• Natalie Jessup

Rangatahi co-design new youth space in Hamilton East

Updated: Nov 25, 2021

Wise Group are in the process of imagining a new youth space in Hamilton East. Dujon Cullingford, the Youth Engagement and Co-design Lead for the project worked with Waikato Plan to fund the recruitment of 12 young people as co-design leads.



“Waikato Plan’s part was pivotal as their funding enabled us to bring young people on as co-designers, partners, and shape the trajectory,” says Dujon, “The funding enabled an authentic co-design experience to take place between the organisation and our youth.”

The vision of the co-design process is to create a space where the service users design their service experience. The co-design process has been responsive to local youth needs and creates an intersection in the areas of hauora / wellbeing, technology, and the creation of a safe place to explore opportunities.


“Youth are often at the liberty of spaces that have been designed by adults and are given little autonomy in designing areas that meet their needs,” says Dujon. “This process has enabled local youth to prototype this project, which will be a flagship investment for Kirikiriroa Hamilton and the surrounding towns in Waikato”.

The process involved hiring youth who truly represent the diversity of Kirikiriroa and recognised that the value they bring needed to be recognised monetarily. All 12 young people were onboarded as staff, and went through the full employment experience.


“This is significantly more robust than the usual ‘pizza provided and a petrol voucher’ which is sometimes used when we invite young people to consult and engage on project work,” says Michelle Howie, Project Manager. “We believe that youth participation deserves to be recognised in professional and mana-enhancing ways.”

The rangatahi were engaged through workshops, consultations and surveys to enable them to lead this social innovation development. The process included:

  • The completion of series of four co-design workshops with 12 rangatahi and supporters

  • A successful pivot to an online survey, which attracted 140 respondents, after a planned event was cancelled due to a shift to level 4

  • Themes being clustered and prioritised for prototyping and further development.

Local youth made their voices heard, offering insight into their world with aspiration, solutions, hard truths and wonderings on everything from youth culture, the education system, wellbeing and youth space development feedback.



“This development has involved the sharing of kai, laughs, crying - all the good, bad and ugly of being a young person and their lived experiences,” says Dujon. “Each person has dug deep to develop meaningful korero, which will ultimately lead to the creation of a space that will enable future rangatahi to develop, connect and shine”.

Initial architectural concepts for the space have been completed and shown to rangatahi co-designers and wider youth for their thoughts and feedback. The youth advisory team is currently at the stage of waiting on survey mahi, while they develop the space’s design, service and infrastructure, and source further funding and support.

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