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2016 New Zealand Innovation Awards Excellence in Social Innovation & Innovation in Education, Training & Development: Manaiakalani Education Trust

The phrase children are our future is one of the most tired, oft-repeated clichés. But, like most clichés, it’s also true – which is why providing the most opportunities possible and empowering children to shape their future, and the future of the world as a result, is so critical.

That’s the mission of the Manaiakalani Education Trust and its Manaiakalani Programme which looks to improve student achievement for 12 mostly decile 1A schools in the Auckland suburbs of Glen Innes, Point England and Panmure. These areas are Auckland’s oldest state housing community, and 95 percent of students from the areas are of Maori and Pasifika heritage. With a focus on digital learning so students can gain digital fluency to become more engaged citizens,

the Manaiakalani Programme is not only achieving improved educational results, but also realising the potential for enhanced employment and life outcomes for students who take part.

To make digital citizens of student learners and their whanau, the Manaiakalani Programme is able to be accessed anytime, anywhere, and at any pace that suits. In order to make that possible, the Trust supports parents to buy a personal digital device for each learner, provides wireless internet access at home and school, and supports Manaiakalani teachers in their continuing innovation in learning methods.

While whanau are their principal partners, the Trust has also had support from a dizzying number of organisations and businesses. Foundation North (formerly ASB Community Trust) donated $1.2 million in 2011 to enable staffing the Trust, developing infrastructure and bulk purchasing digital devices, giving them the resource to develop dedicated administrative systems to run the programme. Spark Foundation donated $1 million in 2013, followed by a further $1.2 million in 2014-2015. This funding is being invested in research into the outcomes being achieved in the Manaiakalani school cluster, so every New Zealand school can adapt or learn from its techniques. It is also helping fund an innovation hub, including an Innovative Teacher Academy that will continue to push boundaries of digital learning techniques and share findings. Vector contributed $100,000 to the construction and insurance of the Tamaki learning net, while will.i.am’s foundation i.am.angel donated $100,000 to the Trust after the artist made a surprise visit to Point England School in early 2013.

On top of that, the Trust also counts such companies as Google and Samsung as technology partners.

The Trust has made a real difference in student achievement. At Tamaki College, NCEA level 2 results for Maori and Pasifika students doubled in 2012, putting it among the top 60 improving schools in Aotearoa. In 2013, about 80 percent of students enrolled in Level 2 NCEA achieved a pass or better at the school.

While it’s unquestioned Manaiakalani has made a lot of progress since it was founded in 2007, an understanding of what drives the Trust to innovate can be found by translating the word “Manaiakalani” from Te Reo into English: “The hook from heaven.”

An appropriate name if there ever was one.


Congratulations and thank you to the Manaiakalani Education Trust for the valuable work you are doing. It is so important that New Zealand children have an opportunity to learn, grow and have a positive future. Your work with Maori, Pasifika and all students giving access to digital technologies and learning opportunities is a breakthrough innovation.

This story first ran in Idealog 63.
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