vivian Hutchinson QSM is a community activist and social entrepreneur based in Taranaki, New Zealand.  He supports projects and activities that have the potential to make a fundamental difference to our social, economic, environmental and cultural challenges.

employment activist
vivian Hutchinson has been one of the pioneers in community-based action for jobs in New Zealand, especially in establishing programmes for the support and education of unemployed people.

Since the 1980s, he has been involved in establishing an variety of practical training programmes for the out-of-work, leading community workshops and gatherings on the future of work, and promoting positive community action on employment issues.

vivian worked for seven years for the Salvation Army, managing their community employment programmes in the Taranaki region. He went on to become a founding trustee of the Taranaki Work Trust, and part of the team that created the innovative Starting Point Employment Resource Centre, the Skills of Enterprise Business Courses, the Enterprise Centre and New Venture Workshops.

During this time, vivian was also involved in securing national and local government support for employment initiatives. He helped establish community employment-related sections within the Department of Labour, and he worked with several local authorities in the establishment of their economic development programmes.

vivian has also worked with many New Zealand national networks in his efforts to promote greater co-operation, collaboration and co-ordination between the different agencies and community groups working in the employment field.

In 1994, vivian joined with Jo Howard, Ian Ritchie and Dave Owens to establish the Jobs Research Trust. This led to the creation of The Jobs Letter, a community-based media project which published essential information to help communities create more jobs and reduce unemployment and poverty. The Jobs Letter was produced every 2-3 weeks from 1994 to 2006. vivian also designed and managed The Jobs Letter Website at, which in 1999 won the Premier Award in the internet category of the NZ Media Peace Awards.

In 1999, vivian was instrumental in calling together the NZ Mayors Taskforce for Jobs, which worked to ensure that no young person under 25 years will be out of work or training in our communities. This network quickly gained over 95% of the country’s Mayors as members. The Mayors Taskforce secured a partnership with the New Zealand Government to work towards a national goal that all young people under 20 years in New Zealand will be “engaged in appropriate education, training, work, or other options which will lead to long term economic independence and well-being.”

In 2001, vivian established The Employment Catalyst, a philanthropic fund for employment initiatives, which had the backing of The Tindall Foundation. This fund provided matching funding for employment initiatives throughout New Zealand that have been inspired by the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs.

As a Community Adviser to the Taskforce, vivian worked with community groups, Mayors and local authorities in establishing youth employment and apprenticeship programmes. This work has led to a fresh approach to youth transitions from school-to-work, community case management, and youth mentoring ... all designed to “stay in connection” with young people until they are on a positive pathway of employment or further training.

cultural and social entrepreneur

In addition to his work in community employment initiatives, vivian has also been a cultural entrepreneur creating network gatherings and learning communities for New Zealanders "working for the common good”.

While still a teenager, he got involved with indigenous human rights issues, and worked with Dame Whina Cooper to create the 1975 Maori Land March. This protest hikoi (from Cape Reinga to Parliament Grounds in Wellington) significantly raised the profile of land rights issues in New Zealand, and eventually influenced the establishment of the Treaty of Waitangi Tribunal.

Also in the 1970s, he worked with Auckland community activist Betty Wark to establish hostels to address the growing numbers of homeless people in the city. 

In 1978 vivian started running gatherings at Parihaka Marae in collaboration with Taranaki Kuia Matarena Marjorie Rau. These gatherings were a way of introducing Pakeha (European) people to the world of local Maori, and to the history of land rights struggles and race relations issues.

In 1985, he launched the Festivals of Co-operation which brought together community-based activists from a wide variety of service sectors from employment, environment, health, justice, race relations and peace issues.

In 1989, these Festivals grew to become the Heart Politics gatherings which continued to be run twice a year for the next 20 years at the Tauhara Conference Centre, in Taupo.  These five-day events are run using the "open-space" style of workshop sessions, small home groups, and full group circle-sharings (whaikorero) in the evenings.

From 2002 to 2008, vivian led an eight-day annual retreat based on Dialogue circles, influenced by the writings of the physicist David Bohm. These gatherings were a way that large groups of people could explore the deeper arts of thinking together. They led to the establishment of the Stewardship Learning Community which has been a way of fostering the literacy and practice of "stewardship" amongst active citizens, public servants, community organisations and businesses.

vivian has also toured and has spoken on employment, economic and social justice issues in Australia, the United States, Britain, and China. In 2005, he was the first New Zealander to be invited as a speaker at the Adelaide Festival of Ideas, where he gave a presentation on Healing Unemployment, and participated in panels on community activism.

In 2006, the Jobs Research Trust launched Changemakers, a local citizenship development strategy where participants are encouraged to come together in home-based learning groups to practice inquiry and dialogue skills, and to support one another in making a practical difference. This led to a series of experimental gatherings and workshops over the next few years exploring how to create a citizen-based approach to community development initiatives. 

Also in 2006, vivian become the Executive Officer of the Social Innovation Investment Group, a coalition of private philanthropists and community leaders who wished to foster social entrepreneurship in New Zealand. This group launched the New Zealand Social Entrepreneur Fellowship, a three-year learning community during which vivian convened a series of retreats and workshops on the subjects of social innovation and entrepreneurship.

After the original NZSEF term was completed, many of the Fellowship members continued their association for a further four years while also running a series of Auckland-based Masterclasses aimed at a group of younger community leaders and change-makers. In 2011, vivian was invited to become a keynote speaker at the regional Social Enterprise Summit held in Hong Kong where he also helped to lead a Masterclass for social entrepreneurs from Hong Kong and China. And In 2012, vivian published “How Communities Heal — stories of social innovation and social change” which features the personal stories and projects of the NZSEF Fellowship, as well as the tools and ideas that have made their projects happen. 

community development initiatives

In 2010, vivian established Community Taranaki, a development initiative for fostering more active citizenship and generous engagement on local challenges. This initiative has three main activities: 

A Masterclass for Active Citizenship, which is a series of eight workshops and community conversations, held over a four month period, aimed at building an infrastructure of public intelligence about how communities heal, awaken and thrive; 

a Social Innovation and Community Action Incubator, which has been created to support people starting up new community projects, or looking to regenerate existing ones; 

and Community Circles, which are held every three months, gathering together active citizens from a wide diversity of sectors, activities and passions.    

awards for service

In 2001, vivian was presented with a Kea Award from the Minister of Social Development and Employment, in recognition of his work for New Zealand as a social entrepreneur.

In 2004, he was given a Citizens Award by the New Plymouth District Council.

In 2006, vivian was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal for Community Services (QSM) in the New Zealand New Years Honours, in recognition of his work in race relations, social justice, job creation, and philanthropy.