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How we do it: Projects

The Kūmara Awards:

A celebration of Placemaking in Aotearoa

Project Overview

Kōre te kūmara e kōrero ana mo tōna ake reka
The Kūmara does not speak of its sweetness…but others do!

The Kūmara Awards, co-designed by Catalyse as part of Placemaking Aotearoa, celebrate the exceptional work of community placemaking leaders in Aotearoa. Starting in Auckland in 2020, the awards have expanded to more regions, recognizing and honouring outstanding local projects. With a comprehensive judging process involving experienced local panellists, custom trophies, celebratory videos, and memorable ceremonies, the awards foster a stronger network among community builders. The Kūmara Awards aim to raise awareness, extend impact, and inspire others to emulate and innovate based on their peers' achievements. Each year, the awards strive to improve and engage a wider audience, encouraging individuals and communities across New Zealand to actively contribute to their environments and give back to their home places.

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The Kūmara Awards were initially created to recognize five exceptional placemaking projects in Tāmaki Makaurau. The purpose of the awards extends beyond acknowledgment. These awards aim to celebrate the achievements of local placemakers and to inspire others to follow in their footsteps, building upon their innovative ideas. The ongoing mission of the Kūmara Awards is to shine a spotlight on the immense value that effective placemaking has brought to all of Aotearoa, showcasing its numerous benefits to the wider community.


Growing Reach and Nominations:

  • The awards have experienced significant growth, expanding from 5 nominations in 2020 to 46 nominations across three locations in 2021, and further to 80+ nominations in three locations in 2022.

  • Participating regions secure funding for local coordination, allowing for wider participation and representation.

Effective Communications Strategy:

  • A comprehensive communications strategy is launched, building upon the successes and challenges of the previous year.

  • Communications efforts include the announcement of nominations, postcards, collective network outreach, social media campaigns and an accessible nomination form.

  • Winners' videos from previous years are used to showcase the impact and accomplishments of past recipients.

Comprehensive Judging Process:

  • A well-designed judging process is implemented, categorising projects based on their strengths in different areas of placemaking.

  • Distinguished local judges are assembled to review projects and reach a consensus on the shortlisted nominees.

  • Winners are selected, and celebratory videos are produced to honour their achievements and foster networking opportunities.

Evolution of Awards' Design and Production:

  • Custom trophies, certificates, and collateral are created to reflect the evolving nature and goals of the awards.

  • The design and production process adapts each year to align with the changing focus and objectives of the Kūmara Awards.


  • Rapid Growth: The number of nominations is consistently doubling each year, indicating increasing recognition and participation in the awards.

  • Expansion to New Regions: Other regions beyond Auckland, Christchurch, and Wellington have shown interest in hosting the awards, demonstrating the project's growing influence and appeal.

  • Extensive Social Media Reach: In 2022, the Kūmara Awards achieved a total Facebook reach of 90,365 and an Instagram reach of 22,829, leveraging the cumulative networks of past winners.

  • Media Coverage: The project received press coverage in reputable platforms such as Scoop, Our Auckland, Heart Hutt City, and Healthy Christchurch, among others, further amplifying its visibility and impact.

  • Diverse Winners: The awards have recognised a wide range of impactful projects, including community activity hubs, urban farming initiatives, co-design projects, urban accessibility improvements, youth-led activities, cultural development projects, innovative cultural teaching initiatives, and sustainable environmental projects.

  • Testimonials Highlighting Value and Joy: Testimonials from winners emphasise the support, recognition, and value that the Kūmara Awards provide to their work. The awards not only validate their efforts but also bring a sense of joy, fun, and playfulness to the serious work of building a better future for all.

    These achievements and testimonials demonstrate the positive impact of the Kūmara Awards in recognising, supporting, and inspiring individuals and projects that contribute to community placemaking in New Zealand.



1. Emphasising Local Flavour: We have discovered the strength of allowing regional hosts to add their unique touch to the awards. By embracing local perspectives and approaches, the awards become more representative of the diverse placemaking efforts throughout different regions.


2. Broadening Awareness: The term "placemaking" is not universally familiar, and we have realised the importance of expanding our outreach efforts to engage individuals who have been involved in such work but may not recognize it by name. By broadening the scope of our messaging, we can raise awareness and invite a wider audience to participate.


3. Ensuring Sustainable Funding: Organising an exceptional celebration for award recipients requires substantial resources. We have recognized the need to explore sponsor funding to ensure the continuity and growth of the Kūmara Awards. Securing financial support will enable us to maintain the quality of the awards and expand their reach to benefit more communities.

These key learnings and insights have guided our approach to refining the Kūmara Awards, fostering regional representation, broadening awareness of placemaking, and securing sustainable funding to continue celebrating and supporting outstanding community builders.

Next Steps

1. Securing Funding for 2024: Our immediate focus is to secure funding to resume the Kūmara Awards in 2024, continuing the recognition of outstanding projects in our existing regions. We are also exploring the possibility of highlighting national award recipients, which would further amplify the impact of the awards.


2. Expanding Reach through Year-Round Communications: To foster ongoing engagement and awareness of placemaking in Aotearoa, we aim to enhance our communication efforts throughout the year. By consistently sharing inspiring stories, updates, and resources, we can build a strong platform that showcases the local placemaking initiatives and encourages wider participation.


3. Reassessment and Enhancements: The Placemaking Aotearoa group is convening to reassess various aspects of the Kūmara Awards. This includes a review of our collateral, award designs, thematic explorations for 2024, and adjustments to the awards calendar to ensure a seamless and impactful rollout.


By securing funding, expanding our reach through year-round communication, and continually refining the awards' elements, we aim to create a lasting and influential platform for celebrating and supporting placemaking in Aotearoa. These next steps and follow-up projects will contribute to the continued growth and success of the Kūmara Awards in promoting vibrant and thriving communities throughout New Zealand.


Calling all New Zealand Placemakers!

If you are passionate about Placemaking or know individuals in your community who deserve recognition, we invite you to get involved!


To learn more about the Kūmara Awards, visit the dedicated Kūmara Awards page on the Placemaking Aotearoa website. There, you'll find valuable insights, updates, and information about the next edition of the awards. Join us in celebrating the remarkable contributions of local placemakers and be part of the movement to create thriving, vibrant communities across New Zealand.

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