Digital Arts Network NZ: our path to cultural competency

Who we are

Digital Arts Network New Zealand (DAN) is an organisation driven by strategy and design. We create meaningful human experiences alongside our partners and clients. The core of our organisation are people — people steer the existence of our services. Part of our belief in successful innovation and creativity is providing a space that is safe to bring our people’s authentic selves.

We are a small, tight knit agency with studios based in Auckland and Wellington, and we often refer to ourselves as the DANFam. When you walk into our doors you are greeted by smiles of people from all over the world. Today the DANFam is multiculturally represented by 11 nationalities. We all bring a palette of unique lived experiences, which further enriches our creativity in our agency.

Acknowledgement and Empowerment

Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity has always been pivotal to our organisation. We pride ourselves in being open-minded and committed to support not only our team but also our contractors, suppliers, partners, clients and the very people we serve; our customers.

We continue to respect and are committed to ensure our people stand with their voice, head held high. We are dedicated to make certain our people have equal access to opportunities and resources, no matter ethnicity, gender identification, age, religion, disabilities and sexual orientation. Regardless of your gender identity, we offer a flexible working environment and encourage a work-life balance to support child care, studying or lifestyle options for our people.

While we are proud of what we have accomplished, we also know we can do better; In the past few months we have interrogated ourselves in how we can be more impactful not only to one another but within the community we wish to serve. Our knowledge is limited in Tikanga Māori values and the DANFam have a desire to shift our focus and educate ourselves in Aotearoa’s tangata whenua (people of the land) and immerse our learning into te reo Māori and Te Ao Māori (the Māori worldview).

This is even more important in our space of service; that is human-centered design. Building our practice of integrating with our community, design really is a lived service and not a delivered service. We need to be more aware of cultural contexts and the influence of cultural values, within our interactions to each other but also in the way we work with our current and future clients, partners and communities.

Taking positive steps

We would like to share some of the small positive steps we’ve taken to guide us in our journey in building our cultural competency and what it means for us in our ako (learn) and whanaungatanga (reciprocal kinship). Such actions includes:

  • Pukapuka club: Once a month we share readings about Aotearoa’s history and Kaupapa Māori so we can openly kōrero (talk, discuss) what it means to us and understanding our tangata whenua better. We kicked it off by reading and discussing the Te Tiriti o Waitangi, as many of us are not from the whenua (land) and we felt this was an important place to start in our ako.
  • Te reo Māori: We have encouraged ourselves to normalise te reo and create a safe space. Weekly, our team has 2 minutes of te reo in which we learn new words, learn to pronounce and also to understand how we can kōrero in te reo respectively.
  • Our people’s language is empowered: We encourage our people to celebrate their language as well. We’ve celebrated Tongan language week and Bastille Day this year, which was hosted by some of our DANFam who hail from Tonga and France. They shared food and knowledge throughout the week with us, teaching us how to pronounce basic Tongan words, and learning French history.

In September along with the rest of Aotearoa we also celebrated Te Wiki o te Reo Māori. We had been preparing ourselves for that week by creating our ongoing Pukapuka club, and our 2 minutes of te reo. Further to this we held a lunch time activity to learn and waiata (sing) the te reo version of our anthem and we also translated our website tagline into te reo.

  • We established an internal working group to champion our initiative: They help create ongoing actions for us all to progress together. Part of this is also building whanaungatanga with Māori based agencies and communities to guide us in our education of our cultural competency in Te Ao Māori. Thereof to ensure we engage and approach our learning and people authentically and in manaakitanga (show respect and care)


We are only at the beginning of our journey and we want to uphold ourselves in sincerity as we learn and discover together. By all means we are not experts and we certainly have a long way ahead in our ako in building our cultural competency. One of our goals for 2021 is to build a close working relationship with a local iwi, to guide us on our journey but also an ongoing reciprocal exchange of knowledge and service that we can offer in return.

As you will in growth, you learn and you may fail but it is the willingness to embrace it with humility. The courage to extend ourselves beyond what we are comfortable with and to be uncomfortable safely. It is finding that balance of awareness in your own world view and the stranger’s next to you. The DANFam is in this cultural journey together and we will be accountable to our commitment. We will continue to be diverse, to be a space of equality and to be inclusive. We look forward to sharing more of our journey in 2021 with you all and we encourage you also, to take that step into a place of self-discovery.

Ngā manaakitanga

Anaua Tuihalangingie

DAN Stories

Stories from the front line of experience innovation in Aoteroa / New Zealand.