and host Sophie Handford expressed the timeless wisdom of multiple generations, full of challenges and open affirmations.

Tiana set the scene, with the challenge that overcoming the deficit spaces facing rangatahi starts with believing that “your voices matter and you have the knowledge.”

A theme Tiana returned to was the encouragement that “if there is no seat at the table for young people, then create your own table… (and) build consensus around that table (to be unbeatable )”.

This tied in with a competing theme of breaking down barriers and sat perfectly alongside Pok’s plea for the formation of shadow leadership boards made up of younger proponents for organizations open to “integrating”. young leaders from there…and as a way to disrupt governance and decision-making.”

Having experienced himself as a “youth representative” on a board, Pok shared a story that had his fingers snapped appreciatively from his co-panellists in favor of the untapped potential of the intergenerational leadership. “I even wondered what I was doing on this council, and the president told me that people misunderstood what young people brought, and that it was not naivety, it was clarity . Clarity on ambitions for the future”.

Pok pushed back against assumptions that the lofty responsibilities for change rest solely with young people. Given the amount of trauma that unevenly impacts the shoulders of young New Zealanders, particularly in relation to climate change, his call to action was that “adults need to change too”. And, as Sophie pointed out, “When will our leaders, those in power, lead?”

Pok didn’t hold back in his definition of the need to ‘radically shift responsibilities’, urging older New Zealanders to ‘reshape your thinking (and) bring it together’, adding ‘it’s OK to step down , it’s OK to ask for help, it’s good to learn (from each other), it’s time to do it!

Kii went on to say, “(Young people) are raising issues that other generations won’t even recognize or take seriously.”

The panel collectively agreed that mobilizing for change can be directed to the middle ground, to the people sitting on a misunderstanding barbed wire fence. Change can be achieved by meeting people halfway as needed, resolving points of difference, consciously maintaining wananga within our intergenerational and interracial families, and refocusing our hearts, minds, and goals. in a way that is not just shaped by facts, but also by social and emotional perspectives.

Speaking about the generational compression effects of this fast-moving and tense new millennium, Kii explained that the people he now helps mentor are the first generation “to tackle the binary, to tackle the provenance of their media, tackling how to get causes and issues on a global scale”.

Kii also announced that now is the time to drop the “youth” label as ongoing advocacy to move through our polarized world goes far beyond a limiting prefix. “From the korero I had at this festival, what I get is your passion, not your age…we don’t even talk about it. Your advocacy goes far beyond the term “youth advocate”. You can lose this beacon immediately”.

During their korero, the panel members each presented valuable ways to avoid burnout. For Tiana, a key action is to “embrace the little joys we all experience… (they will) give you the medicine to keep moving forward… You are here to be you.”

There was also a consensus that “rest is radical, rest is resistance”. Take the time to disconnect things. It can start with the simplicity of claiming a quiet physical space wherever you live, your own individual space.

Likewise, Pok highlighted that we can all continue to throw higher and push harder, and at the same time aspire to be less frantic and less anxious as part of our first principles. “The times are urgent but that doesn’t mean we can’t take the time to slow down.”

Kii’s sage advice: “Assuming that we have to give talk prompts all the time is wrong.” In the same way that our Covid times have faced all sorts of assumptions, he offered another way of being that we should all have learned by now: “Just listen, and make more space to listen and be at comfortable with silence.

In conclusion, each panelist was asked for a special nugget of courage or truth.

For Tiana, it was the mighty whakaaro that “we are already our tipuna’s wildest dreams.”

While the crises we all live in appear to be enormous burdens, the consensus of the panel was that we should not forget that not all crises are “on us”. Not all crises are created by one person or by one system or structure. There is hope. Tiana again: “To have hope in the future is a radical act… we can sow the seeds, we can platform the kaupapa”.

What I took away from Festival for the Future is that it is a world that is not necessarily made for us in the way we currently live in it. Structures made by adults are outdated. The why ? of the working life that most of us are chained to is increasingly overtaken by the answers we give to “Why?” » we want to live, leave as a legacy, shape like a new story. As Kii said, “My why has always been a why not? Why not me? Why not now?”.

What I would say to my younger self is more than possible what I need to say to my current self and my future self.

The last words belong to Heidi: “Whatever you do, try it. Sit in my wheelchair, wear my shoes, but do not exercise ownership over me”.


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