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Te Whare Tapa Whā & Emotional Capability

Updated: Nov 2, 2022

I have been on medication for depression since 2014. In this time, I have been in and out of therapy, with mixed results. While the first lot of therapy did me absolutely no good, I was recommended to Paul Wedge, and working with him over a couple of years was massively helpful.

In 2018 we bought the Beach Haven house we now live in. It was around this time that I started to think a bit more deliberately about Te Whare Tapa Whā (Durie, 2017). My interest in indigenous (as opposed to industrialised, not as opposed to Western) ways of knowing had been growing, and this is a particularly accessible model, with the metaphor holding much of the meaning and the depth of it.

In 2020 we got Koda Dogface Poobum, and we started spending a lot more time in the parks near our home. The Beach Haven estuary has many bush-y walks by it, and at high tide even makes for a decent wade/swim. In the sun it is bright and cheerful, in the fog it is mysterious and brooding, and in the rain it is…wet. It always feels a little wild, though (just as the rest of Beach Haven seems to, heh heh.) With increased Work From Home, we also started spending more time at the cafe/pub on the corner. It really helped that quite a few of our friends live close by, and we are often meeting at the local, if not running into each other on the street.

And it has been increasingly occurring to me how much more *well* I have been in the last few years. I have had depressive episodes, but they have been less severe (non-suicidal) and haven’t lasted as long. And this has got me to thinking - the area that I struggle with has been in Taha Hinengaro - emotional and mental wellbeing. The areas I have been *strengthening*, though have been - everything else! Walking Koda makes me get out and about (Taha Tīnana), I have been spending quality, headphone-free time in the bush/water (Taha Wairua), and have been getting to know the neighbours and getting to know my friends and their families more closely (Taha Whānau). All of these have given me a deepening sense of belonging to this place, a sense I have rarely ever had in my itinerant life. I am a part of this place, and have a role to play - if just making the staff at the cafe a little bit happier after a cuddle with the dog.

The research literature has long made connections between a sense of belonging and mental health (Hagerty et al., 1992). What might a sense of belonging mean for growing emotional capability? *Who/where* do people working in innovation contexts feel that they need to belong with? Is it the innovation team itself? Is it a wider belonging to a tribe of innovators? Is it to the sphere or domain that they are innovating within? Is it even the customer/community they are innovating *for*?

As I prepare to start collecting data on emotional capability in innovation contexts, I can’t help but wonder - if Te Whare Tapa Whā has done so much for my ability to understand myself, what might it do for teams’? What are indigenous models that might help teams develop capabilities they need to do the work they do?

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