Five Strategic Insights from Manawatahi Participatory City Pilot

Hamish Lindop
4 min readFeb 27, 2023

Back in September I told the story of the Manawatahi Participatory City Pilot at Onehunga Oranga Community Hub thus far, what we have been developing and what we have been learning.

Recently we completed a six month strategic learning report for July-December 2023, with some insights that I wanted to share about our local adaptation of this exciting new way of developing peer to peer participation culture.

Insight 1: The Approach is beginning to build Social Cohesion in a “Radically Inclusive” way

People participating in a “Cook with Us” collaborative cooking session

We observed that residents who were diverse in terms of age, gender, ethnicity and socio-economic status found the opporunity to take part in participation projects appealing and engaging. It was also notable how those who would normally be most marginalised engaged with sessions, especially “Creative Kōrero” sessions where barriers to participation were extremely low: sit down and have a cup of tea or coffee, maybe play some boardgames, share ideas if you feel like it.

Insight 2: The Approach is building Co-production Capacity in Residents

Local kids planning fruit and vege planting in soil at the Onehunga Community Centre

We regularly observed big and small ways residents were increasing confidence, sense of agency, and capability in making collaborative contributions across all projects, for example:

• A tween-aged participant sharing her favourite recipe and then leading the group (including adults) in a shared cooking session

• Children facilitated to think about vegetables and fruit they’d like to grow, plan the garden, and then plant and grow the garden and harvest some of the produce

• Diverse adults sharing ideas for participation projects which sometimes led to projects being co-produced with staff support

Insight 3: Early Indications that Māori Residents find the opportunity Engaging and Appealing

Local Resident leading a Māori fried bread collaborative cooking session

Several Māori residents were keen to share their ideas and get involved, sharing ideas like Reo Māori learning, Manu Aute (traditional kite) making, fried bread cooking sessions, and spontaneously making cultural contributions like leading a karakia before partaking of a shared meal in a “Cook With Us” session.

After a community morning tea, we invited a couple of residents to the kitchen to wash up the cups with us. One of them, an elderly Māori gentleman commented that this made it feel “like being back on the marae up north”.

This resonates with the work of the Mii’kmaw Native Friendship Centre who are successfully adapting the approach in Halifax, Canada, centering it on indigenous Mii’kmaw people sharing their culture to support the process of Truth and Reconciliation.

Insight 4: All Projects Demonstrated Immediate Practical Benefits to Residents

Seedlings from a “Seedling Swap” session

Whether it’s hot food, mutual support, fun, a warm social environment, or something else, residents generally gained immediate practical benefits from participation in any given session, making sessions immediately rewarding and a positive reinforcing experience.

Insight 5: The approach has thus far yielded excellent ratio of inputs: outputs: outcomes

Since the team involved had significant commitments to existing delivery this meant that the time and energy they could invest in the pilot was limited, and yet with that relatively small investment of time and energy, small but measurable improvements in social outcomes were observed in developing and testing the Participatory City Approach through the first six months of this pilot.

Outputs for the pilot in the first six months

If investment in the approach were increased, the “multiplier effect” in this impact ratio is likely to lead to a significant increase in positive impact

Indicated Outcomes from the Participatory Ecosystem of seven projects

Want to know more?

Download full report here or



Hamish Lindop

Sharing insights from community building and social innovation, and reflections on ways of (well) being