New economic development agency leader up for the challenge

The Regional Economic Development agency has appointed Lucy Laitinen as chief executive. Lucy comes from a CE role at Anglican Care Waiapu and has also had several roles with World Vision.

The Regional Economic Development agency is another reincarnation of the region’s many approaches to boosting the economy, attracting and supporting businesses. It is charged with delivering on the Matariki regional economic development agency as well as having a role in the cyclone recovery. The agency is based in the business hub in Queen Street Hastings, alongside the chamber of commerce and other business support agencies.

What is your career background?
I came into my role after being CEO at Anglican Care Waiapu for the last six years, which is the social services arm of the Anglican Diocese of Waiapu.
I oversaw the organisation’s social service delivery and brought a strong focus on evidence-based interventions and social return on investment. I also drove a transformation in the way the Diocese thought about, and deployed, its financial resources for impact through its investment strategy, partnerships, and, most importantly, through its relationship with the Mihināre/Māori Anglican Church.

Prior to that I held several general management roles at World Vision NZ in Auckland and have also have experience in local government and a small amount of time in central government. I lived and worked in Finland earlier in my career (my husband is Finnish) and worked for the International Organisation for Migration, a UN agency, responsible for developing and funding projects across the Nordic and Baltic states on migration-related issues such as human trafficking, asylum, and labour migration. All of this has given me an eclectic experience and skillset but the common theme throughout my career has been a drive to make a measurable social impact.

What skills/expertise do you bring to the role?
I am comfortable working at both the strategic and operational levels, have a strong work ethic, and am known for getting things done. I am always keen to look for evidence and good practice, constantly ask the ‘’why’’ question, and will try new approaches and push boundaries where I need to. I have a strong moral compass and I am pretty unfazed by challenges. I have a lot of experience in developing relationships and working collaboratively towards common aims, which gives me a real buzz. This is important for REDA as we are going to be more of an enabler and connector, rather than an implementer. I love learning, too, which is lucky because role is so broad and there is so much to learn and so many people to meet in Hawke’s Bay.

What is your experience in economic development?
I did my Masters in Development Studies at the University of Cambridge many moons ago and that strongly informs my approach to economic development. There are a lot of strategies and approaches that can be put in place to achieve economic development outcomes but it is how those decisions are made, who makes them, for whose benefit, and how they interact with other strategies, approaches, and policy settings that is important. As an obvious example, we might want to drive the growth of our economy through building our local businesses but we will achieve little without ensuring our workforce has the appropriate skills, that there is affordable, healthy housing, good public health provision, and we manage the environment well. While I was at Anglican Care Waiapu
I led an investment strategy that prioritised environmental and social return alongside financial return. It was inspiring to work with businesses that are looking beyond just short-term profit to thinking how they can deliberately support environmental and social outcomes. We can learn a lot from a te ao Māori approach to the economy, which is by nature takes an inter-generational, inclusive approach.


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First published by The Profit. Click here to read the full article.