Ara Taiohi, the peak body for youth development in Aotearoa New Zealand, commissioned this report from ActionStation at the beginning of July 2018.

From the brief:

“Wellbeing is a contested and culturally specific concept, and Ara Taiohi are keen to ensure that young people’s perspectives are woven into policy making and philanthropic and provider sector priorities around young people’s wellbeing.”

The engagement process was designed by ActionStation, and supported by Ara Taiohi’s stakeholder network.

Between 20 July and 7 August 2018, ActionStation gathered the views of more than 1,000 young people (aged 12 - 24) and a handful of youth workers and policy experts in this space about what youth wellbeing looks like in Aotearoa New Zealand.

We gathered these insights in three ways:

  1. A 28 question online survey answered by 1,045 young people

  2. 12 interviews with a diverse range of young people, youth workers and researchers with expertise in this space

  3. 16 rapid-fire workshops with 149 young people and youth workers


The online survey was hosted by ActionStation. It was open for 10 days from 19 July - 29 July 2018. It was promoted to the ActionStation and Ara Taiohi networks via email.

2601 people visited the survey and 1045 people filled it out. The average time to complete the survey was 14 minutes and seven seconds.

We offered participants the opportunity to go in the draw for a $150 supermarket voucher and a $150 donation to a charity of their choice for filling it in.

The survey had 28 questions:

  • The multi-choice questions and answers were based on research from the Ministry of Youth in 2010.

53% of people who chose to participate in the survey chose to remain anonymous.

We can see from backend data that 660 of the survey responses were filled out on a smartphone and 377 were on a PC or laptop. 48 were filled out on a tablet or ‘other’ device.

There were more than 4,000 open-field text responses and each one was manually coded by two different people.


12 interviews were conducted between 31 July and 7 August. The majority were conducted via Zoom, an online video conferencing tool. They ranged from 23 to 51 minutes. Three of the interviews were submitted via written text - one for accessibility reasons, two due to time constraints on the part of the interviewee. A wide-range of interviewees were approached via email and Facebook to ask if they would be part of the research. All interviewees signed an informed consent form.

All of the interviews were conducted by the same person, Ella Rose Shnapp - a contractor to ActionStation. Questions were standardised for each interview.

Analysis of the transcribed interviews was done by Laura O’Connell Rapira.


The workshops were 15 minutes in duration and were held at Festival For The Future at TSB Centre in Wellington on 28 and 29 July 2018. 149 people participated in the workshops in total.

The format of the workshops was a roundtable discussion with post-it notes and pens available for people who preferred to contribute to the kōrero by writing. Each table discussion had between four and 14 participants who were aged 10 to 54, with the majority (109) falling into our target demographic of 12 - 24.

Each table had one host and one note-taker who captured the insights on a laptop. Participants were asked to go around the circle and share their name, age and hometown. An open conversation was then held on the topic of youth wellbeing using the hauora model (e.g. spiritual, physical, mental and social wellbeing) as the basis for starting conversation.

Our approach to this research has strengths but we recognise areas for improvement - which we have outlined below.

Strengths of the research

  • The interviewer followed an informed consent process

  • Analysis of the transcribed interviews was done by a different person than the interviewer

  • The questions were standardised across both the interviews and the online survey

  • Three methods of engagement and insight gathering were used to enable a large number of participants

  • The full data set from the workshops, interviews and survey are available online for further analysis

  • The interviewees spanned a wide range of experiences and expertise

  • Two different people manually coded all 4000 of the open field text answers on the survey

  • Participants in the research came from all around the country with a good mixture of rural and suburban representation

Areas for improvement

  • There was no independent oversight, though external stakeholders with experience interviewing young people were engaged through the design process

  • The first interview recording on Zoom failed, however the interviewer did take notes

  • Multi-choice answers in the survey means potentially prescribed responses, though an ‘Other’ option was always available and these answers were manually coded and included in analysis

  • Males, people of colour, and young people from smaller towns were under-represented in the survey responses

  • Because the survey was online, we can’t validate respondents are who they say they are, and the prize incentive may have influenced their responses

  • The online survey mechanism also excludes young people without access to the internet or high enough levels of literacy to participate

  • The entire research and report writing was conducted in a very short timeframe of five weeks

It should be noted that ActionStation is a small, not-for-profit, community-powered organisation with limited reach and resources. We would encourage agencies with more resources to conduct more in-depth research and engagement with young people about their wellbeing. We found the young people we engaged in this process to be intelligent, articulate, thoughtful and conscientious. We would be more than happy to assist anyone wanting to undergo further research or engagement in this space, or provide the raw data for further analysis.

Who we spoke to

Of the three methods of engagement, we have the most demographic data available from our survey respondents. They were:

Gender identity  74% female  21% male  4% non-binary or gender diverse  Age  19% aged 12 - 15  36% aged 16 - 19  44% aged 20 - 24  1% didn’t say
79% Pākeha 14% Māori 7% Asian 4% Pasifika 1% African, 1% Middle Eastern and 1% Latin American 8% Other (including Aboriginal, American, Fijian Indian, Scottish)

Survey respondents came from all around the country with the largest numbers of people coming from Auckland (183), Wellington (151) and Christchurch (117).

At our workshops we spoke to 149 people and while we did not record their gender identity or ethnicity, we did capture their ages and hometowns.

Participants were aged 10 - 54 with 17 year olds making up the largest cohort at 18.8% (28 people). The majority (109) were in our target demographic of 12 - 24.

15 participants were over the age of 30, but those people either worked with young people, or were the guardian of a young person present at the workshop.

Workshop participants came from all around the country, with the greatest representation from Wellington (34), Auckland (10) and Whāngarei (9). Here is a word cloud that shows where participants came from:

The 12 interviewees consisted of:

  • A youth worker in sexual health

  • An English teacher who has experience teaching in the Far North and Auckland

  • A president of a student union in a small town, aged 19

  • A 23 year old artist and retail worker from Auckland

  • Victoria Trow, Support Manager of Rainbow Youth

  • A 23 year old community organiser with a disability

  • A youth worker with experience merging creative arts and youth wellbeing

  • Wumi Omokeodo, age 20, queer, migrant, Nigerian/Pākehā creative and activist

  • A policy advisor with expertise relating to youth, drugs and alcohol

  • A university student who lives in a small city

  • Two academic researchers with expertise in youth, civic engagement and wellbeing

Who we missed

As you can see from the survey results, we have more work to do to ensure we are hearing from young males and young people of colour, particularly those of Asian and Pasifika descent.

Due to the nature of the online survey, we think there is more work to be done to reach young people without internet access or those with lower levels of literacy and/or digital competency.

It is likely that the participants at the Festival For The Future workshops were young people who already have some sense of agency, because the event is pitched towards “future leaders and change-makers”. That said, organisers of Festival For The Future have been working hard to make the event accessible to a diverse range of young New Zealanders for many years. This year they gave 250 scholarships (ticket, accomodation, travel) to young people who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to attend from the Far North, Kawerau, Opotiki, Whangārei, Whakatāne, Palmerston North, Kāpiti and Greymouth.

The ethnic breakdown for the festival as a whole in 2018 was:

  • African - 1.4%

  • Arabic - 0.3%

  • Asian - 7.2%

  • European - 10%

  • Māori - 18.4%

  • Pākehā - 51.4%

  • Pasifika - 5%

  • Not listed / Other - 5.7%

Many of these young people were participants in our workshops.

As with any research there were limitations, such as budget and time constraints that meant we could not reach a representative sample of the population.