Change is constant, and we’ve got some changes happening with Tā Koha, our indigenous crowdfunding programme.
We partnered with Māori Women’s Development Inc (MWDI) in 2018 to create this programme. With MWDI’s planning for this year underway, a decision has been made to refocus on their core business, which is to support wāhine Māori and their whānau who want to borrow money. Sadly, this means MWDI are no longer available to support the day-to-day mahi (work) of Tā Koha. We’re sad to be losing a reason to connect and do this mahi with our friends, but have taken this opportunity to collectively take stock of where Tā Koha is at, celebrate what we’ve achieved together, and set a plan for the future.
Here we want to talk about how we got started, what we’ve learned, where to from here, call for feedback, and thank everyone who’s been part of this kaupapa (mission). Ka pai.
How it got started
In January 2018 I wrote this blog about my biggest learning in 2017. I talked about presenting at the launch of the Māori Economic Development Strategy, and realising that despite our goal of democratising capital through crowdfunding, it didn’t actually go far enough. We had a tool we loved, but inequality was still present, and barriers to raising funds disproportionately affected Māori entrepreneurs, especially Māori wāhine.
After chatting to a few friends, including Kaye-Maree Dunn and Teresa Tapania-Ashton, we decided our organisations should partner to do something about that. We identified a need for general awareness-raising and discussed the idea of modeling our plans on the Grameen bank and microlending, where MWDI started their work.
With the support of Te Puni Kōkiri and Lightning Lab, we went on a hikoi (journey) around the country gathering insights. We quickly found that lending wasn’t a natural fit for a lot of the whānau (families) we wanted to support.
Through the kōrero (discussions) with people we met on our hikoi, we named our programme Tā Koha. Whilst not a perfect fit, the whānau told us that the general concept of koha (gift/contribution) made sense to a lot of the communities we were meeting (whereas crowdfunding as a concept didn’t immediately seem relevant or applicable).
Using this rich information, we built a cohort-based programme, hosted a learning wānanga at Te Papaorotu Marae, developed our PledgeMe platform to include iwi and a Tā Koha tag for campaigns, and launched our first Tā Koha campaigns in 2018. Three successful campaigns from our first cohort collectively raised almost $200,000: Rauawaawa Kaumatua Charitable Trust, Ngahere Communities, and Tolaga Bay Innovation.
Through the Tā Koha journey, we’ve seen an increasing Māori awareness of crowdfunding (and funding generally), as well as the development of the individual businesses in our cohorts, and wider community networks for them as well. We have received a lot of interest in the programme, we often have enquiries about future cohorts, and the buzz is out there. We believe we made crowdfunding less scary. Through the cohort, there has been personal learning and development both within our communities, our cohort, and our teams.
Although Lightning Lab and our government grant ended, we went on to host another wānanga last year and further in-depth webinars to support some of our current cohorts. We also hosted a day long session in Ōtautahi in June 2019 to start expanding Tā Koha more regionally, and recently filmed online education modules that we will be launching over the coming months.
What we’ve learned
You always need kanohi ki te kanohi (face-to-face)
Words you don’t normally hear from a technical platform: the kanohi ki te kanohi moments were one of the main highlights of our programme. We got to meet people in their place, like the hikoi around the motu (country) and the wānanga (gatherings). We had the privilege to showcase one of our Tā Koha success stories, Ngahere Communities, which opened the work they do up to a wider audience and enabled them to further build their crowd.
We believe there are opportunities for more cross-community and wider systemic support. We saw this through the Ministry of Social Development grant to Tolaga Bay and ATEED’s support of Ngahere Communities following their successful Tā Koha campaigns. We need a bigger discussion around things like private-public and matched funding models.
Everyone needs to model true Treaty partnership
As Te Tiriti partners, we at PledgeMe believe that Pākehā have a vital role in ensuring everyone thrives in Aotearoa. This means we need to deconstruct our own privilege, listen more, and to constantly collect and educate our Pākehā people (#settlercollector is a great example — thanks to our friend Chris for pointing it out to us). The system isn’t broken, it was built in a way that privileges the privileged.
If we are benefiting, even circumstantially, from structural inequality, we need to be partners in deconstructing our current system to create a new one that truly values everyone. We shouldn’t expect those affected by structural inequality to do all the work to fix these issues, but at the same time we shouldn’t decide what the solutions look like — that’s just another form of colonising.
We’ve learned a lot along this journey, especially that this work is hard! We need to constantly question how we’re doing things, but also make sure not to other our potential campaigners as “needing more support.” What this process has shown us is that Māori-led campaigns can be bigger and better than our traditional campaigns.
Always be improving
We were continuously learning and adapting the program as we went along, tailoring our approach for those who are at different stages of their readiness. On reflection, we could have been clearer with our cohort before they began on what was required and gained more tangible commitment from participants before the program started.
Providing one-on-one support in a group setting is hard when participants are at different stages to keep content relevant and useful for everyone. If we had been clearer on this, our campaigners could have taken more responsibility around self-organising. We will take all this thinking into the next iteration.
Where to from here?
We’ll be releasing our programme videos one per month for the next six months. We’ll release the first one next month. WATCH THIS SPACE!
To the people that joined the cohorts — thank you for coming in this waka with us and for helping steer it. We would love to hear about your experience and will be in touch to kōrero about that. If you’d still like to launch a Tā Koha campaign, we’d love to help — just email us at email@example.com. We also want to explore hosting another wānanga next year and would love to hear from you if you or someone you know would like to be part of this.
We will also explore matched funding models, much like the Wellington Zero Carbon Challenge, where cohorts of campaigners are taken through an accelerator programme, provided with some initial funding, and then are supported to launch a PledgeMe campaign. If you or your organisation are keen to fund and support this model, we’d love to hear from you so drop me a line.
To anyone that would like to partner with us to deliver Tā Koha in your communities, we can support in three ways:
- Our online courses and guide (they will be shared here)
- A conversation about your community plans. Drop me a line.
- Supporting events you run at your request (either online or in-person). An example could be running Crowdfunding 101 sessions for you and your whānau.
Māori Women’s Development Inc will continue to support wāhine Māori who need to access business loans and further develop their business growth and sustainability by providing business support through their Te Aka Business Mentors, Coaches, and Advisors. You can contact them here. We will also continue to work with MWDI to provide wāhine Māori and entrepreneurs with access to crowdfunding through Tā Koha. We are also exploring the longer-term evolution of Tā Koha so follow us for future announcements.
A special thank you
- To the people that attended our original hikoi and gave valuable feedback and support. The time to meet people in real life, connect, and learn, was a highlight mentioned again and again by the Tā Koha team.
- To the team that helped bring this idea to reality: Kaye-Maree, Richard, Teresa, Soraya, Barry, Linda, Tessa, Christina, Nat, Cara, Rachel, Tania, and Jess. And to Te Puni Kōkiri for supporting our partnered approach to Tā Koha.