Spark
Foundation

Our mission is to accelerate towards digital equity.

About the Spark Foundation

Spark Foundation was established in 2011 and is the charitable organisation for Spark New Zealand. Spark Foundation’s vision is that no New Zealander is left behind in a digital world and its mission is to accelerate towards digital equity. It does this by focussing on three strategic pillars: Digital access, digital skills and pathways and digital wellbeing.
 
Spark Foundation funds people and community groups that are working on initiatives that align with its strategic priorities and vision. Most, but not all, are youth focused programmes that serve and support the next generation of digital leaders.
 
The Foundation is a charitable trust with a Board of Trustees, including independent community representatives and members of the Spark team. The Foundation has a values-based community engagement model, based on the values of Tūhuno, Whakamana, Māia, and Matomato.

In the year to June 2021, the Spark Foundation invested $1.18m in partnerships that support digital equity.
 
The Foundation is also a founding member of the Digital Equity Coalition for Aotearoa (DECA).

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Digital Equity

It is estimated that up to 1 in 5 New Zealanders may be experiencing digital exclusion in some way, and we understand approximately 200,000 households do not have access to the internet.
 
Our digital equity efforts are guided by the Government’s Digital Inclusion Blueprint, which identified four elements of digital inclusion – motivation, access, skills, and trust.
 
We recognise we cannot solve this challenge alone, and we have developed meaningful partnerships across the community sector and industry to drive long-term change.

To learn more about our commitment to digital equity click here.

Skinny Jump


Skinny Jump is a heavily subsidised wireless broadband service for people who find cost a barrier to getting connected.
 
We're partnered with the Digital Inclusion Alliance Aotearoa (DIAA) to deliver Skinny Jump as part of its national Stepping UP digital literacy programme, and over 300 DIAA community partners provide Jump to the community.
 
Skinny Jump is a highly flexible prepaid scheme with no contracts or credit checks, plus a free modem. 15GB of data is provided free each month, and costs $5 for 30GB thereafter – up to a maximum of $25 for 150GB a month.
 
With our partner Ciena we are providing Jump at no cost to low-decile school students during 2021 and 2022.

Go to the Skinny Jump homepage


Partnerships


Spark Foundation has a proactive and strategic philanthropic approach. This means we don’t operate a set funding submission date but proactively work with people and organisations who are creating impact and change in the areas of Digital Access, Digital Skill & Pathways and Digital Wellbeing.

Around 80% of our funding goes towards multi-year partnerships with the remainder offered as smaller grants and seed funding. The majority of our investment is towards youth with focus on supporting the next generation of Māori and Pasifika digital thinkers.

Our current partnerships include:

Digital Access

Digital skills and pathways

Digital wellbeing

We are also funders of PACE: Porirua Access Connectivity and Education.

If you want to chat to the Spark Foundation team about funding, please send an email to sparkfoundation@spark.co.nz and provide a bit of information about you or your organisation and how the work you’re doing supports digital equity.


Meet the Spark Foundation team

 

Kate Thomas

Kate Thomas
Spark Foundation Lead

Kate has been Spark Foundation Lead since 2018. Prior to this she was Head of Customer and Insight for Spark New Zealand and has had an extensive career in the marketing and communications sector.

Kate has worked for not for profit and community groups on a voluntary basis since high school and has enjoyed being able to immerse herself into the philanthropic sector through this role. She is particularly interested in sustainable business models, community empowerment and exploring different methods that purposefully disrupt traditional governance, delivery and evaluation.

When not at work, Kate can be found honing her negotiation and debating skills with 9-year-old son Leo. Kate was born in Kirikiriroa (Hamilton), studied in Pōneke (Wellington) and now lives in the suburb of Owairaka in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) with husband Andrew, Leo and Scout the whippet.
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Heni-Paku Sharp
Community Engagement Lead

Heni joined Spark Foundation in January 2020. She has a background in legal, spanning more than 15 years. She's passionate about connecting communities, creating safe spaces alongside them to explore and ideate their own initiatives relevant to them.

“Trust and tūhonotanga (connection) are important to me. Spark Foundation values community voices and leadership. I love being part of a very passionate team who bring a multitude of skills and expertise on this journey together.”

When she’s not in this space she’s indulging in the quiet of her rural sanctuary in Waikato. She's a māmā to her 9 and 10 year old - committed to their Reo Rua (bilingual) learning, their fur babies, and nurturing her creative interests with husband, Andrew.
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Mary Churchward
Programme Lead

Mary has come back to the Spark Foundation whānau from 2 ½ years away exploring new adventures. “It’s good to be back, it was meant to be. This has been my most rewarding role to date and I’m very blessed to be able to be here supporting our communities, backing them, and helping their voices be heard”.

Within that time away, she delved into different industries but more so, focused in on other parts of her life. Her love for fitness and mental wellbeing and more time spent with her aiga (FOE – Family Over Everything). As a side hustle and hobby, she’s a Coach and one of her favourite lines is “No Rep”.

Mary has 20 years’ experience in Operations, Project and Administration Management. She originally joined the Spark Foundation whānau back in 2014 as the Operations Lead. Mary’s passion is simple: Be kind and be generous. “It’s an honour to be in this role. It has made me the happiest being able to give back to our communities. I believe many hands make light work and that together we can help everyone in Aotearoa unleash their full potential."
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Ania Kopanicka
Treasurer, Spark Foundation Board

Ania joined Spark Foundation in May 2021 and as well as doing the Treasurer role she continues her main role as Finance Business Partner at Spark which she has done for 4 years looking after different portfolios within the Customer Tribe.

“I am lucky enough to have this opportunity to be part of Spark Foundation and see and hear first-hand all the great work that’s being done in our communities”.

Ania has 10 years’ experience in the Financial Industry and is a qualified Chartered Accountant and part of the CA ANZ Institute. Prior to joining Spark Ania held Finance Business Partner roles at Sovereign, ASB Bank and BNZ.

When not at work, Ania can be found enjoying the outdoors with her 2-year-old daughter, husband Brendon and labradoodle Lexi. Ania was born in Poland and has been in New Zealand (Auckland) since she was 9 years old.

The Spark Foundation Board

 

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Andrew Pirie
Chair

Andrew worked in corporate relations for Spark NZ from 2012–2018. He was responsible for Spark's external communications, internal employee communications, and engagement with key stakeholders including government and community groups.

Andrew is one of New Zealand's most experienced communications professionals with an extensive international background. He returned to New Zealand in 2008 after more than a decade overseas as Asia Pacific head for Weber Shandwick, one of the world’s biggest PR consulting firms.

In recent years Andrew has acted as an advisor for significant New Zealand companies including Fonterra and Auckland Airport. His industry experience spans a wide range of sectors including financial services, aerospace, technology, property, healthcare, energy and tourism.
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Stacey Morrison
Trustee

A New Zealand media personality for more than 25 years, Stacey is motivated to inspire others, especially in the Māori community, through the platform that her career in radio and broadcasting has provided. She is an advocate for education.

She's also been extensively involved in the charitable sector. Supporting learning is where Stacey's passions and the Spark Foundation's objectives converge. Stacey works to champion Te Reo and active learning inside the home; alongside her husband Scotty, has co-authored a book 'Māori at Home: a guide for everyday families'.

Stacey draws on her extensive experience in the charitable sector as an Ambassador for several organisations including the children's charity Variety, NZ Breast Cancer Foundation, Water Safety New Zealand and formerly as a UN Goodwill Ambassador.
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Lotu Fuli
Trustee

Lotu has extensive governance experience as an elected member of the Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board of Auckland Council since 2013 and has been the Chairperson of the board since 2016.

She is proud of the many initiatives she and her board members have championed, including the establishment of the Youth Council, waste management programmes such as Neat Streets, building community connectedness and inclusion through the Diversity Forums and Festival and providing facilities that her community can thrive in. These include Te Puke Ō Tara Community Centre, OMAC, the Clover Park Community House the local libraries and swimming pools.
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Vanisa Dhiru
Trustee

Vanisa holds commissioner roles with the NZ National Commission of UNESCO and the Library & Information Advisory Commission, and advisory roles with NGOs and government agencies.

During her career Vanisa has held various leadership roles including CEO of Volunteering New Zealand, Executive Director of 20/20 Trust and President of the National Council of Women NZ. Based in Wellington, she is a member of the BMW Foundation Responsible Leaders Global Network, and the Manawatū regional Te Aho Tāmaka Leadership Programme.

Vanisa's key achievements include being listed on the "50 Women of Achievement 2016"; supporting a NGO delegation to the United Nations in 2019; and being a finalist for Young New Zealander of the Year in 2010. She has been an Executive Judge for the NZ Awards since 2011
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Leela Gantman
Trustee

Leela joined Spark as Corporate Relations and Sustainability Director in January 2020, bringing with her close to 20 years’ experience in corporate and agency roles in New Zealand and Australia.

Prior to joining Spark Leela was Head of Communications at Fletcher Building, and before this External Relations Director at beverages group Lion in Australia. As Spark’s Corporate Relations and Sustainability Director Leela is responsible for reputation management, internal communications, government, industry, and community engagement, sustainability strategy, and the charitable activities of the Spark Foundation.

Leela holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the University of Technology Sydney.
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Kelly Baxter
Trustee

Kelly is Senior Legal Counsel at Spark, based in Auckland. She has worked on key strategic matters for Spark that have delivered pioneering innovation in the mobile and sports content markets, including advising on Spark’s bid for New Zealand broadcast rights for Rugby World Cup 2019.

Prior to joining Spark in 2017, Kelly worked with global retailer Tesco in the UK, where she also completed post-graduate study at the University of Oxford. Kelly has been active in the pro-bono legal space, including spearheading Tesco’s Community Law Centre partnership.
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Zelda Yates
Trustee

Zelda is a Transition Lead at Spark based in Christchurch. Zelda's love for community work comes from her upbringing; being the middle child of seven children and raised by her father in a welfare dependent home. She attributes her success to members of the community who lifted her up through example, mentorship and seeing her as an equal.

She has worked within high-risk youth facilities and more recently local community work. She is a very proud Spark Foundation ambassador and has been able to contribute over the years, through combining her professional skills with her love for the community through projects like Givealittle, The Electric Garden and the Jump subsidised broadband programme.

Zelda uses her time away from the office being immersed in her community through her role on a school Board of Trustees, getting involved in local fundraisers and being an active part of our community wherever the need is.
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Martin La'a
Trustee

Martin La’a joined Spark as an intern in 2005 working part time in Spark’s retail stores whilst at university. After making a decision to pivot away from a law career, he pursued work full time at Spark, eventually working his way up to a Regional Manager.

Currently an Agile Coach, Martin partners with business units across Spark to help them realise excellence in ways of working and delivering outcomes.

Martin is a proud son of South Auckland and was raised by a solo mother who he credits as ‘Superwoman.’ His purpose is founded on the Samoan value of tautua – service to others. He is passionate about equity and meaningful opportunities for our Māori and Pasifika rangatahi, supporting initiatives like Hatch, First Foundation, and working with his old high school Mangere College.
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