UNESCO projects

Launched in 2012, our UNESCO projects addressed a range of needs for youth with disabilities, and were supported by Government and philanthropic funding.

These projects supported young people 12-18 years to access knowledge and experience through social media as well as face to face training opportunities.

The UNESCO projects enabled us to disseminate significant personal and professional experience in leadership of youth with disabilities through experiences that involve young people as role models through film.

These online role model programs were aimed at multicultural audiences and have reached a wide range of learners. Early successes brought new demand, with some programs reaching a combined attendance of over 10,000 online learners.

Our Learning Program with Youth with Disability UNESCO [screenshot below] projects is accessible via the Ted.com platform!

Curriculum and link to the Youth leadership training online course [>6000 students!] 4 sections, 10 role model interviews/stories - 1h25 video contents.

Curriculum and access for the online course for parents of children with disabilities.

Conference presentations and publications:

  • Janson, A. (2015) Stories that build leadership in the disability sector. White paper commissioned by Manawanui in charge
  • Janson, A. (2015) Travel Safe: A guide for being out and about for people with intellectual disability. Available at: www.ihc.org.nz/sites/default/files/Travel-Safe-Guide_0.pdf 
  • Janson, A. (2014) New online resource for parents of diverse backgrounds with disabled children. New Zealand Diversity Action Programme, Human Rights Commission. 
  • Janson, A. (2013) Refugee storytelling project. In: Race Relations Report to the United Nations. Eds: Human Rights Commission. Wellington. 
  • Janson, A., Grosyeux, B., Baaijens, M., Janson, M. Mandelberg, J., Lim, S. and Janson, Y. (2013) From Autistic to Artistic: An artist's developmental pathway through the health and disability sector, UNESCO Observatory Ejournal Vol 3 Issue 3. 
  • Janson, A. (2013) Self Learning Resources for Teachers and Students, Diversity Report, New Zealand Human Rights Commission: Wellington.
  • Janson, A. (2012) Engaging multicultural at-risk youth in transition to tertiary education and the workplace. New Zealand Race Relations Report to the UN convention for Human Rights, Race Relations Commission - Diversity Research, Wellington: 111
  • Janson, A. (2011) Attitude, motivation and agency: The three pillars of transformational teaching for at-risk students, ANZAAE (Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Art Educators) Journal, 21(2), Available here.
  • Janson, A. (2011) Integrating curriculum into digital time, space and human dimensions. Agora. 46(3): 47-49.
  • Janson, A. & Janson, Y. (2011) Teacher resource: Including Special Needs Students in Visual Arts to Develop Key Competencies about Environmental Issues. Asia-Pacific Art Hub, UNESCO.

Examples of resources:

Shortcut to this post: https://tinyurl.com/UNESCOprojects

The model and framework that explain our impact

Theory of Change and Child Voice model:
Underlying the Impact of our Programs

1. Our Theory of Change 

These illustrations describe our leverage points in the system. For more detail on the Theory of Change categories click plumtree-learning-impact ... or point your camera at the QR code! 

2. The Child Voice model 

The model describes how parents and children can practice new roles and responsibilities that evolve with each stage of life. The model is child- and youth-lead. It starts with the end in mind: educate children to optimize their independence. It is crucial that parents start as early as possible to coach children in the art of making choices and taking decisions, and what this entails as they mature.

When children are very young, parents coach them through ideas and situations that are familiar to them – from choosing their clothes to buying chips in the neighbourhood café - to gradually increasing complexity and alternatives.

3. Our impact

Over the past 6 years, we have developed (see illustration below) a network of more than 2,200 families, educators, researchers, and professionals in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Finland, committed to supporting positive functioning for children with disabilities and their families. This network has formed from Now and Next, a peer-led, strengths-based program that fosters empowerment, agency, and wellbeing for families of children with disabilities. The program draws on a systems informed positive psychology perspective (Kern et al., 2020); has been developed in partnership with parents/carers, support professionals, and educators; is informed by a transformative theory of change; and has been successfully delivered across multiple cultures, linguistic, and socio-economic backgrounds.
Evaluations of our approach have shown positive impacts on families, children, educators, and professionals, including:
  • Participants using strengths-based language to continue learning from and interacting with other families as their child grows;
  • High levels of engagement from participants of diverse backgrounds;
  • Increases in families’ sense of empowerment, agency, and wellbeing;
  • High levels of children’s goal achievement;
  • Growth in engagement across the network, with high involvement in online and face-to-face training programs, parent-led conferences, and online resources.

Youth Leadership Development

Our research was noted for inclusion in the New Zealand Diversity Research Overview of Race Relations. This report is New Zealand's contribution to the UN Human Rights Convention.

Engaging multi-cultural at-risk youth in transition to tertiary education and the workplace.
Annick Janson,
Associate Researcher, Centre for Applied Cross-cultural Research, Victoria University of Wellington and Ecosynergy Group Ltd, Hamilton.

This research documents the factors that increase secondary school drop out rates. The research team surveyed and interviewed 25 youth educators and carried in-depth interviews with 25 young role models to analyse the coping mechanism effective against early risk factors.

Role models were New Zealanders of European/Pākehā, Māori, dual heritage and mixed ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds nominated for their achievements by a reference group of educators and youth workers. In interviews about their life choices and career pathways they related how the coped with early challenges and the lessons they learnt in the process. These role models would not normally interact with at-risk youth. They are only at the onset of their careers, hence not in the limelight.

Thematic analysis of the stories uncovered elements from three topics: strengthening identity through personal growth, Enablement through interpersonal development and Post-secondary transition mechanisms.

Narratives expand on how these young people coped with the stresses that characterise teenage years, peer group and educational environment in ways that allowed them to turn obstacles into strengths. Stories include for instance transforming tendencies towards obesity into sports championship or becoming resilient to negative peer pressure by developing a supporting alternative peer network. Obstacles are explained as inevitable parts of one’s pathway with descriptions of turning points (“you can get back on the waka at anytime if you find yourself straying away from your path.”)

The compendium of stories from these future transformational leaders forms a series of unique and inspirational audio-visual materials available to youth educators. View a trailer from these interviews below:

An interactive resource was developed with activities reinforcing the story themes. Youth workers will use this resource to help derail risk factors and increase youth involvement in educational and community-based extracurricular activities. The long-term aim is to support at-risk youth in developing goals that inspire them to shape personal opportunities in transition from secondary education. The resource is introduced by its ambassador - well known New Zealand singer, Kimbra.

The resource was elected to appear on the TedEd platform (screenshot below) and is available at: https://ed.ted.com/on/dP30NjkH

The resource is also featured on the UK Learning Exchange site (screenshot below).

The project run in partnership with AIESEC New Zealand and in collaboration with 40 schools and youth development organisations throughout New Zealand.  The project was funded by the Todd foundation. 

Peer learning and capacity building

Time to count up how many capacity-building workshops we have already run, with how many participants!

Co-designing youth leadership development - Citizen Youth

 Young leaders know what is best for them.


We offer programs and resources that provide youth with the tools and knowledge to achieve the best outcomes for themselves and their whanau.


Youth lead their own creative visioning sessions and craft individual and group goals. This process is novel, fun and engaging.


We maintain up-to-date information and resources to assist youth so they can make informed choices based on their inspiring vision. Our resources are designed and tested by and for youth and informed by best practice and evidence-based information.


We host online and face to face workshops for young people to uncover their leadership potential and try new strategies to design their own leadership development opportunities.

Young people learn to lean in novel relationships with the professionals in their lives – these new patterns are foundational to participants creating their inspiring future.

Our educational contents are evidence-based and rooted in positive psychology. They cover topics that increase youth capacity to actively and intentionally shape their future opportunities..

Education is transformative. When our youth thrive, our communities thrive.

Connection and support

We offer what every young person needs, a community - a place where they are not alone, where they continue learning from each other between our programme sessions and after they graduate. Through these channels, they learn about positive community participation.

Wellbeing and UN Sustainable Goals

During 2019, the Fast Track Inclusion Trust was supported by the Lee Reynolds Trust to explore how to seed wellbeing practices with young children:

The Fast Track Inclusion (FTI) Trust is committed to extending young people’s options for education beyond mainstream options. FTI is inspired by the 2016 United Nations universal call to action to increase human flourishing, end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. The UN described 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to grow resilient communities in a sustainable environment. Nestled within this inspirational future for humanity is children’s right to flourish and be happy.

The Mindfulness Journal Project enabled young people to gain an understanding as to how to increase self-care as they raise their awareness about the connection between our environment and our wellbeing, through work on these Sustainable Development Goals. Specifically, the project sought to extend options for education beyond mainstreams options in the following ways:
  • The Mindfulness Journals Project provides an interdisciplinary approach to learning about mindfulness and sustainability by inspiring concrete actions that address the goals. The Journals provide an educational framework that does not currently exist in schools. Educators who have piloted this project with students are excited at the impact it has had throughout this little rural school. The program has expanded the students' understanding of sustainability and inspired them to make actionable plans. This awareness and training in holistic and 'big-picture' thinking is valuable in forming well-rounded and thoughtful students who know about self-care and about being stewards of the Earth. Further, the contents addressed in this program include poverty and sustainable cities and communities-- as well as an environmental focus that supports the former.
  • There are alarming concerns about the wellbeing of New Zealand school-children with widespread increases in their anxiety levels and stress-related challenges. In 2013 Rebecca Appelhof conducted a comprehensive synthesis of the research examining the effectiveness of school-based programmes aimed at preventing suicide and building psychological resilience among school-aged children aged 4-18, for the purpose of implementing such approaches in the New Zealand context. Her review concluded that teachers encouraging mindfulness practices in schools has wide-ranging effects, from increases in working memory to lessening depressive symptoms, anxiety and mind wandering. These elements are core to helping children cope with the increased levels of stress that lead to the increase of anxiety that culminate in our elevated children and teen suicide rates.

We met the operational costs of this project and worked to further develop this educational resource to make it available to more schools and students. This program added value to the existing curriculum and activities teachers have in their schools by extending their teaching to incorporate their students’ wellbeing and flourishing. 

The Fast Track Inclusion Trust worked with a whole rural primary school with students (ages 5 to 10) and all its teachers. Furthermore, the wider community became involved as the children share their learning and personal action plans, involving more people in the steps they decide to take towards their goals. This included the students' whanau and the wider communities they live in.

The journals were developed in collaboration with a young professional award winning artist, who lives with Autism and Epilepsy. He wove together environmental topics and disability awareness, so that the Mindfulness Journals would also be accessible to students on the Autistic Spectrum.

1. Raised awareness about the Sustainable Development Goals, why they are important and how we can work towards them both individually and as a collective.
2. Inspired students (including students on the Autistic Spectrum) to take an interdisciplinary approach to understand the goals and propose actions that address them.
3. Raised wellbeing levels of the students through their strengthening their relationship with nature. 

Reference: Appelhoff, R. (2013). School-based programmes to prevent suicide and build resilience among students: a literature review and national stocktake. Canterbury District Health Board.

Last thoughts:
Every year, millions of people deal with mental illness, but less that half of them seek assistanceHelp a friend surmount the stigma and find help

2019 Planning the Te Uku Sustainable Journals project

Great planning meeting with our Chairperson Rob Akscyn this morning! We are finalising ideas around the Te Uku Sustainable Actions Community Project.

The project will drive a series of 130 Sustainable Actions through this West Coast community. These actions will be elicited through a connection between Art and Education. The Te Uku primary school will pilot an educational, interactive children's journal. The journal will inspire youth to explore their relationship with the environment through art, to start translating ideas into action and it is linked with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The project will encourage the students to choose actionable ideas and environmental initiatives through the expression of artwork that can be supported by the whole community.

The project has been developed from a previous series of artworks by Yaniv called "Please Do Touch". The "Please Do Touch" series is based on 5 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and represented the good and the bad - what would happen if the goals were completed and what would happen if they didn't. The series connected art, social issues, environmental topics and disability awareness - Yaniv lives with Autism and Epilepsy.

Since his exhibitions overseas, this project was re-imagined into an educational resource for people to learn and develop their own initiatives through art. Yaniv is a Raglan local, and has been successful in collaborating with the Te Uku school to pilot his journals and the project.

The journals have been developed in collaboration with Te Papa Museum. The Museum will coach the classes for the project to contribute to their upcoming nature exhibition, including a remote virtual visit of the Museum for the students during their project. The Te Uku School is very excited about this project which we would like to start in Term 2 this year, pending results of funding submission to the relevant funder.

Follow the project unfolding at: tinyurl.com/taking-action-unesco

Timeline for the New Zealand Now and Next Alumni peer network formation

The Now and Next Australasian Alumni was launched at the Sydney 2017 International Initiative for Disability Leadership. Program. In 2018 they helped the NZ Alumni start up:

1. March: First Now and Next programs sponsored by CCS Disability Action and ran in partnership with McKenzie Centre in Hamilton. This group launched the NZ Alumni and started acting to spread their learning with other families. At the outset of this group, parents created the Families Empowering Families organisation.

First NZ Alumni meeting
2. April: Hori Barton a father alumni and Peer Worker trainee presented with Trisha Benge, Manager, McKenzie Centre, Early intervention: Barton, H and Benge, T. (2018) Now and Next: A novel partnership between families and professionals. NZDSN Wellington

3. September submission to the 2019 ISEI conference
Benge, T. and Herbert, C. (2018) Family-led peer network: Translating knowledge across cultures [https://now-and-next-alumni.blogspot.com/2018/11/collective-capacity-building.html]

4. September: Journal article submitted for peer review:
Janson, A., Mahmic, S., Benge, T. & Herbert, C. (2018) How a transformational Collective Benefit Mindset experience prompted parents raising children with disability to launch a peer network.

5. October: Alumni presentation to practitioners and medical doctors during a study day: Husseini, M., Barton, H and Barton, R. (2018) Now and Next and its alumni, EIAANZ Study day, McKenzie Centre https://now-and-next-alumni.blogspot.com/2018/08/nz-research-launch.html?view=magazine

6. October: Launch of the NZ Peer Workers training program [http://now-and-next-alumni.blogspot.com/2018/11/nz-training-6-peer-facilitators.html]. Six Peer Facilitators in training from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities (CALD), amongst them 2 couples. These trainees will undergo a comprehensive training programme (Pictability visioning and planning, online and face to face facilitation training, participant-observer research introduction, online real time data collection and analysis). Two Peer Workers who contributed by volunteering with the child care crew. We have found that offering childcare for parents to attend the Now and Next program is a critical success element. A couple who had graduated from the first Now and Next program brought their daughter along and joined the crew, along with 2 staff from CCS Disability Action, in addition with the McKenzie staff. Contributing their Saturdays to help other parents benefit from the program is an awesome contribution!

7. November: Pictabilty Training Graduation of a group of 12 professionals and parents at McKenzie Centre [photo above]

7. November: Pecha Kucha presentation: Janson, A., Mahmic, S., Benge, T. and Herbert, C. Positive Parent Education for families raising children with disability: Supporting the emergence of a Collective Benefit Mindset. Presented at the New Zealand Association of Positive Psychology, University of Waikato, Hamilton: [https://now-and-next-alumni.blogspot.com/2018/11/nz-assoc-for-positive-psychology.html]

8. December 2018: The 2nd Now and Next group graduates

9. Feb-March 2019: Now and Next 3rd group

10. CEO IEP 3 meetings - implementing the Now and Next concepts and create new opportunities to build partnerships with professionals.

Last March meeting - participants gave this the highest ratings of all courses!
11. March: Presentation at the Good Start in Life committee 


Planning the 2019 Now and Next NZ Alumni series

On Monday 10 December, 7 of us met at the McKenzie centre to plan the first alumni series!

Parents were keen to understand how to implement the knowledge and skills learnt during the Now and Next program to get the best outcomes for their child as s/he transitions to school.

Parents pooled their ideas to provide feedback for the first alumni series:
  • Prepare early
  • Communicate your child's strengths, interests and skills
  • Use your Signature Strengths to plan for the IEP
  • Start with 3-5 goals, from Pictability or goals developed in other contexts
  • Educate yourself about how to best collaborate with educators 
  • Learn about curriculum and key competencies that teachers work with
  • Think practical ideas: what can be implemented at school that can be reinforced at school?

2017 EASPD Conference presentation in Montenegro - report

Dr. Annick Janson, co-creator of the Now and Next program presented at the Flourishing Lives: Supportive Communities and Sustainable Development conference. For more information about this presentation go to 2017 EASPD Montenegro Conference

1. The value of our relationship with EASPD

Reconnecting with past EASPD President (Franz Wolmayr) who I met at previous EASPD conferences I was invited to as well as Secretary General (Luke Zelderloo) I was reminded of the power of number. James Crowe, EASPD President speaks on behalf of about 15,000 service providers across Europe. I was also introduced to other executive members as well as the administrators and conference organizers. The Now and Next approach was saluted and got mentioned during the conference at multiple occasions. I am looking forward to building on our existing connections. 

2. Our first opportunities

a. Finland: we agreed to explore future opportunities, including an invitation for their 2018 peer conference, which we could plan with some training... Kirsi Konola who is also on the EASPD Board and Jyrki Pinomaa (President of Inclusion Finland and 2018 President of Inclusion Europe) are colleagues of Simon Duffy and they have already tweeted to each other that this was a meeting of minds. Jyrki is the father of two young adults with disability.

b. France: Bernadette Grosyeux also a member of the EASPD executive is interested in collaborating on a European project proposal. There is also the possibility of an invitation to present at a Paris 2018 social change conference – where Now and Next would have an important message to disseminate. 

3. Early intervention

a. The EASPD Early Intervention Standing Committee organised for a shared lunch with me during the conference. I have made contact with its head and will be sure to be kept in the loop with their projects. Now and Next is streets ahead of what they have accomplished till now. I have organised an Early Intervention email list for us to stay in touch with a group photo we took at the lunch.

b. EURLYAID [European ECIA] President Ana Maria Serrano is interested in the idea. She is also an organizer for the 2019 Sydney ISEI World congress so we will most likely meet again then.

c. Jean Judes, GM, Beit Issie Shapiro GM is interested in exploring further collaboration. We had multiple talks during the conference and there are numerous connection points between our approaches.

​d. European countries from the ex-Eastern block receive different funding allocations from their government, so some will be looking to apply for further funding to work with Now and Next.

These are exciting opportunities, which are staggered in time from next year. We have met people inspired by our philosophy!

Parliament launch for our State of the Sector report on Youth with Invisible Disabilities

Spectacular launch for our State of the Sector report on Youth with Invisible Disabilities at Parliament on Thursday 29 June!!

Dr. Annick Janson, Secretary, Fast Track Inclusion Trust, was approached by a group of organisations supporting youth with invisible disabilities and asked if she would author this State of the Sector report, which she did.

We had TWO ministers there: Hon. Nicky Wagner, Minister for Disability Issues (top photo with Trish Benge and Helen Gempton, McKenzie Centre and Yaniv, Robin, Annick and Melissa Janson) and Hon. Maggie Barry, Minister Arts Culture and Heritage (bottom right photos), and a host of personalities and supporters.

As the report is gaining traction, expect to hear more about it! To be followed...

Download the report here.

Building the innovation ecosystem to support the development of assistive technology entrepreneurship

Dr. Annick Janson was invited to the Science and Innovation commission at the Israeli Parliamanent. The meeting was held to mark the International Day for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The session was about encouraging entrepreneurship in the domain of assisstive technology. Chairing the commission was MP Uri Maklev: MP Ilan Gilon and Chaim Yelin also spoke. Dr. Janson explained the background for current assistive technology endeavours in Australia and New Zealand and their relevance to the local environment.

Yael Elstein, Director Technology Consulting Center, Beit Issie Shapiro introduced the topic outlining the significance of Government's role in nurturing the innovation micro-cosmos. Ms Elstein outlined that it is critical to develop more technologies to enhance the quality of life of people with disabilities, their independence and inclusion. Technologies are core to each person realising their potential. Elstein explained that 1.6 million people with disabilities live in Israel - close to 20% of Israel's population and that the number of people with disabilities worldwide is one billion. In her words, the main barrier for entrepreneurs to develop more assistive technologies is financing. This is why government support is needed. On the other hand, once developed, these technologies benefit society as a whole – for instance vibration, text-to-speech and voice activation technologies were first developed as assistive and were later adopted by mainstream. To conclude the meeting, the chairman of the Science and Technology Committee confirmed that a round table of all relevant government agencies, associations and organizations who deal with the issue will be established. This will benefit the general public at all levels: “it is our duty to work for it."

Our submission to the ENABLE Film Festival

The movie that we are submitting to the festival is about a collaboration between the New Zealand Human Rights Commission, a New Zealand Museum, our Ministry for Disability Issues, the Fast Track Inclusion Trust and an emerging disabled artist painter Yaniv Janson (www.yanivjanson.com). Our submission clip to UNEFF, just short of 5 min is at: https://vimeo.com/192076211

This collaboration is about raising awareness about the Sustainable Development Goals through the disability lens. These 17 ambitious goals for humanity were nominated as the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda. 

Yaniv has Aspergers' Syndrome and epilepsy. He wants to show the world that people with a disability are passionate about working on the Sustainable Development Goals and that he chose to raise awareness about them through his art.

The Please Do Touch installations unpack possible scenarios whereby 5 Sustainable Development Goals would not be pursued. The purpose of inviting the audience to interact with the art by touching and listening to it is to engage with the topic on as many levels as possible. This collaboration's UN webpage is listed below.

These most recent works of Yaniv Janson address issues of inequality and the issue of housing. 

His work asks us to look at the how people feel about their living conditions and what kind of options are realistically available to all people to ensure that everyone has adequate housing. 

Yaniv’s art draws the viewer in through the use of vibrant colour and then while he has our attention, simultaneously addresses the social justice of inadequate housing and poverty. 

Leafa Wilson, Curator, Waikato Museum, New Zealand

More information and links
Human Rights Commission's project page: www.hrc.co.nz/yaniv-janson
Fast Track Inclusion Trust: http://fasttrackinclusiontrust.blogspot.co.nz
Yaniv Janson: www.yanivjanson.com