Individual and community wellbeing

Increasing wellbeing through mindfulness, creativity and fun

Our community wellness project aims to enable and empower diverse communities across Aotearoa to increase their wellbeing through mindfulness practice. We will facilitate workshops using an evidence-based positive psychology collaborative methodology. The project kaupapa is to explore the connection between art and wellbeing.

These workshops will allow participants to connect to each other as they practise and build wellbeing using the PERMA model developed by Dr. Seligman (see his video clip here). The PERMA model of wellbeing is an acronym for  Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Achievement. 

The PERMA model of wellbeing outlines five key measurable and evidence based pillars for flourishing. Specifically, the PERMA model supports participants to develop: 

  1. Positive emotions as the building blocks of mental health and wellbeing
  2. Engagement through contributing their expertise to their communities
  3. Relationships that matter help strengthen the foundations onto which to develop their identity within their whanau
  4. Meaning-making through recognition of their contributions by community members
  5. Achievements as the self measures of evaluation of one’s activities.

Participants reflect on what makes them feel positive, engaged, connected, purposeful and accomplished. They collate their stories and experiences in a workbook (see table of contents in image below) designed by Yaniv Janson, a young artist on the spectrum, who developed this methodology in collaboration with artists and social scientists who use the PERMA model. 

Example Activities:

  • Creating space to understand what brings feelings of positivity

  • Asking the reader to dive into what brings them meaning 

  • Planning goals

Reference: Seligman, M. E. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.


I want to say again Yaniv, the Colour Me Happy class is outstanding! The way this class brings people together over a series of weeks for social interaction while learning is just perfect. [Selwyn Cooke, Facilitator, Disability Employment]

Workshop flyer


Touch New Zealand

Touch New Zealand is an innovative project which inspires audiences to act on social and environmental sustainability topics through their personal stories. It invites audiences to engage more deeply through art and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 
  • This installation launched in Paris with CreativeNZ funding and was sponsored by MFAT to represent New Zealand at the New York United Nations HQs.
  • The project was presented at the Auckland Art Gallery in May 2022 and is planned to travel to Te Papa next year.
  • Have a peek inside the colouring book here!

Enhancing community wellbeing

Chuffed to be soon launching our community wellness program which will be carried out over 2 workshops (3 hrs each).  Raglan Naturally is fully onboard and has also encouraged us to submit an application for seniors wellbeing.

Participants learn about contemporary positive psychology wellbeing models and co-design bespoke self-improvement interventions. They apply an evidence-based flourishing model (image below) to increase their wellbeing by implementing a range of practices. Participants identify their character strengths and harness them to plan novel ways to contribute to their community. These novel channels for participation and contribution will enhance social connectivity.

This project builds on our decade of psychological and educational expertise working with people to foster community wellbeing through creativity and environmental sustainability. 

Participants use creativity to carry out acts of leadership in their families and communities as they explore the connection between personal wellbeing and social and environmental sustainability. 

Research has demonstrated that our mental health and wellbeing are impacted by: 
1.  Social factors: through activities ranging from contribution to community to leadership
2.  Environmental factors: through addressing issues such as climate change anxiety, a relatively new phenomenon arising with climate change discourse. 

Hence self care is intimately related to their concern for their communities and their environment. Building resilience and robust mental health involves building the capability to recognise when attention needs to be focused on wellbeing and practising the purposeful activities that build these skills.

I don’t want the program to end!! Not because I think more information needs to be covered or that I haven’t learnt to do this process on my own, but because it has been such an enjoyable experience. One of the highlights of the program has been going on this journey with other people and seeing how much we all have in common but also how different the experience of the program has been for everyone. Everybody has been so honest and open in sharing within the group and we have all learnt so much from each other.

My husband and I really enjoying the program. We are having good conversations about future plans/goals - which is something we have not really done before. I feel like our mindset is changing a little bit each week. And the constant feeling of overwhelm which we have become so accustomed seems more manageable. It's like we have found a little bit of calm amidst all the chaos - which is so nice.  

This has been a great learning experience for me, not ONLY benefit for my son Jett, the family more importantly empowering myself as an individual person and parent. The course provided a platform to shifting daily busy life focus, from coping reactively to a pause thinking and making plans proactively for themselves, kids, family etc, by introducing tools such as [...] Signature strengths, wellbeing PERMA and mindfulness exercises leading to more meaningful daily actions. Overall I'm so grateful for the course which reminded us so much that we have the power to make a difference to our wellbeing by taking positive actions daily. HIGHLY recommended 

 Soon to update with exciting news! 


The importance of peer-support

Our recent participation in peer-support and peer-mentoring conferences:

It was an inspiring experience to meet so many like-minded colleagues and start new collaborations! In particular, I loved the discussions about identifying common challenges and designing solutions to trial - radical implementation.

It was a pleasure to spend these few days with Drs. Sternberg and Maskit and plan future research projects and publications.

E-learning projects recap

 In summary, the e-learning projects we have led so far are:

  • The virtual role model course showcased by the UNESCO. These e-learning 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. Some were accessible via the platform.
  • The E-learning employment storytelling project: used as a training program for volunteers in not for profit organisations.
  • The Migrants and Refugees with disability storytelling projectshowcased in the 2013 New Zealand Race Relations Report submitted to the United Nations by the Human Rights Commission.
  • The Peer Learning You Tube channel (>240,000 views) which groups applied educational research and social innovation materials. Over 16 hours of video, across over 400 interviews We study the impact of video material on individuals and organisations who want to effect change. This channel is an online repository of our research material in video format. 
  • The DairyNZ e-learning system contains 177 videos. The material hosted in this digital library has been collected and designed to share specific knowledge within DairyNZ and with DairyNZ stakeholders. This online prototype is designed to offer online support for Consulting Officer training programme which they can access and share with dairy farmers to support their work. 
  • The travel safe collection of videos and its companion workbook guide, to teach young people with disability the basics of keeping safe in their communities.
  • The Australian and New Zealand Royal College of Psychiatry Family Therapy online course, the first of its kind at the Auckland and Waikato District Health Boards, New Zealand. This course was one of 3 compulsory courses in psychology that psychiatrists consultants took as part of their program.

Keys to Lead Youth Leadership Development programs

 We are stoked to confirm that we're just facilitated 2 youth leadership development programs in partnership with Tararua REAP. Details of the Keys to Lead program are here

We collect data before and throughout the workshop about participants goal setting and achievement, empowerment, hope and wellbeing. 

Programme description and impact

  • Participants: 21 participants over 2 groups.

  • Demographics: ages ranged from 11 to 23: 11 girls and 10 boys.

  • Types of Goals: Most frequent goal types were Health and fitness (45.5%), Education (18.2%), Skill building (18.2%), Career (15.2%) and Cultural and community (3%).

  • Key learnings: Participants learned to:

    • Create an inspiring vision for their future.

    • Formulate the long term goals that will enable them to achieve their vision.

    • Craft short term goals for each long term goals that they prioritise during the program

    • Identify their “signature strengths” and understand how to harness them to achieve their goals.

    • Unpack their short term goals using our Goal to Action bespoke framework - which extends the SMART goal method.

    • Understand the components of wellbeing and how to improve their wellbeing and life satisfaction.

    • Use the Keys to Citizenship framework to create their good life and situate their present and future goals.

    • Integrate the aforementioned elements into an “All about Me” dashboard which offers a quick overview of how to support their positive learning and how to best support them to achieve their goals.

  • Participants outcomes: 

    • Engagement with the workshop facilitators and materials: 9.3 out of 10.

    • Short term goals achieved: Participants achieved an average of 80-90% of their goals

    • Psychological variables: Participants reported increases in empowerment, hope, wellbeing and life satisfaction from their baseline levels to the end of the program. These increases are statistically significant. 

We are planning to carry out more programs soon!! Watch this space.

UNESCO projects

Launched in 2012, our UNESCO programs addressed a range of needs for youth with disabilities which promote gender equality. This suite of programs, 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 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: 
  • 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:

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:

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. 

Success story capacity building

Presented as a success story at the Auckland SDG conference! Thank you to Olivia our trustee who presented on our behalf!

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:

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 []

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

6. October: Launch of the NZ Peer Workers training program []. 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: []

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