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whakahaere organisation

Empowerment comes when people participate in the decisions that impact their lives. As part of re-establishing

tino rangatiratanga [self-determination] throughout Aotearoa New Zealand, we seek to respect every persons

mana motuhake [autonomy] within the organisational structure of the Learning Environment.  

SOil  taepu

The whole organisation grows from a healthy soil made up our Vision, Objectives and Culture. The Soil also includes the following organisational principles that inform decision making:

  • Healthy Relationships - We prioritise healthy and nurturing relationships.

  • Observation - We learn from ecological systems and indigenous wisdom.

  • Living Strategy - Our strategy is alive and moving, emerging from collective action and feedback. 

  • De-Centralisation - We avoid centralising decision making authority as much as possible.

  • Subsidiarity – Decision making power lies with those most closely associated with the decision.

  • Autonomy – Participants are enabled to make decisions and act with autonomy within their projects.

  • Self-organisation – Decisions with minimal oversight from a power-over body enable contextually appropriate self-organisation.

  • Cooperation - Deep collaboration and communication between all projects and groups. 

  • Power dispersal – Power is dispersed as much as possible to avoiding unhealthy consolidations of power. 

  • Adaptability – The organisation is agile, responsive and willing to change in response to feedback. 

Learning Environment Organistaion

“People can be themselves only in small comprehensible groups. Therefore we must learn to think in terms of an articulated structure that can cope with a multiplicity of small scale units.” 

E. F. Schumacher

This I Believe

tree  rakau

Our self-organising groups grow from this fertile Soil. What we call Trees are groups focused on  the strategic and cultural integrity of a broader project. Trees facilitate collaboration between Branches, and focus on factors that significantly impact the whole project. People in a Tree are generally passionate about broader strategy; and will act in service to the Branches.

Many Trees will be Business Units: sub-organisations owned by the Charitable Trust that exist to generate funding through the sale of products and services. This surplus funding is channeled into the Scholarship Fund to reduce financial costs for learners.

Other Trees are Working Groups that exist as non-income-generating teams, focused on completing specific work relating to the sustainability of the land and organisation. These Working Groups are sub-organisations funded by the Charitable Trust. 

Example: The External Communications Tree enables its many Branches to communicate with people and organisations beyond the boundaries of The Forest in a multitude of ways (website, newsletter etc).

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Learning Environment Organistaion

“The point is not to decentralise into completely autonomous units, because at that point you would no longer have a system at all, but rather, as in the living organism, to seek an optimal balance of functionally coherent units together with flexible coupling and decentralised communication.”  


John Duda

Cybernetics and Self-Organisation

branch  kaupekapeka

Branches are where the action happens! They are small, agile groups focused on specific projects. Branches form around Trees, and are all contributing to the strategic and cultural aims of the Tree as a whole. 


The majority of decisions within the organisation are made autonomously within Branches focused on particular areas of action. 

The Branches are the first places people engage with the Learning Environment - like birds, landing in the branches of a tree in the forest for the first time. People involved with the Learning Environment may be on one or more Branches, without being on any Trees.

Example: The Website Branch is a Branch of the External Communications Tree. The Website Branch is acutely focused on the website as a project, which is part of achieving the wider external communication aims of the Tree.

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Learning Environment Organistaion

“Autonomy and connectivity are not opposites, but rather complementary, something like dancing partners, continually modifying and adapting to each other in order that the joint system exhibits complex behaviors not possible by each alone.” 

Victor MacGill

A Complexity View of Three Māori Tribes

The Fungi that feed the entire Forest are communication and information sharing systems that enable effective collaboration between Trees and Branches

For many years, the members of the organisation have been collaborating while dispersed across Aotearoa New Zealand. This has been made possible by the efficient uptake of leading project management platforms such as Asana, Slack, GSuit and Zoom.

Virtual communication systems are supported by streamlined in-person meetings, dynamic group facilitation, and a readiness to receive and respond to feedback.

Fungi also includes our celebrations and events that bring everyone together are food and kinship, to share and learn.

Example: The External Communications Tree uses Slack to communicate, Asana to track and record tasks, and GSuit to store all information. When meeting over Zoom or in person, the Tree is guided by trained internal facilitators and streamlined decision making processes.

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Learning Environment Organistaion

fungi  hekaheka


[Humans] have ideals, visions, dreams, hopes and expectations that are based on the ability of imagination which helps [them] to go beyond existing society and to create alternatives for future actions.” 

Christian Fuchs

Cooperation and Self-Organisation

fauna  ngai kirehe

Apart from all the other wonderful creatures that inhabit the Learning Environment, the Fauna are people!

People are the life-force of our organisation, and the wellbeing of our people is our priority.

Humans cycle nutrients, information and inspiration throughout and beyond the organisation. People share conversations, develop relationships, and collaborate with each other to achieve collective visions. Through these collaborative relationships, the organisation thrives. 

We share our learning through socialising, conversation, feedback, professional development, reflection, inquiry and resource sharing. 

Example: The External Communications Tree is made up of six people who work in supportive, collaborative relationship with each other.

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Learning Environment Organistaion
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= a human!

So, our organisation is made up of many self-organising groups that collaborate to achieve collective Vision.

Through participation in autonomous decision making and cooperative action, members of the organisation are empowered and experience high wellness.

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Learning Environment Organistaion
Learning Environment Organistaion
Learning Environment Organistaion
Learning Environment Organistaion
Learning Environment Organistaion
Learning Environment Organistaion
Learning Environment Organistaion
Learning Environment Organistaion
The Forest

For more information on how this works economically, click here

For more information on Woven Rivers Charitable Trust, click here

And for more information about the ideas that are the foundation of our organisational model, check out our blog

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