Growing New Zealand's Future Leaders

It's no secret that many of New Zealand's rural and provincial communities are facing big challenges. From isolation to unemployment, mental health and wellbeing – too many young people feel overwhelmed by the issues, don’t feel optimistic about their future, or don’t believe their efforts can make a difference. This is having a devastating impact on society, and we have to change this!

Back when it started in 2016, our Future Leaders programme asked a simple question –
“How might we make a bigger difference for young people in rural and provincial New Zealand?”

Over the past three years the programme has grown from a small pilot with just 16 young people, to now more than 200 across eight communities in 2018. The eight communities were Kawerau, Ōpōtiki, Whakatāne, the Far North, Whangarei, Kāpiti Coast, Palmerston North and Greymouth. The Future Leaders programme is changing lives, and has the potential to make a huge difference for our country.

This blog post shares a few highlights from the 2018 Programme Report. Download the full report here.

Future Leaders 2018


How does the Future Leaders programme work?

The programme supports young people from the regions to connect, explore big issues which affect their future, build their entrepreneurship and leadership capability, and make a difference in their backyard.

It’s a part-time programme for young people aged 16–25, designed to work around existing study or work commitments. Each community chapter is coordinated and delivered by a local Coach, who works with participants in one of two tiers of involvement – as a Catalyst, or a Future Leader. Depending on their involvement, participants get access to coaching and mentoring, taking part in skills-building workshops, attending national hui like Festival for the Future, and work to develop a project in their community. Below is a high-level snapshot of what the 2018 experience looked like.


While Future Leaders is an inclusive and open programme, more than 70% of participants identify as female, and 50% identify as Māori. Though still relatively early stage, the programme is changing lives, especially for young women, and helping advance gender equality and the economic empowerment for a diverse range of young people in rural and provincial New Zealand.

Five key outcome areas for young people – here’s a snapshot…

The quantitive outcomes below are taken from the evaluation survey where young people self-assessed any changes to their capability and knowledge as a result of taking part in the programme. Participants have reported good growth of across a range of areas – better connected, stronger leadership and entrepreneurship skills, problem solving and communication skills, a better understanding of future challenges, more optimistic about the future, and a better sense of purpose and resilience to name a few.


What young people say about the Future Leaders programme.

The 2018 Report is filled with inspiring stories and tangible examples of the impact that the Future Leaders programme is having for a diverse range of young New Zealanders. Below is a glimpse.


“I’ve had a lot of adversity in my 24 years of life – two kids at age 17; unhealthy and abusive upbringing; and for me to come out on the other side taking the right path is such an accomplishment. I never really knew what potential I had. I’ve always been one to doubt myself. Even when others seen that potential, I just never could. My eyes have opened so much this year. My mindset has shifted to a much better place and I am so grateful for this programme.”
Gayle Moana-Johnson, Palmerston North


“Future Leaders equips you to become a great leader, with a focus on helping our local people. The most significant change for me personally was the new connections with people from all of Aotearoa, feeling more hopeful about the future, and learning how to go beyond my own limits. It was awesome to be able to work with you all. Ngā mihi nui kia koutou ngā kaiwhakahaere. Aroha nui.”
Te Riini McLean, Kawerau


“Confidence is something I’ve struggled with throughout my life due to my disability. Meeting all the wonderful like minded people, sharing ideas and passions with one another and speaking at Festival for the Future has given me the confidence boost I needed. The most significant change is that I have more confidence in with myself.” 
Aroha Lawrence, Kaikohe


“The future leaders programme is awesome and changing our communities for the better. It gives those of us who financially couldn’t otherwise afford to access these experiences. You get exposed to a whole new vibrant world. You learn about sustainability, problem solving, entrepreneurship. You build strong, life long friendships. The opportunities it provides are life changing.”
Talei Bryant, Whakatāne


Continuous Improvement – Learning and Insight for 2019…

Through interviews and feedback from more than 100 stakeholders – Coaches, participants, Councils and partners – we’ve gained insights on what worked, what didn’t, and the priority areas for improvement. Below is a summary of these insights to help strengthen the programme in 2019.

1. Secure more funding to increase resourcing, training and support for our Coaches on the ground in each community.
2018 was the second year that we have worked to train and support local Coaches to help coordinate and deliver the programme. While they have only been contracted in a very part-time capacity each month, they have provided immense value in helping to scale up the programme to benefit more young people.
Increased investment will enable them to devote more time to coordinate, develop and strengthen local partnerships, and increase engagement and outcomes for more young people in their communities.

2. Curriculum and user experience – clear achievement milestones, more workshops, start the programme earlier in the year.
Starting and finishing the programme earlier will align better with school, polytechnic and university dates, and increase engagement and commitment from the Future Leaders.The applied learning and hands-on approach is valuable, but the focus on ‘one big project’ starting with a blank canvas can be intimidating. In 2019 we propose to have three project development and delivery milestones run over shorter timeframes, each with incentives to increase engagement. We will also increase the number and frequency of workshops to build skills and capability, accessible for more people.

3. Stronger partnerships and relationships with Council and community stakeholders
Young people on the programme would benefit by having greater connectivity to their local Mayor, Council, and other business and community leaders. More effective and regular engagement is required, with a greater focus on developing supportive local mentoring relationships in each community. Increased investment in Coaches will help to enable this.

4. Strengthen pathways into employment, entrepreneurship and leadership.
As Future Leaders builds momentum there is huge scope to strengthen pathways for young people beyond the programme. Points 1–3 will all contribute to this goal. If you or your organisation are in a position to support these pathways in some way, please get in touch.

Overview of the Future Leaders programme for 2019…


Applications for 2019, and how you can get involved…

Applications for young people aged 16–25 are now open for the 2019 the Future Leaders programme. If you know someone living in one of the following eight communities, please encourage them to apply – Kawerau, Ōpōtiki, Whakatāne, the Far North, Whangarei, Kāpiti Coast, Palmerston North and Greymouth.