It is with profound sadness and sense of loss that Village-Connections records the unexpected death of Raewyn Good. Raewyn was hospitalized with severe back pain on Thursday last week, and while in hospital, developed a severe infection. She died in the small hours of Tuesday, 2nd December, 2008.
Raewyn worked for the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) as Project Advisor and policy analyst, and for the Social Policy Evaluation and Research Committee (SPEaR). She represented MSD at the University of Canterbury Centre for Social Science Research (SSRC).
Raewyn was the quintessential un-bureaucratic bureaucrat, an exceptional and effective networker. She wove connections within, and between, community, social science and official policy. A key to this, along with her extensive personal network, was a knowledge society approach that looked for innovative policy development methodologies that could overcome policy silos by connecting across boundaries and sectors and countries.
She had the rare ability to identify and support innovative connecting concepts, and innovative connecting people.
Raewyn’s academic background was in social anthropology and public policy. She was an acute observer. She took time to learn Te Reo Maori, and lived and related well to people from diverse cultures (especially Samoans and, more recently, new settlers – newly arrived in Aotearoa New Zealand). She had enormous empathy, particularly with women who had suffered in abusive relationships.
She made constant efforts to ensure the rich but often unheard voices of diverse communities were heard and taken seriously at policy levels and in publications. Many at the social policy conference in 2003 will recall hearing Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Taisi Efi (currently Head of State of Samoa) In Search of Meaning, Nuance and Metaphor in Social Policy and in 2005, Professor Mason Durie’s presentation, Race and Ethnicity in Public Policy: Does it Work?
In terms of Village-Connections project, Raewyn’s support, from around 2002, has been crucial. Raewyn took an immediate interest in the initial St Albans community web project, seeing its potential for inclusive community development, after viewing a CD of the project in 2002. Later, after viewing – with a small audience – Hazel’s narrative research film, The Silent Connectors, she recognized its potential for inclusive and innovative community building.
Raewyn subsequently supported Hazel’s application for a doctoral scholarship to research a new methodology that utilized communications technologies (web and film) for this kind of development. She gave ongoing encouragement to complete the doctoral thesis, and to present at conferences, and to apply for a BRCSS post doctoral award.
Many in government and academia say they want innovation, but in practice, they often do not recognize it, and if they do, in practice, they run a mile from it. Raewyn genuinely wanted innovation and recognized innovative practice and did what she could to support and implement it.
Raewyn was truly authentic and her approach to social policy development was totally based on authentic care about developing a truly inclusive society, by weaving and building connections from the flax-roots through to the top-level decision-makers.
Raewyn would have wanted this kind of connecting to continue. Hers will be a hard act to follow but we should try.
Your personal experiences and comments about Raewyn, and/or about some of the issues and principles raised in this blog, are most welcome.