The Bishop’s Action Foundation worked with the University of Otago from 2014 researching the lived reality of rural townships and communities in Taranaki and then nationally. The aim of this research was to identify opportunities that would contribute to more sustainable rural townships for the future.
From this research we identified that a focus on enterprise / social enterprise creation could be a powerful tool to generate social and economic capital within rural townships that would generate a more sustainable future. Towns that actively and effectively nurtured start-up and emergent enterprise would become a beacon for entrepreneurs within the local area and from around the country.
With this conclusion in 2021 we began to work with local changemakers Scott Willson and Gerard Langford from South Taranaki District Council and Hawera Bizlink. The idea of an enterprise hub had been slowly developing for a number of years so there was energy and interest to build from.
A Theory of Change was created by Zara Lok working with local stakeholders including business reprenstatives and potential users of a co-working space / enterprise start-up programme. Graham Nelson from Manifold Co-Working was also a leading member of the team and helped the enterprise hub idea develop within a co-working model.
We wanted to ensure that we could monitor the impact of the enterprise hub and we were able to work with Massey Enterprise (within Massey University) to develop a set of evaluation metrics that were designed to show the impact over time of the work of the enterprise hub – proving how it contributed to social and economic outcomes for Hawera and its surrounding townships.
With this progress Scott and Graham became the leaders of the project identifying a local space that could be leased and fitted out as a co-working space and enterprise hub. A naming process was undertaken to ensure the new space had the buy-in of the local community. South Taranaki District Council agreed to employ a Manager for the space and Bizlink were confirmed as an anchor tenant for the new space.
Having worked through Covid-19 induced delays and supply chain issues the fit out was finally completed late in 2022 and in early February 2023 Te W’anake : The Foundry was officially launched and opened. Scott commented that:
“BAF were a catalyst that created momentum towards the establishment of a coworking space and enterprise hub for South Taranaki. Their ability to clearly define the benefits and to bring people together to form an action plan, coupled with ongoing support meant that BAF was a valuable partner throughout this very successful collaboration”.
Te W’anake : The Foundry is already attracting significant interest with large numbers of users signing up. The Bishop‘s Action Foundation will continue to support the delivery of the evaluation process to provide regular data about the scale of impact being achieved.