We need to change how we’re working with our young people

See the  OECD’s childhood wellbeing  website for more indepth analysis.

See the OECD’s childhood wellbeing website for more indepth analysis.


New Zealand has some sobering youth statistics. We rank the third worst for “childhood well-being” in the OECD. The causes are complex and varied. One-size-fits-all solutions just don’t cut the mustard anymore.

Our taiohi need you to think and work differently.



Open your hearts and minds to what might be possible.

Organisations like certainty. We like to know when we make Investment X we’ll get Outcome Y.

But youth engagement is not a linear process. If you invest in the process, you may not achieve Outcome Y. (Instead, you may achieve a raft of other outcomes you had not even imagined.)

It requires you to let go some of your authority and control, and be open to what might be possible.

Are you ready to be challenged, delighted and inspired?



Start your youth engagement journey

Top of the Sout

Codesign a new way of working with the young people you serve

Our approach to youth engagement focuses on creative opportunities for young people to express their wants and needs, hopes and dreams. We’ll create a safe and creative space for young people to share their expertise and be part of creating the solutions to the challenges in their lives.


“But we already have so many things underway.”

Yep, it’s not like you’re sitting around twiddling your thumbs. We get that. And we’re not suggesting you just start over from scratch.

Often, youth engagement is less about creating new things and more about enhancing what already exists.

Many organisations learn they can make small changes with a significant impact.

A medical practitioner spending more time on trust-building at the start of their consultations.

An organisation changing people’s job descriptions to require more youth voice.

A school surveying their students regularly for feedback.

Some organisations do go a step further:

Establishing a new role focused on youth voice and engagement.

Co-creating new projects or programmes in partnership with rangatahi.

Flipping their entire structure and delivery model on its head to put young people at the centre of everything.

It all depends on where you’re at in your youth engagement journey. One small step at a time.

young person writing on an image
Vanushi Walters.jpg
Above all, I was impressed with their ability to absorb the complexities of our work, gain the trust and respect of a broad and diverse group of stakeholders and reframe processes to adapt to the changing flow of discussions.
— Vanushi Walters, former General Manager, Youthlaw

“We’ll never get enough young people involved.”

This is a common concern for organisations just starting out their youth engagement journey.

But youth engagement is not about quantity. It’s about the quality of your interactions.

We already have a wealth of insightful data about young people in New Zealand. Do you need a starting point? Try the Youth2000 surveys, Youthline’s State of the Generation Report or Action Station’s Ngā Kōrero Hauora o Ngā Taiohi.

No, a lack of data is not the problem here. It’s how we’re working with young people on a daily basis.

We’ve seen organisations learn more from a deep conversation with four young people than they had from months of desktop research and analysis.

Top of the South - Luke and Jeni finding themes
Fran McEwan
We have been extremely impressed by the way Business Lab has created a safe and inclusive environment for both young people and adults to participate and openly share ideas and collaborate.
— Fran McEwen, Young People Strategy Lead, Sport NZ


Start your youth engagement journey


We could go on for hours about the benefits of genuine youth engagement. But let’s cut to the chase. If you’re open to changing the way you work to better serve our rangatahi, we can help.

However, this is NOT for you if:

  • You don’t want to get down on the floor and listen

  • You already have several ongoing mechanisms for youth voice, and staff who are skilled at youth facilitation and codesign

  • You just want to take young people’s ideas and deliver them yourselves.

    If none of those apply - let’s chat.

Name *
Mobile phone *
Mobile phone

Just a quick note. We have limited availability in our calendar due to several ongoing projects. It’s best to get in touch with 2-3 months before you want your engagement process to begin so we can understand your needs and point you in the right direction.