The power of trust and collaboration in building sustainable and resilient communities

By Ronja Ievers

As a community, we have experienced first-hand the power of trust and relationships in times of crisis. The recent natural disasters have brought together diverse groups, from community organisations to businesses and government agencies, to work towards a shared goal of providing assistance to communities in need. This collaboration was made possible by the trust, respect, and relationships that exist between these groups, which cut through historical barriers and power dynamics that have, at times, prevented progress in the past.

The same spirit of collaboration and innovation was evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, where communities came together to support one another and find solutions to the challenges we faced. At a recent sustainability and wellbeing summit in Kirikiriroa, I heard from inspiring individuals who shared their experiences of shifting the dial towards a more sustainable and equitable future.

Speakers at the summit emphasised the need to shift power dynamics and worldviews as a critical step towards enacting change. The importance of deep listening, humility, and patience were also highlighted as key elements of building trust and relationships within communities. As individuals, we must recognise our own assumptions and privileges and leverage them to empower others.

“Working together is initially going to make for a really awkward dance but with a willingness to explore something other than what we know (the current system), and the diversity of brilliant minds dogged on shifting the dial, we will get there eventually. We can alike it to cultural change, just on a much bigger scale.”

Riria (Missy) Te Kanawa, Partner, KPMG

The stories shared at the summit showcased the power of collaboration and the positive impact it can have on our environment and well-being. From Ngāti Hauā Mahi Trust‘s successful partnership with Fonterra, Xtreme Zero Waste‘s community of partners on their site above Whāingaroa town, to Seed Waikato‘s work in engaging rangatahi in systems-led thinking, these initiatives honour traditional knowledge systems and demonstrate the potential for building sustainable and resilient communities.

“Engaging rangatahi in systems-led thinking requires unpacking the need to shift power dynamics and our worldviews or mental models as a critical step to enact change. In systems-led thinking, power dynamics and worldviews are the plugs that hold a system in place. Disrupting these will lead to transformational change”. 

Tania Pointon, CEO, Seed Waikato

As Professor Lynda Johnston, Assistant Vice-Chancellor Sustainability at the University of Waikato, said, we must prioritise investing in our communities to rebuild trust and connection. Only then can we create a platform for the many other changes needed to achieve a more sustainable and equitable future.

You can learn more about the inspiring initiatives and wisdom shared at the summit by visiting SDGsummits.