22 Apr 2018

Imagining Pacific Prosperity through Magnitude 7


Last week, the inaugural Magnitude 7 was held inside of Te Papa Museum. A pre-accelerator programme where aspiring entrepreneurs can learn about experiential design and the future of work in technology, culture, heritage, and business, Magnitude 7 is all about enabling Pacific people to see possibility beyond the realm of reality.

A curious name for a programme indeed. Its meaning derives from Magnitude being the unit used to measure the luminosity of stars.  At Magnitude 6, stars can still be seen by the naked eye.  At Magnitude 7, they can only be imagined.  Magnitude 7 pays homage to the pursuit of discovery by ancient Maori and Pasifika celestial navigators – they aimed for the stars that no one else could see, traversing huge oceans using only their intuition, traditional knowledge and deep connection with the natural environment

I am very familiar with the team at Mahuki who run Magnitude 7. Having spent almost half a year with them as part of the Mahuki accelerator, they are more family than friends at this point. Led by Tui Te Hau, the General Manager of Mahuki, they are a well-oiled machine that knows how to extract, inspire and cultivate creativity.

With the first Magnitude 7 being held here in Wellington and my insight into the overall Mahuki experience, I was tasked with finding teams and individuals to enter Magnitude 7. Where does one start when looking for participants for a programme like this? Based on what Magnitude 7 signifies I knew that more than anything I wanted visionaries who could bring leadership, perspective and a team.

So, my search began with some handy leads thanks to my good friend Holly Norton of Collaborate. I reached out to some Pacific Leaders through the Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards, various university students associations such as Otago University, Victoria University, Massey University, AUT and the University of Auckland. Through various social media posts, site visits and phone calls, I located and arranged for 5 teams, consisting of 23 people, to attend the Magnitude 7. Coupled with a special team scouted by Richard Taurima in PBT Auckland, we finished with a total of 26 people over 6 teams.

From Year 13 High school students in Invercargill to university students at the University of Auckland, the group was a handpicked mix of Pacific leaders representing the brightest futures of the South Pacific. Their fields of interest and study included politics, psychology, law, commerce, poetry, accounting, fine arts, musical arts, business, and science. This gathering of Pacific people was reminiscent of upcoming ensemble film – Avengers: Infinity War.

With our teams selected, our Pacific leaders came and awkwardly stirred inside the foyer waiting for the call into the beautiful Mahuki working space. Once they had introduced themselves, it was straight into the work.

Tui led the first-day events where the teams were given various challenges to help stimulate their own creative thinking and team dynamic. From designing goods for aliens to pitching the use of mystery products, teams were forced to think outside the box and challenge their own pre-conceptions.

Through Day Two, teams built on their first-day learnings by developing their own lean canvas. Mahuki staff, Priscilla Loong and Sulu Fiti, continued the deep dive into the teams’ creative solutions helping them keep their commercial benefit in mind. Before we knew it, the clock had struck 5pm on Friday and the end of Magnitude 7 had arrived. With a prayer, some new Magnitude 7 t-shirts and a retelling of what ‘Our Story’ is, we shared our lessons and stories once more.

One of the highlights came from the Back of House Tour of the Te Papa Pacific collection. Bear in mind that I have had this tour on 3 separate occasions. Usually, the Te Papa curator will show us some highlights of the collection talking about what the object is, how it was used and its significance to Pacific culture. This time, however, with such a strongly connected Pacific group, we had members of the group share the significance of some of the items being shown to us. They added their connection to the items through their own personal stories. It was powerful, encapsulating and authentic.

Observing as the Pacific Business Trust, I could not be prouder of seeing some of our Pacific leader’s step into unfamiliar territory and still produce such phenomenal results. Through all the unfamiliarity and uncertainty of the last two days, there was this sense of family, belonging and connection. It filled the room with every interaction. Through handshakes, discussion and laughter. This was Pacific culture on display. Allowed to thrive in a safe and a collaborative environment, it was a beautiful thing to behold.

The future for Pacific people is bright. Never has it been brighter. Like Magnitude 7, it is being imagined by our Pacific leaders of tomorrow. Some of whom, I have been blessed to share a room with this past week. Watch out world. Here we come.

Jaemen Busby


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