By Codie McIntyre
Each morning last week I arrived at work to be greeted by an inspirational quote in my inbox, courtesy of our newly-created wellness committee at Northland Inc, and in recognition of the fact that it was Mental Health Awareness Week.
Our wellness committee had been active during September, arranging and facilitating initiatives for the organisation with the aim of raising awareness around the importance of mental and physical wellbeing, and how these work mutually to enable and develop resilience – something, of course, which is considered highly beneficial to our health.
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The idea of wellness and wellbeing has been particularly topical this year, with the launch of the Wellbeing Budget in May.
The government paraded it as a signal to all New Zealanders that they were ready to take a new approach and were prepared to trial a different way of working. Their new approach would attempt to place the wellbeing of all New Zealanders at the heart of what they do, and it would indeed be a positive step forward if they were to genuinely achieve this.
Within economic development, we have been having similar conversations under the umbrella of inclusive growth – a concept that looks to advance equitable opportunities for economic participants, with the result that the benefits of economic growth are more widely distributed among all of society.
The hard thing with ideologies, much like wellbeing, which we quickly discovered while seeking to implement a range of new initiatives within our own organisation, is that it means something different to each one of us.
Whereas I might prioritise physical activity as being the key to my own wellbeing, somebody else's view of wellbeing might be better shaped by their relationship with the environment, or their own mental health.
What then becomes important when developing initiatives and processes is to know your audience well enough to be able to design and implement them in a way that suits the needs of the individual and takes into consideration what they perceive to be important.
For me, this concept of needing to understand your audience, to meaningfully engage, translates readily across the work we do on a daily basis at Northland Inc. We constantly engage with people and projects that sit across a range of sectors and organisations that vary from community trusts to commercial entities.
Each of the organisations and projects face different constraints and limitations when it comes to engaging and implementing the project, based upon the resources and capability they have, as well as the sector in which they operate.
When engaging, it is our responsibility to ensure we understand these and work with the project in a way that delivers value and outcomes for them, in their own time. For example, we don't expect a tourism or hospitality businesses to have lots of time to engage during December and January, when it is traditionally their peak period.
At a high level, the processes we follow when providing support to a project always remain the same, as consistency is key when it comes to delivering a service. However, we are cognisant that in Northland, all projects are not created equal and it is important for us that our processes are able to flex in order to accommodate the needs of those we work with.
For us, this way of working helps to ensure that the projects we work with truly meet the needs of those implementing them, without compromising their wellbeing, while being able to deliver sustainable benefits to the region.
An example of this is our approach to farming extension, which can be demonstrated with the Extension 350 project we are involved in. The project recognises that farming businesses need to be resilient, balanced and profitable among a raft of other things, especially given the challenges the industry as a whole is facing from a regulation and mental-health perspective.
The project focuses on delivering outcomes for the farmers involved, across three key planks – increasing farm profitability, improving environmental sustainability, and improving farmer wellbeing.
The project takes a tailored approach in which a consultant and mentor farmer works with a target farmer to develop an individual plan at an on-farm level, which is geared towards the individual needs of the farmer and the areas that they prioritise as being important to them.
This approach is proving to be an effective way of enabling individual business units to operate more holistically, while at the same time delivering greater benefit to both the economy and the environment.
Come and talk with us, and you might just be surprised to learn that by getting help working with your business or project, you could also significantly improve your overall wellbeing.
• Codie McIntyre is business analyst in the Investment and Infrastructure team at Northland Inc, the regional economic development agency.