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Grounding & being present with Jack Gray - DSI Day One

On the 15th of July Design for Social Innovation Symposium commenced with Agnes Naera, from AUT Faculty of Business and Law, speaking about the significance and legacy of our meeting point in the Sir Reeves building of AUT University. Agnes was followed by artivism provocateur Jack Gray, who began by grounding and connecting us in an interactive ‘Haka Activation’ process.

Within tikanga Māori (practice of Māori knowledge) processes, these welcoming and opening roles bring the focus of participants to the location and environment, create awareness of the kaupapa (proposal, subject, theme, issue, or initiative), the value each person can bring to a project, and relaxes the boundaries between participants. It was a chance for everyone to connect with the Sir Reeves building, their identity, profession, each other and be present in this new journey of exploring design, social, and impact in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Jack led an embodied exercise employing Aotearoa specific tools of haka movement and principles to identify and confront hurdles to experiencing and knowing. Following this focusing-activation, the participants formed into small groups and were posed the question “What questions do you bring with you today to this space of Design for Social Innovation?” By introducing the topic with a brief kōrero (discussion) empowering people to openly discuss all aspects of the kaupapa, the exercise brought commonality and a sense of motivation, building a foundation of mutual awareness and aligned interests amongst participants to take forward into the next two days. (See the questions that were generated here).


Questions were collated via post-its on butchers paper and participants began to connect with each other as well as explore the questions they each brought to the space. 

The whirlpool of questions were sifted into themes and groups nominated one question each to share with the rest of the room. In this way the dialogue at the symposium commenced not through a "keynote speaker or expert" but through hearing a synthesis of the thoughts, aspirations and contemplations of all participants. 

During the two day interactive practitioner focused event many of the emergent conversations, actions and insights would have addressed and explored some of these questions. At the close of the event on the second day, participants reflected on how their questions had been answered, extended or reframed through the experience of the symposium.

The opening of the Symposium set the scene for the whole two days. Both Jack and Agnes helped us to create a space where participants could move into a place of connectedness, as well as helping to collaboratively shape and constitute the first, and final, steps of the two day event. 

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