Thinking of the Whole: An Intro to Systems Science

In early March Toi Tangata brought a Systems Science wānanga to Waikato, presented by Dr Ihirangi Heke, Dr Nina Scott, Chae Simpson and Diana Neru. The one day introductory workshop aimed to support and uplift the Waikato health promotion workforce by providing participants with the opportunity to gain a fundamental understanding of Māori systems science.

Hosted at the Link Community Centre in Waikato, the wānanga was well received with 23 people attending.

What is systems science?

Systems science comes from engineering and science methodologies and is a way of considering the whole as well as all of the parts. When thinking about nutrition and wellbeing, Prof Boyd Swinburn considers this to mean looking at the enabling environment for nutrition improvement as well as health behaviour and biological factors (Food Thinkers, 2017) and from this, we can consider whakapapa as a form of mapping genealogy. Dr Ihirangi Heke explains whakapapa as the organising system that arranges the various theoretical and practical concepts inherent in mātauranga Māori

Concepts of whakapapa and mātauranga Māori were considered, allowing participants to gain valuable insights around:

  • The practical application of analysing a system within a community.
  • Gaining an understanding of systems science from a health perspective.
  • Examining the kaupapa Māori planning tool, He Pikinga Waiora, which uses systems thinking as part of its framework and has indigenous self-determination at its core.
  • Looking at two interventions – Te Koahao health that has utilised systems thinking in its development and implementation phases.
  • Ensuring Our Prosperous Futures as Māori by Influencing Urban Design Diana Neru Healthy Families Waitakere Panuku Development is an urban development company. The Maori Stakeholder Roopu supported by Healthy Families Waitakere comprises local agencies and organisations in West Auckland working together and reconnecting their people to hauora, whanau ora and mauri ora. How does this fit with a Council Controlled Organisation such as Panuku Development? How may local Māori influence urban design in communities? Tātai Arorangi road maps and star charts supported our traditional navigation on seas. We are wayfinding, dreaming, discovering and designing toitu forever enduring innovations of nutrition and physical activity by embedding Maori Systems Thinking and Kai Māori Kai Ora to influence mataawaka urban environments. This workshop will give you the opportunity to enhance the system of urban design to ensure we live, operate and engage in our built environments as prosperous Māori now and for generations to come.

Some valuable points included considering the need to look at wellbeing through a Māori lens and the synergies with Maori and Pacific concepts. This included the importance of environment as part of the whole system.

  • Aligning a workplace to:
    1. Mātauranga
    2. Whakapapa
    3. Huahua tau
    4. Whaka tinanatanga