If you plant a seed

Gemma Major Stuff Seed Waikato.jpg

The Waikato Story, 19 March 2018

If you moved to a new city and you were aged between 18 and 30 where would you go to make new friends? Find a mentor? Seek direction in your career? Maybe you’d join a sports team, but what if you’re not sporty? Maybe you’d find a live drawing class, but what if you’re not arty? And how do you find a mentor when it’s already becoming too hard to make friends?

Seed Waikato started when two young people who were new to the Waikato sat and asked each other these questions. 

After recently moving to the Waikato, Gemma Major and Ryan O’Conner went on RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership) camp in April 2016. He was from Christchurch and she, Australia.

They started to talk about what it meant to be a young person in Hamilton and in the Waikato. Cue the above questions. This discussion led the pair to wonder if there were others in the same situation. So, they started a Facebook page. 

The Facebook page grew to a regular cafe meeting at Milton’s Canteen until the numbers got so big they had to move to Good George and then, slowly, it got too big for that venue too. That’s when, Major said, they realised this was something people wanted.

“So then we started doing one on one interviews with people to see what problems they were facing, what they wanted to happen for them, what their goals were and then, from that, formed Seed,” Major, the now general manager/chair of Seed Waikato, said.

“The mission is about connecting and growing young people. It’s super exciting to be a part of it… it’s volunteer led, we are an incorporated society. We have lots of dreams in terms of ‘what next’. We’ve been given community grants from the Ministry of Youth, they gave us $10,000 last year, which was huge for a brand new organisation.”

She said Seed officially became an incorporated society in May 2017.

“Between May to September we worked with businesses in a pro bono capacity to deliver the first event. It all came together. D.V. Bryant Trust was our first funder, they gave us $3000 right off the bat and their leadership on that then attracted everything else that followed.

“It’s a small operating budget, but because we understand the problem and we propose our solution we know it’s going to work.”

She said Seed’s committee was now made up of 10 people.

“We are all from different spaces and places and ethnicities. We all have different roles within the committee.”

Major also works full-time at Momentum Waikato so has to get her Seed work done after hours and during the weekend.

“People ask me where I find the time. I like to think of myself as a time hacker, I think if you’re passionate about something you just make time work for you. I see the vision and the future.” 

Now, Seed Waikato is a place young people can go to get direction. 

“It’s about supporting and empowering young people to be the drivers of change. What’s big for us is saying we recognise some problems in our community, in our CBD, in our region, but we’ve decided we would like to be part of the solution and so we are going to work together to make that happen. It’s about owning it and saying ‘I can play a role in changing that’.

“The vision is a region where young people thrive. Our mission is to facilitate meaningful connections and growth opportunities for young people. We’re focused on building community, improving wellbeing, pushing for growth - that’s defined in your own way, you could be growing in your ability to be a stay at home mum, you could be growing in your ability to be a volunteer, you could be growing in your ability to climb a corporate ladder - that as a culture is really important for us. The last thing is about creating accessible and real connections, creating space that facilitates that. 

Seed runs inspirational story telling events every month and their website is becoming the home of young culture. 

“Currently we have a catalog of bloggers that are from the region. They’re passionate about politics, wellbeing, volunteering, leadership, resilience, and they just blog about that stuff from their perspective and experience.

“We are also getting a groups component going on the website as well which looks at profiling all of the great groups that already exist in the region. For us it’s about figuring out what’s missing, what does Seed actually need to do?”

Major said there were many great groups in the region so she wanted Seed to act as an umbrella to showcase these and help young people find their place.

“Seed won’t necessarily be for everyone so there’s groups like Hamilton Young Professionals, The Hustle, Flint, Let’s Lead and The Creators, but there’s no place to access that information, it’s kind of just word of mouth. We want to be a bit of a hub for young culture in terms of online.

“We are creating online resources from our inspirational story telling events; we get three local leaders to come in and share their thoughts on a particular topic and their brief is to be as vulnerable and authentic as they can when they get up there.

“These are CEOs of this, that and the other, or young budding social entrepreneurs and the stories that they share are very unique to our space and often they’ve never shared them before. We are capturing them on video as well because we realise our 18-to- 30-year-olds are a mix of ambitious and dormant ambitious. We want to make sure this content is getting to a wide variety of people, so over the next year we are really going to build out the resource component as well and perhaps partner with some bigger organisations to deliver some really awesome content.”

Major said one of their most important goals was growing the voter turnout of 18 to 30-year-olds and seeing greater civic engagement.

“Imagine what might happen if you did have a really vibrant, energetic, inspired, connected and growing collective of young people? It just is the most exciting thing.”

If you’re interested in going to one of the monthly Seed Waikato events or want to find out more head to www.seedwaikato.nz