Creating better outcomes for young people in rural and provincial New Zealand

Many of New Zealand's rural and provincial communities face significant socio-economic challenges. For too many young people, these challenges are exacerbated. Often, young people identified as 'talent' leave for tertiary study and employment never to return, further draining their communities of talent and the leadership capabilities required to navigate the challenges of the 21st century. The young people that do stay in their communities often experience isolation, have limited access to quality training and development opportunities, limited access to employment and support. What if we could change this?

In 2015 we started a conversation with The Mayor's Taskforce for Jobs and several Mayor's from rural and provincial communities who make up the steering group. This developed into a partnership, and over the past two year's we've been piloting a new programme called Future Leaders.

The Future Leaders programme supports young people in rural and provincial communities to connect, explore big issues affecting their future, build their entrepreneurial and leadership capability, and make a difference in their backyard. It's a programme run by Inspiring Stories, and this year we’ve been working with young people in the Far North, Whangarei, Opotiki, Kawerau, Whakatane, and Palmerston North.


As part of the programme young people receive regular coaching and mentoring, attend various workshops and events to connect and build capability, and work as a team following the design-thinking process to prototype and test a project to make a difference in their backyard. The programme also included young people attending Festival for the Future and the Social Enterprise World Forum. We've just wrapped up 2017, and I've written this post to share a few of the outcomes.



The 2017 programme build on many lessons learnt from the first-time pilot in 2016, and has seen a huge improvement in the quality of outcomes for young people. One of the major changes was recruiting, training and supporting local 'Capability Coaches' to work directly with young people and provide on-the-ground support. The difference has been massive, and the outcomes for young people can be seen across a range of areas including the “most significant change” section in the Programme Report, as well as the quantitative data that demonstrates significant increases in various social entrepreneurship and leadership capabilities. You can check out the full Programme Report for Future Leaders 2017 here.



Though a relatively early-stage and small-scale pilot, the impact that this programme is starting to have for young people is impressive. All going to plan, we're working to scale this up to benefit significantly more young people next year. This means increasing the support in existing communities, as well as expanding to a handful of new rural and provincial communities.

We have taken a rigorous approach to learning and evaluation, and based on feedback from a range of stakeholders there are a number of insights and recommendations that we are looking to integrate into the 2018 programme. Proposed changes for next year include a refined curriculum, increased training and support for our local Coaches, a longer programme with more workshops and events, more opportunities for community engagement, and opening up the programme to benefit significantly more young people.

My gratitude goes out to the young people, Coaches, partners and supporters who have stepped up to be part of this learning journey. To the generous people and organisations who have contributed time and resources to make the Future Leaders programme possible – thank you. Nga mihi nui kia koutou.