All our work is underpinned by an ecosystems approach to understanding wellbeing.

We are all connected, and all actions, close to us, and far away from us, affect us all in different ways. We are like a harakeke (a flax bush) in that we need many inputs all in balance to thrive: the physical environment needs to be balanced with the right amount of sun and rain, and a healthy soil, the placement of the plant needs to be right, the gardeners who tend to the harakeke need to understand what type of care is needed, the plants must attract the tui at the right time to pollinate, and the surrounding harakeke plants, and leaves within a single plant, need to provide shelter and support. With all these conditions in balance the harakeke can thrive.

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Scientist and researchers from many disciplines over many years have highlighted that wellbeing is the result of interacting and complex factors, but that the wider socio-economic, cultural and economic conditions in which people live are key to understanding differences in economic, social, health, psychological wellbeing.

The ecosystems model shows how the wider conditions of people’s lives, e.g. the political paradigm, gender dynamics, racism, climate change, set up the living and working conditions, the community resources, and eventually people’s responses, which determines wellbeing. Not only is there a cascading effect of these wider conditions on people’s position in society, but there are feedback loops as the wider conditions affect people’s willingness to do anything to change those conditions.

As an example institutionalised racism affects the quality of living conditions of people, which triggers cultural stereotyping and discrimination, which creates harm for individuals, this harm is then interpreted through the lens of cultural racism (i.e. harm stems from personal choice and is the cause of the problem, as opposed to seeing is as symptom) and so further embeds the original negative conditions, as it affects people’s willingness to act - it fosters a social and political environment that is hostile to any action (e.g. equity policies) that attempt to change those conditions.1


1 Williams, D. R., & Mohammed, S. A. (2013). Racism and health I: Pathways and scientific evidence. American Behavioral Scientist, 57(8), 1152-1173.