Te Hononga-ā-Kiwa – Ashleigh Kearns

“Te Hononga-ā-Kiwa aims to increase Māori business engagement, capability, and awareness internationally.“

Te Hononga-ā-Kiwa has not just simply opened a door for networking, Te Hononga-ā-Kiwa has opened a door to a hallway in which has hundreds of doors that are awaiting to be opened. The kūwaha I passed through in this hallway that will forever follow me through my journey of life is the path of self-growth, confidence, and Māori power.

The participation and reflection on my time with Te Hononga-a-Kiwa - Ashleigh Kearns-Steed.

At the beginning of our Te Hononga-ā-Kiwa journey, these three elevations of self-growth, confidence, and power were obsolete. You see, I was of a very quiet nature and dreaded public speaking and disruption. At the end of our first haerenga, this had changed, not because I was pushed out of my comfort zone but because I was guided. It also helped to have a room full of Māori tertiary students who question everything; these individuals taught me that without the disrupters, question-askers, or even the people who stay quietly curious, the world would fall into the wrong hands. This is why Te Hononga-ā-Kiwa is of such significance, as this programme helps the emergence and knowledge of our indigenous people to collide with disruption to create compassionate entrepreneurs.

THK business programmes enable Māori tertiary students across Aotearoa to engage with international businesses and indigenous entrepreneurs.

Various key focus areas have been incorporated into each of the programmes such as primary industry, Indigenous development, digital technology, and cultural tourism. Our first week consisted of an orientation of the backgrounds of all three CAPEs (Malaysia, Ecuador, Taiwan), supporting the knowledge with historical, current political, and cultural realities. Our rōpū gained an understanding of Aotearoa’s business engagement with these countries, as well as the trends in the business world and the opportunities available for Māori. This generated a spark within the rangatahi as not only were we showered in the encouragement of how our superpower is being indigenous, but how there are opportunities and demands for people like us out in the world to make a significant change in any field we aspire in.

As part of our learning, we were expected to generate and present an 8-minute business proposal to three judges. This business plan was a fully innovative organisation that would be theoretically placed within the CAPEs of Malaysia, Ecuador, and Taiwan. The innovative business that my rōpū generated was one that visioned a sustainable and healthier future for the indigenous people of these countries. The idea was generated by a zoom call we had during the first week of Te Hononga-ā-Kiwa, by Dr. Yin-Ren Li (Taiwan). Dr. Yin-Ren Li described how the indigenous people of Taiwan view their landscape using the ‘refrigerator method’; this method is viewing the Whenua as the key resource to kai and resources to live sustainably. These are values that we all share within all indigenous communities such as Aotearoa, as the utilisation of our Whenua and Moana are the main sources of our lifestyles. This was an extremely compelling story to hear, the simplicity of wording has changed my concepts of sustainability. As sustainability stands for meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The absorption of how these indigenous communities continue to appreciate, utilise, and sustain themselves off the land is something I have firmly tried to implement within my own life.

There are many people across our world advocating for indigenous entrepreneurs and consistently creating opportunities for them to be successful within the business sector. Te Hononga-ā-Kiwa helped open a new path of education in which I do not believe could have been gained without the source of networking they have with the CAPEs. Te Hononga-ā-Kiwa showed me how our people can gain the required credentials to become powerful and authentically ourselves through the education of programmes such as this one. As an alumnus of Te
Hononga-ā-Kiwa, I highly encourage others to participate in the programme. A promise of knowledge and forever friendships will be built on your journey here. I will forever be grateful for mine

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