Arotahi Ā-Hapori | Community Focus: Covid Drives Online Innovation For Sistema Whangarei – Toi Akorangi

As with any challenge, Covid-19 has inspired innovation for community organisations across the country including Sistema Whangarei – Toi Akorangi. 

The volunteer-based organisation’s goal is to impact the lives of children in the Whangarei community.  Through orchestral music they deliver the El-Sistema inspired programme for young people.

In the past it has been reliant on teaching people in person, however Covid and Lockdown measures meant that they could no longer rely on what they had done in the past.

Programme Director Sam Winterton said Covid-19 presented many challenges, but it had also inspired innovation using online tools to combat the lockdown measures. 

“As soon as lockdown came out, we went online. We were using Facebook and the like a little before but during lockdown we moved more fully into it and continue to be comfortable using it. We offered live streams for our younger students who are really benefiting from the move, and we created Zooms for the older adults.  

“We also used Google Classrooms so we could give students links to videos because not everyone wants to be face-to-face on Zoom.” 

Mrs Winterton said now they have continued to use the online resources to complement in-person learning and support learners in more rural areas. 

The innovation is one of the highlights that have been picked up by a national survey looking to gather information on the changes, challenges and achievements of the community and voluntary sector between July 2021 and today.  

The survey, titled Kōrerotia, speak up!, survey is being undertaken by Hui E! Community Aotearoa currently, and seeks to add to the understanding of challenges, providing valuable insights into the current state of our community and voluntary sector. By participating in this survey, organisations can share their voices about the obstacles they face and help identify ways they can be better supported. 

This is the third year for this research. “With a baseline now in place, we want to build on the mahi that has already occurred and repeat the research every two years, so that we can capture the challenges and mahi of our sector, including pain points and examples of innovation. We also want to highlight the ongoing impacts of Covid-19 and other events in our sector as well as being able to collect data that can be used to continue to advocate for systemic change. 

“We know things need to improve for our community and voluntary organisations but we need to build a compelling story that decision-makers can see so that they feel compelled to change. And, we cannot do this on our own, as individual organisations, we must do this as a collective.” 

The survey is open until Friday June 16, at 5pm. If you want to share your organisation’s story, then participate at: or reach out to Hui E! Community Aotearoa at A full report from this year’s findings will be released in August. 

About Sistema Whangarei – Toi Akorangi

Sistema Whangarei – Toi Akorangi aims to impact the lives of children in the Whangarei community through orchestral music training. It strengthens the spirit and fosters making positive choices, creating an environment of anything is possible for self and others. And it delivers a community-based, El-Sistema inspired programme for young people, beginning in early childhood, such that their experience as they are growing up is one of sense of place and passion for life and music. It operates through contributors from donors and funders, as well as the support of volunteers.