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In 2018-19 we ran a community project called Tauiwi Tautoko (non Māori in support of Māori). We did this in collaboration with Dr. Emily Beausoleil from Victoria University, Wellington. Tauiwi Tautoko was an experiment to see how we could best engage with people who were leaving racist comments in the comment sections of news sites and Facebook. We were wondering if there was a better alternative to either stepping away from those difficult conversations or going into virtual fist fights.

We equipped volunteers over the course of ten weeks with evidence-based listening and messaging techniques to have more caring, thoughtful and informed interactions online.

The techniques used in the programme are informed by experts in restorative justice, values-based messaging, and active listening. And by Māori values of aroha (love, breath of god), manaakitanga (the act of uplifting someone’s mana/spirit, generous hospitality and care), whanaungatanga (relationship building) and whakarongo (intentional and reflective listening in the spirit of peace).

If you are curious to learn what happened when our volunteers used these techniques, you can watch this half hour video with Dr. Emily Beausoleil talking through the research findings.

Dr Beausoleil continues to host online meetings with the volunteers who have been through the TT training. They share articles that need measured voices, refine the practice and come up with new ways of being effective in online spaces.

The way ActionStation has taken the learnings forward is to run simplified versions of TT work in support of different campaigns. We’ve done this so far with our economic fairness-, Māori wards- and the Mātariki public holiday campaigns. The focus now is for our volunteers to leave entirely new comments often based on tested messages so we control the narrative from the start and we’re not just reacting to what our opposition wants to talk about.

The tautoko volunteers lead with something personal, as showing your vulnerability/humanity changes how people respond to you. They might then follow up with a vision of what they’d like to see happen. The overall message influences the reader to engage from their most pro-social values such as compassion, justice, equality and self direction among others. When we get on a news story early we have an opportunity to set the tone and flood the comments with supportive messages.

If you would like to check out some of the learning materials used in the Tauiwi Tautoko project, check out our resource library.

We look forward to continuing to walk the tautoko path with you when we come together for our webinar series.

2021 Update: Tauiwi Tautoko has become a charity in the hands of a community that is carrying the kaupapa forward, toward a decolonised and equitable future for Aotearoa. Check out the website.

Bright Colorful Flat Illustration Virtual Gathering Instagram Post