Using Performing Arts to Change the World: An Interview with Charlizza Harris

21 June 2017

Charlizza Harris is only 23 years old but she already wears many hats in her bid to make a difference for young Māori and Pasifika.

From being the founder and CEO of 2Face DRAMA and InOvation Trust, to serving as a Board member on MYD’s Partnership Fund Board, this young woman is determined to have a positive impact.

Charlizza Harris

Charlizza Harris

Charlizza’s iwi are Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Porou, Ngāpuhi and Te Arawa. She grew up in Maraenui, Hawkes Bay in a neighbourhood where gangs, drugs and violence were commonplace. When she was three years old, her dad committed suicide which motivated her young mum to become a social worker. Charlizza remembers her mum welcoming local teenagers into their home in order to offer them support and care, and credits this with kick-starting her interest in youth work.

“I was able to see first-hand the positive impact my mum had on their lives and this is definitely what sparked a passion for youth development in me at such a young age.”

Charlizza describes herself as a ’shy and quiet kid’ who fell in love with performing arts as her involvement in drama, dance and kapa haka helped her to overcome any anxiety she would face when talking to new people. She took part in The Lion Foundation Young Enterprise Scheme (YES) when she was 15 years old and this provided inspiration for establishing her own social enterprise.


2Face Drama performers

2Face DRAMA was founded in 2012 as a ‘for youth, by youth’ performing arts company that teaches young people how to turn their gifts and talents into a sustainable business. InOvation Trust was formed in 2015 when she realised that the name 2Face DRAMA wasn't broad enough for what the organisation was hoping to achieve.

“We formed InOvation Trust after receiving funding from the Ministry of Youth Development's (MYD) Youth Enterprise Fund. InOvation Trust is all about teaching the fundamentals of social enterprise and business development to Maori and Pacifica youth. The goal is to reach young people in a manner that they are able to recognise business opportunities that exist within their inherent gifts, talents, skills and abilities (performing arts),” she says.

During Youth Week 2017, InOvation Trust organised its very first national youth conference, The UnSpoken Word Youth Summit, which ran over four days in Waikanae. It aimed to help young Māori, or young people with Māori whānau, develop leadership and mentoring skills while tackling the important issue of youth suicide. MYD’s Partnership Fund contributed $20,000 towards this important summit. Charlizza was delighted with the level of involvement by young people and its overall success:

“All of the facilitators, speakers, MCs and leaders were under the age of 25 years; even the pōwhiri process was led by rangatahi. This was one of our biggest achievements as this conference was the first of its kind EVER and it was a huge success.”

Looking to the future, Charlizza believes that huge opportunities exist for young people in New Zealand and this is especially true for young Māori.

“I think that the world has an appetite for an authentic Māori experience and because of this, Māori business is on the rise. I think this is a huge opportunity for Māori rangatahi that want to move into the entrepreneurship space,” she says.

To this end, she’s excited to have recently been brought on board with the Young Enterprise Trust to co-deliver a new Māori Programme. She’s delighted to now have an opportunity to provide guidance and inspiration to future participants, describing it as ‘coming full circle’ from when she was a YES participant herself.

Charlizza has this advice for young people in terms of them having the confidence to ‘give it a go’:

“Kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui – be strong, be steadfast, be willing.”

It seems to us that this is good advice for anyone to live by; it certainly appears to have served Charlizza well and we’re excited to see what her future holds.