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  • Writer's pictureFiona Deehan

Case Study: Meitheal Ōtautahi - building connections for collective community impact

How can we support and grow those who are uplifting Irish community and culture in Ōtautahi Christchurch so that Irish community and culture here can flourish?

The Irish word ‘Meitheal’ means ‘a collective effort for the greater good of the community’.

Meitheal is an ancient Irish tradition of a group coming together for a common purpose and

working together and for each other to ensure that all succeed in achieving their goal. 

In September 2022, Rātā Foundation approved a funding application by Fi Deehan to initiate the Meitheal Ōtautahi project, a project to grow the capacity and capability of Irish community leaders in Ōtautahi Christchurch, helping them to collaborate and communicate well and therefore, strengthen the wider Irish community. 

The funding was approved under the Sustain funding area under the following priority:

Providing capacity building support to increase effectiveness of community organisations

The impact was beyond what we imagined, increasing connection, communication and collaboration and resulting in a sense of cohesion that hadn’t previously existed, growth in the community leaders involved and progress towards individual and collective goals.

  1. Cohesion “For the Irish Society exec, it has drawn us better together as a team. There is more capacity for listening, building and working together. A more cohesive exec that is seeing the common goals together.” “Without this project, we would still be sitting where we were 12 months ago - groups here and there, fractured. Now, we’re all together, we’re cohesive.” “Without this project, we’d still be in the same place as we were this time last year - no collaboration, disjointed effort, failing from different groups to organise towards the joint goals. Things would have stagnated and people would have lost motivation and momentum and potentially the interest, we’ve retained people. New projects are exciting but only if there is momentum or progress.”

  2. Growth in community leaders “Feeling braver about attending other group catch ups, future get togethers and collabs.”

“It has provided me with confidence in my ideas” “We’ve seen growth, encouraged development which has enabled the growth of individuals, all those attending.The June workshop, the sharing collectively, was a major turning point - we all lifted and grew together. That was a really powerful workshop.”

3. Planning and progress “The project helped me realise that developing CnaG Aotearoa into a functioning organisation with longevity and resilience will be a multi-year project, and that committing to making the necessary changes and putting in the necessary work does not need to happen immediately, but over a longer time-frame” “We have a development plan, that is measurable and that has been bought into by each of the organisation's members. This will guide us in achieving our goals incrementally over the next number of years” “Been able to hit some targets, drive our org forward, past where we thought we’d be in a short space of time. Have gotten further. Been able to leverage other people’s organisations to get more ideas. First thing was to put a strategic plan in place, which created accountability for action”

What did we do with the funding we received from Rātā Foundation?

The mahi (work) done between November 2022 and November 2023 has included: 

  • the co-ordination and facilitation of 5 large group cruinniú (hui/meeting)

  • the co-ordination and facilitation of 1-on-1 and 2-on-1 coaching/mentoring sessions with President and newly appointed Community Liaison Officer for Irish Society

  • hosting a Treaty education workshop with Network Waitangi Ōtautahi (NWŌ) in October 2023

  • setting up a Whatsapp group to facilitate ongoing proactive communication

The large group cruinniú (hui/meeting) have been made up a combination of:

  • whakawhanaungatanga over kai (process of building relationships over food) - the focus of this has been to get to know each other on an individual level first, to better understand each other’s connection to the community and what motivates them

  • facilitation of questions/listening to better understand each other’s organisations and motivations

  • learning about leadership, strategic planning and collaboration

  • vision, mission, strategic plan-on-a-page development

  • facilitation of innovation and ideation processes

While all activities above were impactful, it is important to highlight the value of the Treaty workshop. Comments from participants included:

  • “Really informative, great way to begin the education on Te Tiriti o Waitangi”

  • “An opportunity to learn and be curious in a safe space. An opportunity to reflect on your own culture and ancestors. Enlightening”

  • “Very good and good open conversation. Relatable to my own Irish culture.”

  • I would tell others...“to come along and get informed especially as new people to Aotearoa. Come and learn and understand about the history of The Declaration of Independence and how and why Te Tiriti came to be and is still a living document today. Come and learn in a calming and relaxing environment alongside other like minded people. Get to know each other and build relationships with one another.”

What does the future hold for Meitheal Ōtautahi?

We have secured some funding through the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs Emigrant Support Programme to continue these cruinniú in 2024 and 4 have been scheduled already.

The remainder of this funding is being invested in a programme to work with a small group of Irish community leaders to support them in their work to uplift Irish community and culture in Ōtautahi Christchurch. Meitheal Ōtautahi Leaders 2024 is a 3-4 month programme that will help them better understand themselves and how they work, how they can harness this knowledge to enhance teamwork, collaboration and communication, as well as provide some appropriate leadership tools and strategies. In addition, each group that is involved will have the option of utilising the services of a facilitator for set amount of time to work with them on a specific problem or project eg. strategic planning, role clarity, conflict resolution.

Who has been involved?

  • Christchurch Irish Society

  • Canterbury GAA (adult and children organisers)

  • Christchurch McKennas GAA 

  • IBNNZ (Irish Business Network New Zealand)

  • Friends of Ireland, Tara Trust

  • Irish Mammies NZ online community

  • Conradh na Gaelige Aotearoa

  • Representatives from Irish music collective

  • Individuals who are uplifting Irish community and culture outside of the groups mentioned above

How can you get involved or find out more information?

Contact Fi Deehan, Project Lead

022 676 8858


Rātā Foundation for funding

Christchurch Irish Society for support in funding applications

Leadership Lab (particularly Dr Chris Jansen) for inspiring this mahi (work) and being a sounding board during the planning process



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