Keeping human potential in focus within the wider digital world.

Often we undertake study to learn for ourselves, to get skilled up so we can move into a new space or new role or climb the career ladder. But sometimes, we do it for something bigger than ourselves, what we are part of, our community, our iwi, our whānau.

Shazeaa Salim, champion for human potential.

That’s Shazeaa Salim’s reason, to find how whānau of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei can “draw from the digital economy to enable human potential to flourish.”

Shazeaa, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, works as the Collective Impact Projects’ Manager at Whai Māia Limited, the charitable entity set up by the Tāmaki Makarau iwi to support cultural, social and environmental aspirations for the hapū. And she carries out her role in servitude to the betterment of her people.

During a meeting of Koi Tū, The Centre for Informed Futures at the University of Auckland, as Co-chair of the Rangatahi advisory, Shazeaa heard Sir Peter Gluckman talk of the importance to realise ‘human potential’ amid this digital economy we are now squarely within.

And this got her wondering, what could human potential be in the context of a digital economy? Because human potential  is exactly what she is striving to do everyday for her iwi – “support them to be the authors of their own journeys, in whatever field that might be and drive prosperity for our hapū, our iwi and Ngāi Māori as well.” So she did what every digital savvy person does these days, Googled it.

That was her entry point into the Postgraduate Certificate in Human Potential for the Digital Economy. A long title that is also loaded with complexity and uniqueness, because what human potential looks like from person to person, community to community, can vary vastly. Yet when we boil it down, human potential is about thriving.

“…we have the opportunity to really utilise data – big sets of data – to navigate where and how we might go for the future of our people.”

For Shazeaa, she was drawn to this idea of human potential in the digital economy as it felt like a sweet spot for Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei. 

“When we think about the digital economy, how do we draw from it to really enable that human potential to flourish? For a long time [at Whai Māia] we have driven a lot of our programmes and services based on small interactions or interactions with our whānau. Now we have the opportunity to really utilise data – big sets of data – to navigate where and how we might go for the future of our people.”

Selecting the gems of knowledge you need

The learning experience for Shazeaa has been very departed from what she’d experienced in the more mainstream universities. For starters, as a mum of three under 4, flexibility was a priority. The weekly class sessions were all online so that made engaging much easier. But the flexibility in the context and outcomes has also been incredibly valuable. Despite being an NZQA accredited postgraduate level, the programme, like all others at Tech Futures Lab, is designed carefully to be malleable so it benefits anyone, no matter the industry, role or prior experience.

“It’s a lot different from your standard university. [This programme] allows you to dip in and out of parts of the digital economy, to really learn about its different parts and only take what you want. It’s exciting because you’re not bound to a particular field, or a particular subject at any point in time. What you’re enabled to do is just take what you need and apply it how you want.”

As a Māori learner, Shazeaa has felt supported to be her whole self and bring the mauri of her iwi into her learning. Through ManaakiFono, the Māori and Pacific support forum at Tech Futures Lab, Shazeaa connected with other learners and support staff on a cultural level to discuss and debate what was ‘on top’ for their learning. The forum is run in a Talanoa model which means it’s conversational, and enables a tuakana – teina relationship model to connect people across different programmes and cohorts for support, and to enhance learning.

Learning from others’ experiences

This model of ako, or reciprocal learning, carries through into the class sessions too, being explicitly realised by the diversity of experience, roles and industries across the cohort. In Shazeaa’s cohort there are PAs, project managers, consultants and CFOs and this broad range of perspectives and impacts adds real depth to her learning. 

“It’s refreshing to understand how the digital economy is applied not only to [these different] fields of work but also with the people that they’re working with, because that’s a massive learning in itself.”

And the programme doesn’t follow the conventional ‘lecturer – student’ model either. The digital economy is an ever evolving space, so it needs real-time practitioners working in this broad field to deliver the insights.

“We’ve had people that are professionals in their field. So we get real, life experience presentations that give us that interaction and space to bounce-off one another and ask questions of people who really know their stuff.”

“Undoubtedly, everything that I’ve learned in this course has supported and informed some of the decisions that we’ve made for Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei.”

Now Shazeaa has completed her formal learning journey on the Postgraduate Certificate in Human Potential for the Digital Economy she’s can look forward and use this valuable knowledge to bring out the aspirations she has for her iwi.

Shazeaa Salim is the Collective Impact Projects’ Manager at Whai Māia Limited, the charitable entity set up by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei to support cultural, social and environmental aspirations for the hapū.

The Postgraduate Certificate in Human Potential for the Digital Economy is a 32-week part-time programme designed to compliment busy lives, by expanding knowledge, encouraging engagement and deep consideration of the impact digital transformation is having on how we work and live. Learners on the programme are able to identify how emerging disruptive technologies can be harnessed to create flourishing, positive careers – either for themselves, within their communities, their organisations or wider industries.

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