Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei


The Background

How can an iwi group build unity and togetherness with more than 6000 registered tribal members around the world? This was the question raised by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust (NWŌT) when they identified the need to improve communication and engagement between the tribal office and the whānau (people).

Research identified that more than half of the members were over the age of 12 and most likely own and operate either a smartphone, digital device, or computer daily. So, it seemed logical that a digital platform could provide the platform for an increased sense of belonging for the diaspora of this proud iwi.

The Challenge

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei (NWŌ) are one of the hapū (sub-tribe) from the wider Ngāti Whātua iwi (tribe) with approximately 6,000 members in Aotearoa and around the world. The NWŌT look after the collective affairs of the hapū.

The NWŌT engaged Enlighten Designs via a successful Request for Proposal to create an innovative digital solution that would help them: 

  • Develop a real-time and direct communication channel between the tribal office and the whānau regardless of location
  • Create an engaging hub for all community activities and events  
  • Consistently communicate all activities, plans, updates etc. with the community
  • Empower the hapū to engage and provide feedback
  • Provide access to information and applications for available grants
  • Bridge distances that situations like the COVID-19 pandemic created
  • Control notifications and urgent messaging for timely dissemination of information 
  • Propagate Te Reo Māori and other cultural resources

The Journey

Enlighten's extensive Discovery & Design process is structured to ensure that the user is at the heart of the solution while dissecting the problem and identifying the needs of all stakeholders to deliver an exceptional experience at the end.

Extensive user-research interviews were conducted with end-users – members of the hapū who would be using the app daily – to understand their needs. The outcome of these was an extensive list of features to build, highlighting the importance and need of making such avenues available to the community. After this, Enlighten completed a Features Prioritisation workshop with the NWŌT stakeholders to finalise the delivery backlog for the first iteration of the application. 

With all these in hand, the NWŌT had a complete roadmap of what the solution would be. 

The Destination

After the research and prioritisation, the wireframing and UX design process was initiated. Our Agile approach meant we could kick-off the development in parallel once these were validated by NWŌT. 

Xamarin is Microsoft’s free cross-platform, open-source, mobile application development toolset. Using Xamarin on Azure allows us to create a mobile application for both iOS and Android platforms at the same time in a cost-effective and efficient way, as well as provide a scalable and secure system with Azure. 

Other key features of the build phase included:

  • A distinct approach: Most of the app development happened through Covid-19 lockdowns as News Zealand went into a Level 4 Lockdown for the first time ever. Enlighten took it as an opportunity to support the whānau during those challenging times by delivering an Events Portal embedded into their current website. This way, the NWŌT experienced first-hand how technology keeps people connected; thereby, cementing their decision to invest in modern, digital solutions for the hapū. 

  • Regular engagement & check-ins: Enlighten prides itself on making sure the customer is part of the entire project every step of the way. With NWŌT, this helped ensure that their interests were maintained as we progressed with the development.

  • Being truly Agile: We worked in multiple two-week sprints to deliver the high-priority features, which could then be tested to implement any feedback. As a result, we were able to de-risk the project significantly and accommodate necessary changes  both in design and the code  without any extra cost. 

The Solution

The "Hono" app is not only a new and innovative way for connecting with the hapū, it is also a celebration of Māori identity, history, culture, and language. Since its launch in September 2021, it has become the first-of-its-kind, one-stop shop for the Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei members to connect with the hapū across the globe.

Hono has been extremely well received.

Our whānau are scattered around the world and having an easy way for them to connect with their hapū has been incredibly positive.

- Marama Royal, Chairman for Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust.

The main aim of the app was to improve direct communications between the tribal office and whānau in real time. It also provides a secure and friendly way for whānau to access their information and update details, apply for grants and programmes, etc. Indeed, the NWŌT marketing team were able to use Hono to communicate and advertise upcoming whānau events, information, and enrolment drives during the various lockdowns. Further, the Ahurea (culture) tab on the app promotes a deeper connection by featuring unique waiata (songs), karakia (prayers), and other cultural taonga (treasures) from the iwi.

Supported by tools, technology, and an innovative approach, Enlighten Designs’ people-first strategy allowed them to deliver a modern and engaging outcome for Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei. Currently, user uptake is approximately 500 members and growing.

Helping the hapū boost social bonds and a sense of belonging in their community, despite the distances, is just the beginning of this ground-breaking partnership.  Following the launch of the app, Enlighten continues to support Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei with a technical partnership. As the needs and behaviours of the whānau change, we are delivering improvements to the app based both on the original backlog of features as well as regular feedback from the end-users. This ensures that the hapū can be sure they stay connected.