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Oh the places you’ll go

photo of Gabrielle O'BrienGabrielle O’Brien
CEO, Birthright New Zealand

Last weekend I had the privilege of attending the official opening of Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in Wellington, the culmination of a project in which I have been a participant (albeit a minor one) for the last ten years. 

Outcomes are a familiar word to all of us in the community sector, and as I reflected on the outcome that has been achieved in the creation of this peaceful and beautiful place of remembrance, I also reflected on the journey.

Ten years ago, the plan was to build a park that would be split by State Highway One and that would require this busy road to come within 10 metres of our local primary school.  As then Chair of the school Board of trustees , along with the Principal and my fellow trustees, I  found myself embroiled in several years of discussion, dissent, and many hours of meetings and learning (who knew reports on the effects of traffic pollution could be so fascinating….or so long?!).  It would have been very easy and was sometimes tempting to just give up.   What kept us going was our strong sense of responsibility to the current and future children and families who attended our school and adjacent pre-school, being part of a wider community that supported  us and the knowledge that those that the park encourages us to remember , deserved better.

I don’t kid myself that we can take the credit for the final outcome.  So many influences played a role in the eventual decision to create the Arras Tunnel and the creation of the space that we have today.  Some of those influences were global, some national and some local but I take pride in the fact that if we hadn’t had the conviction, the energy and the commitment, these influences may not have had the time or opportunity to be absorbed.  So what will I take from this experience into the future?  Here’s my top three:

  • What seems impossible at the time, isn’t necessarily impossible in the future.  If it is important enough, keep working to find a way.
  • Relationships are key – sometimes this includes new, unexpected and even unlikely relationships that you could never have envisaged when you started out.
  • We can plan outcomes both for the short and the longer term but we should also remember that the best outcomes sometimes evolve along the way and invariably the most effective are those that have the benefit of diverse and extensive input.

But maybe we should all just remember Dr Suess as we navigate our way, he says it so well.

“You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.” ― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!