about vivian Hutchinson


vivian Hutchinson is a Pākehā from Taranaki, a province that circles a prominent mountain on the North Island of Aotearoa New Zealand. His European ancestors include the Hutchinson families of Fermanagh in Northern Ireland, and the McIntyre clan of Barra in the Western Isles of Scotland.

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 and economic development. He helped establish community-based employment sections within the Department of Labour, and he worked with several local authorities in the establishment of their enterprise development agencies. vivian has also worked with many New Zealand national networks in an effort to promote greater co-operation, collaboration and co-ordination between the different government agencies and community groups working in the employment field.

In 1994, vivian established the Jobs Research Trust in collaboration with other active citizens including Jo Howard, Ian Ritchie, Dave Owens and Rodger Smith. 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 www.jobsletter.org.nz.

In 1999, vivian was instrumental in calling together the New Zealand Mayors Taskforce for Jobs, which has 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

Matakite19750914_.jpgIn addition to his work in community employment and economic development initiatives, vivian Hutchinson 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 land rights and 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 Pākehā (European New Zealanders) to the world of local Māori, and to the history of land rights struggles and race relations issues. 

In 1985, he launched the Festivals of Co-operation, an annual gathering held at the Tauhara Conference Centre, in Taupo. It 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. These were usually five-day events full of small workshop sessions, and full group circle-sharings in the evenings. From 2002 to 2008, vivian established an eight-day annual retreat based on Dialogue circles, a process influenced by the research and 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 were also 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, vivian was invited to 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 which convened a series of retreats and workshops on the subjects of social innovation and entrepreneurship. 

Most of the Fellowship members continued their association for a further four years, to run 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. 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

The Community Taranaki Trust was established in 2010 as an initiative for fostering more active citizenship and generous engagement on important local issues.

The trust works closely with friends at Tū Tama Wahine o Taranaki to convene a Masterclass for Active Citizenship – Tū Tangata Whenua. This is a series of eight workshops and community conversations, held over a four month period, and aimed at building an infrastructure of public intelligence about how communities heal, awaken and thrive.

vivian Hutchinson has also convened a regular Social Innovation and Community Action Incubator – Ringa Pūrere, which supports people starting up new community projects, or looking to regenerate existing ones.

Community Taranaki also convenes a seasonal cycle of Taranaki Community Circles – Hui-ā-Hapori, in partnership with the New Plymouth District Council. These circles continue to be a gathering point for active citizens who are contributing to the social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing of our province.

In 2021, vivian published How Communities Awaken — some conversations for active citizens which was based on the sessions he created for the Masterclass for Active Citizenship.

awards for service

In 1999, the Jobs Research Trust www.jobsletter.org.nz won the Premier Award in the internet category of the NZ Media Peace Awards.

ACE-2021.jpgIn 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.

In 2020, The Masterclass for Active Citizenship was awarded the ACE Adult and Community Education Aotearoa Annual Award for Community Programme of the year in recognition of its impact on civic engagement, on race relations, and on wider strategies of adult education for the common good.