Deirdre Otene, general manager of Kaitaia's MOKO Foundation, will be out of the office for lengthy periods over the next year, thanks to her being named by the Vodafone New Zealand Foundation as a World of Difference Fellow.

The fellowship will grant her $90,000 over the next year to help her investigate and apply means of achieving better outcomes for young New Zealanders, focusing on Maori leadership.

The MOKO Foundation, established by Kaitaia GP Dr Lance O'Sullivan and his wife Tracy, is a charitable trust designed to support and empower communities in the Far North, and dedicated to vulnerable children and young people. Ms Otene said she was strongly focused on lifting leadership and governance across the youth sector to achieve sustainable outcomes.

"My aim is to be a positive role model, particularly for Maori youth," she said.


"I want to use the fellowship to create and enable positive intergenerational change. In particular, leadership needs to be relevant to Maori and Pacific Island young people, who are over-represented in the inequalities of youth development."

The fellowship will allow her to travel to Silicon Valley in California, Washington, Hawaii and Australia, then to bring what she learns back to the Far North.

Raised at Mangamuka, Ms Otene recently returned home after leading health and social services in Queensland and Auckland.

Vodafone New Zealand Foundation chairman Antony Welton said Ms Otene was innovative and inspiring, and totally committed to leading positive change.

"There is a tremendous power in working together with communities to lift outcomes for our young people, but to truly support our most vulnerable young people we need a robust and adaptive youth sector that can develop and strengthen organisations, policies and youth work practitioners.

"The World of Difference Fellowship is a unique chance for these individuals to look at the bigger picture and to focus, not only on what they need to do to influence youth sector change, but on who they need to be in order to succeed."

Developed in 2010, the World of Difference programme had now supported eight fellows in the fields of rural youth needs, youth justice, youth governance, youth mentoring and alternative education tutoring.

The fellowships were based on finding the right people (with a passion for making a difference for youth and the skills to lead a step change), ambitious and innovative projects that focused on youth (aged 12 to 24) who were not in education, employment or training, and host organisations that embraced the principles of the Youth Development Strategy Aotearoa, including ensuring young people were involved in decision-making, enabling them to make positive connections with their community, family, school, peers and networks.