Sitting down on a beautiful Whanganui morning to finish my 200th Glass Half Full column in this paper, I'm reflecting on the more than five years that has passed.
This opportunity to write about my views, with mostly an optimistic slant, arose after I withdrew from standing for Whanganui District Council as I was on the move to Taranaki, where I stayed for two years.
I'm just back from two days in New Plymouth attending some amazing social enterprise training with my old colleagues from Ākina Foundation, and staying with my former neighbour at her new place further around the mountain.
She and I have been through some big life changes in the past few years and now have both resettled into places with heart, community connection and are attempting to step more gently on the earth.
That's what I've trying to do over these past 200 columns – highlight the positive action already happening all around us, making it a little more accessible and less intimidating.
My move into social enterprise was partly triggered by this column.
Years ago I wrote about attending a wonderful retreat in Taranaki, spending the weekend at a marae with environmental activists – a standout memory is a banner that said "systems change, not climate change". It prompted some angst amongst an oil and gas client of my employers at the time and that got me thinking.
Life is short and I have a lot of energy to give – where should it go? And that's when, thanks to some serendipity, I came across the Ākina Foundation, just as they were recruiting for a communications manager. And that, as they say, is history. I attended their Launchpad event in 2015 and was hooked.
That's when I first met Levi Armstrong of Patu Aotearoa, who was one of my speakers at the Thrive Expo earlier this year. It was when I found tears welling when I heard Jeanette Searle speak about her initiative, Take My Hands, which won an award at this week's prestigious Sustainable Business Network annual event.
Now I have got an incredible team of trustees, special advisors, volunteer mentors, and entrepreneurs working as part of Thrive Whanganui to help us address challenges using the power of business for good. It's not all easy – big change is needed – but it is often fun and filled with inspiring people.
Social enterprise may be new terminology for some, but the concept of putting purpose at the centre of your business model and reinvesting profit into those aims is not new.
Many, particularly in the Maori world, have always considered impact, direct and indirect, in how they make their living. Sometimes it's been called triple or now quadruple bottom line and even ties into the four wellbeings, which are being reintroduced into the Local Government Act.
However, social enterprise is about a deeper positive disruption than that. A great example is Arcadia Lodge in New Plymouth, where we were generously hosted for our workshop this week.
On the outside, it looks like a charming stately 1900s home, now run as accommodation; however, it was set up in recent years by a faith-based trust seeking to create a place to support activities that strengthen communities – "a place of hard work, action and change".
Two examples are hosting an event welcoming LGBTQI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex) people to explore their faith safely, and as a base to support former mayor Andrew Judd's peace hikoi.
On the wall they display a korowai made up of 800 wrist bands worn by the walkers and 10,000 pieces of wool to reflect their online support.
Closer to home, I'm a fan of Ellen Waugh's work with Whanganui District Council's town centre regeneration, facilitating social enterprise opportunity. Our newest café in a container, The Common Ground, is due to open in the next week on Ridgway St.
Thanks to support from Urban Vision, the café will offer fair trade coffee, a supportive work-readiness programme for youth, and donate its profits to local youth projects.
There are bigger scale projects happening around New Zealand too, and I've recently written four case studies in the latest Pure Advantage report, Financing the Future (www.pureadvantage.org), about impact investment success.
Even more momentum is happening – there are many more sustainable success stories to share.
Nicola Patrick is a councillor at Horizons Regional Council, works for Te Kaahui o Rauru and leads a new social enterprise hub, Thrive Whanganui. A mum of two boys, she has a science degree and is a Green Party member.