Why New Zealand's top young talent is critical for your business success

We’re on the cusp of a revolution. Are you ready?

The pace of business is getting faster. Organisations are increasingly data driven and digital. Consumers care more about the ethics and sustainability of their purchasing decisions than ever before – every dollar is a vote for a better world. The marketplace is competitive, global, and in a world with increasingly urgent and complex problems that need solving –  purpose-driven organisations are gaining competitive advantage.

Purpose driven businesses are those that exist for something greater than just a financial return. From well-established global companies like Patagonia to entrepreneurial Kiwi start-ups like Eat My Lunch, being purpose-driven is becoming a critical enabler. Of course having a quality product / service is paramount, but beyond just the “what” they sell, purpose-driven organisations have a compelling “why” that is embedded into the DNA of their organisation – brand, strategy, leadership and culture.

So how might your business thrive in the new purpose-driven economy?

One thing is certain – getting the right talent to drive your business forward is critical. But in a world of abundance in opportunity, why would talent want to work for your business?

We know that millennials are increasingly choosing purpose over paycheque. We know that when they’re aligned strongly with the purpose of the organisations they work for, there are direct increases in performance. The World Economic Forum notes the composition of the new workforce by 2020, and the skills required to thrive in the world of work – with complex problem solving, critical thinking and creativity topping the charts.

At Inspiring Stories, we’re helping thousands of young New Zealanders to explore these mega trends, and build their entrepreneurial and leadership capability to create the future. Over the past six years we’ve built a network of the most innovative and entrepreneurial young New Zealanders. There are strong synergies between our work and the future-relevant skills in the WEF Report. We’ve also experienced the demand for top young talent first-hand. It was this demand, and the opportunity to leverage this incredible network that sparked our new social enterprise adventure – welcome to Millennials.

Millennials is a specialist recruitment service that helps Kiwi businesses connect with top young talent. We've found our first ten clients, and have now successfully placed our first candidate with one of New Zealand's leading engineering firms. Even better –as well as delivering an exceptional service, 100% of the profit goes towards expanding our programmes and support for young New Zealanders at Inspiring Stories. Win-win!

Globally, millennials will be the biggest workforce within the next 5 years. This new generation of digital natives are looking for opportunities to put their energy into work that matters. If you want to be part of the new economy, fast-track the revolution and connect with New Zealand’s top young talent – let's chat – www.millennialtalent.co

Our Adventures in Social Enterprise: Developing the Speaker Bureau

Getting anything new off the ground is hard, especially a charity. Donations and grant funding is fiercely contested, and if you're a young person with little-to-no street cred or 3-years of trading track record it's even harder.

Having built Inspiring Stories from scratch, I've accumulated six years experience of figuring out what it takes to develop a purpose-driven organisation, build relationships with a range of New Zealand's leading grant funders, values-aligned corporates, government, and generate revenue. During this time we've grown significantly, developed and expanded new programmes, created good outcomes for young New Zealanders, and diversified and increased revenue year-on-year.

Feeling the limitations of our charitable model, we started exploring what it might take for us to develop our own commercial ventures and start operating more like a social enterprise. We started by asking two simple questions:

  1. What assets and/or strengths do we have as an organisation?
  2. Where do we see a market need or opportunity, that we could meet by leveraging our assets and/or strengths?

I love creative process, and there were so many ideas – some crazy, some pretty simple. We'll be developing and launching three new ventures over the next 12 months. The first is the speaker bureau, Inspiring Speakers – representing New Zealand's top young talent for paid corporate events, conferences and graduations ceremonies. Right now we're early-stage, but as we develop I want to share the journey and any insights along the way. This article gives some background on how we settled on the idea, and how we're building it out from here.

Over the past six year's having developed Festival for the Future and the Live the Dream programme – we'd built a network, and not just any network. We'd built a network of some of the most innovative, influential and visionary young New Zealanders. Many of them were confident public speakers, all with stories that needed to be shared. I'd also done a fair bit of public speaking, and when I won the Young New Zealander of the Year award I was getting 5–10 speaking requests a week. It was intense. At the time, the incredible Jo Bailey was my EA, and played a critical role in helping to filter, manage and streamline these requests. We figured that if we could do it for me, why couldn't we do it for others?

About this time I also had a few friends who'd done a fair bit of paid public speaking share that their experience being represented by other speaker bureaus hadn't been that good. The service wasn't great, it didn't feel personal, and they felt the cut taken by the bureaus was a bit high. Could there be an opportunity to try and set up a niche bureau, that offered a great service for both the client and the speaker, and specialised in representing New Zealand's top young talent?

I've now spoken to more than 25,000 people internationally and at home over the past six years. This includes the Social Enterprise World Forum alongside some of the world's leading young social entrepreneurs and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus. I've spoken at small-scale grassroots community halls to being the keynote speaker at Business School graduations ceremonies from both Auckland University and AUT University. It's scary, but I totally love it!

During this time, there's a few things I've noticed. The first is that if you have a unique and inspiring story to share, and you can deliver it in a really compelling way – you can make money.

The second is that there is huge variation in people's speaker fees, from $500 to $50,000+ for a single talk. I've had dozens of paid corporate speaking gigs in the $2,000–3,000 range, and donated 100% of that to Inspiring Stories. I've also done free gigs – usually when I love what the organisation (or group) is working towards, and I know that there's little-to-no budget. Figuring this stuff out can be a really tough thing to navigate if you're just starting out.

In developing Inspiring Speakers, our aim is to represent New Zealand's top young talent. We're starting out by working with young people who we've already got a relationship with, who have street cred, an inspiring story to share, and whom we know can command a speaker fee. We want to support them to develop and grow as public speakers, to get paid and use that revenue to further their efforts, as well as growing the bureau as a pathway to further support the training and development of other young people who come through our programmes. The speaker bureau has an impact model, and a revenue model. The revenue model for us is a simple service fee that we charge once the speaking gig has been successful, and 100% of the profit after expenses goes into helping support the youth development programmes we run.

As far as I know, we're New Zealand's first social enterprise speaker bureau. We haven't officially launched yet, but we have built the brand, the website, and are working with 12 awesome speakers who we'll be representing throughout the pilot phase. And, we've already had more than a dozen paid speaking requests come through the website over the past month. We're fine tuning our process and systems, and are gearing up to launch. Our goal for the 2017 year is to complete 40 paid speaking gigs. It's conservative, but if we get this right I'm pretty excited about the potential for Inspiring Speakers to increase the opportunities for some remarkable young New Zealanders to share their story, get paid, and generate new revenue to support the youth development programmes we run – hopefully, creating win-win-win outcomes!

If you looking for an inspirational young New Zealander to speak at your next conference, event or graduation ceremony we'd love to work with you. Website – www.inspiringspeakers.co

Building a more resilient financial model – our new social enterprise adventure!

It's crazy to think that this little organisation I founded in 2011, Inspiring Stories, is now in it's 7th year of operation. We’ve had an incredible journey, and hit the ground running in 2017 – but certainly not without our challenges!

Last week was huge, with the showcase events for our  Live the Dream programme in three cities – Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. More than 300 people attended in support. There is an incredible community building around this work, it's humbling, and I'm so proud of our young social entrepreneurs – their courage, the progress they’ve made, and the next steps they will take in building their ideas for a better world.

We've developed New Zealand's accelerator programme for young social entrepreneurs from scratch, and it's amazing to see it grow from the seed of an idea to something powerful that is achieving impressive outcomes for young people, and creating positive ripple effects across the country. As well as developing their enterprise capability, participants report increases in their level of ambition, creativity, initiative, leadership, open-mindedness, sense of purpose, and resilience. 

In the context of the major challenges our world is facing right now, there has never been a more urgent need to give young people hope, capability, and support to create the future.

In late 2016 I spoke openly about a big challenge we're facing – I want to be really transparent with you about our current situation, where we want to take Inspiring Stories from here, and to give you an open invitation to be part of the journey moving forwards.

The big challenge is that the funding we received from government to help scale our Festival and our Live the Dream programmes is unlikely to roll over. It's enabled us to grow the Festival – doubling in size last year to nearly 1,000 attendees, and expand Live the Dream to three cities over two consecutive summers. Without MYD support, this means a $200k gap in our budget for the year ahead. It's a big challenge, or a big opportunity.

Whilst we're legally a charity – and grants, donations and sponsorship are hugely helpful to fuel our work, being dependent on these leave us in a vulnerable position. We need to build a more resilient financial model. We started by asking the question – "what assets and strengths do we have, and where do we see an opportunity to use these that could meet a real market need and generate new revenue for the Trust?" These questions gave us a starting point, from there we brainstormed ideas, and now we're working to develop and test three new social enterprise ventures, with 100% of the profit going towards supporting our programmes. If successful, these will help to fund our work, and propel young New Zealanders into the future. These ventures are: 

From humble beginnings in 2011, we’ve built one of the most awesome youth development organisations in New Zealand, with an impressive track record of programmes and partnerships. We’ve worked with more than 6,000 young New Zealanders – the courage and imagination they bring, and the projects and ventures they're working on are incredibly inspiring. On our new website you can now see a range of the stories of these inspiring young New Zealanders.

Whilst we've got a $200k resourcing challenge right now, we've got a strong foundation to build on. I’m particularly excited about the opportunities ahead, including a number of partnership conversations we're having that have the potential to be absolutely game-changing. Imagine if every young New Zealander unleashed their potential to change the world. As crazy as that can sound, I truly believe there is no other country better positioned to unleash the potential of an entire generation. Imagine. Now – let's make it happen!

Helping to Prevent Domestic Violence

Meet Irene. A while ago she was in a relationship that was abusive, but at the time she didn't realise it. Now, together with another Welly-based social entrepreneur, Liv, she’s on a mission to spark social change across Aotearoa by giving our young people the access to education about relationships and early stage abuse that she never had.

The pair are using Live the Dream, a 9-week accelerator programme run by our partner charity Inspiring Stories, to supercharge their project, and Irene generously took the time to share her story with us below.


Four years ago, Irene was waiting to board a plane when she stumbled across an article online about mental and emotional abuse. The moment quickly became confronting, as Irene realised that the behaviours she had encountered in a past relationship were classed as abusive.

She remembered having to ask for permission to hang out with her friends, and being hassled about what she chose to wear. She had hardly used social media, because liking a post from a friend seemed to cause an argument, and she wouldn’t even think about talking to a guy – because she was told that was disrespectful.

“It was easier to change myself, to keep him happy.” Says Irene. “I became isolated, I lost my friends and my family started to become distant. I knew for a long time that I was unhappy, and when I would think about leaving, I was told, ‘you will never find someone who loves you like I do.’”

She describes  that moment on the plane as a pivotal point in her life, where she was forced to get comfortable in her own company, and to face some truths, alone, in a foreign country.

“I was surprised that I hadn't been taught about mental and emotional abuse before. I left school knowing how to do algebra, but I was unable to identify that this relationship was abusive. I made a decision that day, to ensure that others knew this information earlier, before it was too late.”

In December 2015, Irene founded Prepair NZ – an organisation designed to offer the education that she didn’t receive about relationships, and early stage abuse.

After 6 months of working alone to get things set up, Irene met Liv at a retreat, where they realised they both had very similar ambitions.

Liv had also experienced mental and emotional abuse in a romantic relationship. Both Irene and Liv had felt that the word ‘abuse’ was reserved for physical abuse only. Neither had received any education about these behaviours, and they both wanted to prevent this from happening to others.

After researching the issue, the pair were stunned to find that in a 12 month period, over 5000 NZers between 13-24 years old reported being victim to domestic abuse. Sadly it’s estimated that only 30% of cases are reported to NZ police, and on top of this, the pair asked themselves “how many more had been in situations similar to ours, where they were going through non-physical abuse, or simply not given the education to know what abuse could look like?”

This information fuelled the girls even more.

“We both felt that if our relationship with ourself had been stronger, our past would have looked very different. A strong sense of self worth is where confidence comes from, and where boundaries are set. We didn’t have that.”

Prepair have already worked with women of all ages across Wellington in the past 12 months, to encourage a healthy relationship with self.

Irene has run workshops at the More than Rubies conference, seminars for teens, and workshops which have attracted guests from as far as Palmerston North to the capital.

The feedback has been positive, and women have contacted later on to explain how valuable they found taking time out to focus on themselves.

After the retreat, the girls decided to seek some help to accelerate their work. This is where they heard about Live the Dream, a 9-week programme run by Inspiring Stories that’s designed to help young people in New Zealand develop entrepreneurial skills so that they can make a change in the world.

Irene was fortunate enough to be accepted on to the programme earlier this year, and is already five weeks in as of writing this.

“Even at this early stage, I can say Live the Dream has been instrumental in the development of Prepair NZ. The opportunities we have had are amazing, we are just so grateful.”


Irene during a Live the Dream venture planning session. Photo provided by Inspiring Stories.

Irene has already met with other organisations that deal with late stage abuse, including “It’s Not OK.”, and was recently interviewed on Radio NZ - opportunities the pair say would not have been possible without the support they’ve received.

“If we can spark a desire for young people to have a healthy relationship with themselves, and pair that with some good quality information about mental and emotional abuse - we think this will make a difference for our country. Imagine if this education could help prevent domestic violence in New Zealand.”

Live the Dream kicked off again on January 9th, and runs until the end of February where participants will pitch their ideas to an audience at the final events in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. The events will be held in all three cities on Tuesday 14th February 5.30–7.30pm, and all of the generous people supporting Inspiring Stories with their 1% through One Percent Collective will be sent an invite to head along and hear the outcome.

We have no doubt these two will definitely go places.

To follow the progress of Prepair NZ, check them out at facebook.com/prepairnz

Social Enterprise & Social Finance: A Path to Growth

Over the past year I’ve been part of a strategic group brought together to provide advice to the New Zealand government to grow social enterprise and social finance. The group met about ten times over the past year to produce the report, which was released at Parliament on the 11th October 2016. It was a huge honour to be part of this process!

Social Enterprise and Social Finance in New Zealand: A path to Growth

Download the full report here.

The report supports social enterprise as an innovative and viable mechanism to drive economic prosperity in New Zealand, with proposed actions for government and other sectors to address a range of barriers for social enterprises and investors.

“While there are a number of examples in New Zealand at the moment, other countries are reaping a growing number of benefits as a result from investment in social enterprise. For instance, in Scotland, social enterprises now contribute more than 112,000 jobs to the economy while also providing a wide range of services and positive social impacts for communities.”

Priority actions proposed for government include support for specialised business development services for social enterprises, and collection of core data on social enterprises.

The report gives us a common framework which we hope will stimulate initiatives from central and local government, philanthropy, investors, corporates and social enterprises on how to accelerate growth and investment in this market.

The strategic group, convened by the Department of Internal Affairs, comprises members from philanthropic and non-government organisations, with academic, iwi and local government representation.

Members of the Group

  • John McCarthy, Tindall Foundation
  • Diana Suggate, Department of Internal Affairs
  • Liz Gibbs, Philanthropy New Zealand
  • Terri Eggleton, BayTrust
  • Alex Hannant, Ākina Foundation
  • Guy Ryan, Inspiring Stories
  • Wayne Vargis, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu
  • Michelle Sharp, Kilmarnock Enterprises
  • Karyn Stillwell, Wellington City Council
  • Jeffrey Stangl, Massey University


New Zealand to host SEWF in 2017

I’m super excited to share that the Social Enterprise World Forum is now confirmed to be hosted in Christchurch, September 27–29. It was amazing to attend the forum in 2015, to co-present the bid for New Zealand to host alongside Alex Hannant from the Akina Foundation, and to now be part of the planning to bring it to life. Just quietly – I reckon New Zealand can pull off the world’s most epic SEWF yet!

Link to the SEWF 2017 website and tickets: www.sewf2017.org

How do you create a Festival together?

This year, the Inspiring Stories team has taken a slightly different approach to creating Festival for the Future, throwing the doors wide and inviting in our wider community to design the Festival experience with us. Learning and Development Lead Shruthi Vijayakumar takes us through the codesign process.

Human Library. Giant inflatable slide. Elevator Raves. Maker Space. Living Map. Capoeira. Impromptu Band Space. Crafternoon Tea. Augmented Reality. Nap Room. These were just a few of the ideas that emerged when we asked a group of 50 young people ”how can we make this year’s Festival the most epic, transformational event ever?” We could try answer that question ourselves. But we thought it’d be far more effective to pool our collective minds and hearts to have a crack at it. Over the last few months, we’ve loved engaging with hundreds of young people – through workshops, focus groups, numerous coffee catch ups and our online survey to co-design and co-deliver this year’s event. We’ve been overwhelmed with so many great (and some rather interesting) ideas and are stoked to see this year’s festival take on the spirit of ‘by the community, for the community’.

So what's emerged?

We’ve heard from you that the hot topics to explore this year include climate change, wellbeing, gender equality, the refugee crisis, amongst many others! We’ll be exploring the biggest issues facing us locally, nationally and globally at Festival this year and looking at how we can best work together to address them. We’re focusing less on big ideas and taking a broader look at social change and will be through showcasing stories of how people are making a difference in different ways. You’ll be hearing from scientists, policy makers, community builders, artists, entrepreneurs, activists, educators and more at this year’s event!

Oh the Places You’ll Go As A Social Entrepreneur…

Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!
— Oh The Places You’ll Go, Dr Seuss

That’s certainly the case for two Cantabrians who sought to make the world a better place through their ventures on the Live the Dream programme, who are jetting off to Silicon Valley in June for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. April McLennan, 18, and Robbie McGregor, 30, have both been blown away by what has come their way since completing Live the Dream.

Robbie McGregor

“I’ve never actually left the country – when I found out I’d been selected for the GES, within a day I’d made my application for a passport and started getting ready to head on over.” says Robbie. “All the opportunities start to compound on each other; one things leads to another, leads to another.

“Another cool thing is that in Christchurch there’s a close knit community [of changemakers] because we’ve gone through an experience that’s quite unique with the earthquakes, it brings people together in a way.”

Robbie is wrapping up his engineering degree at Ara Institute of Canterbury and working on his social enterprise, Clarity, which aims to teach financial literacy and well-being to young people.

“There are a few gaps in the education system. Some schools teach financial literacy and teach it well, but it’s optional. I think it’s really important, it’s giving people a head start and avoidingsome pitfalls people fall into at a young age.”

Despite having no financial training, Robbie has picked up a good number of tips and tricks throughout life.

“There’s simple stuff that goes a long way if you know it at the get-go: the effect of debt and credit cards, personal loans, the different ways that interest works for and against you. The way I look at it, these things apply to everyone, you might be an engineer, a taxi driver, a doctor, whatever you are, we all have to pay our bills and get by.”

April, who has just finished her final year of high school as a homeschooler, is excited to see what she can learn at the Summit to bring back and apply to her venture, Limitless. “We’re a charitable trust now and we’ve got some really good people on our board of trustees. At this stage I’m focusing on Limitless rather than going to university, although I haven’t ruled that out if there’s something that interests me or is relevant to my career.” The vision of Limitless is to equip every young New Zealander to lead a life of passion and purpose, by helping to connect their strengths and interests to a career. “You’re going to work 80,000 hours in your life, it’s amazing to think about what you’re going to do in that time. When you talk to adults and you say that they’re like ‘isn’t it terrible?’. I don’t want to have that attitude about my work; I want to do something I love and I’m pretty sure that’s what everyone wants,” says April. April is working on a video to showcase people with passion for their jobs, as well as an event for young people around Year 10 to learn about fulfilling careers. So Robbie and April are off to rub shoulders with thousands of entrepreneurs from around the world, and also this guy will be attending, we guess that’s pretty neat…

Alumni Profile: Meet Jess Weller

Dealing with “The Big C” is not something you expect on your Big OE, but that’s the situation our Live The Dreamer Jess Weller found herself in. It was 2013, and Jess was living the Kiwi OE life – 27 years old, living in London, picking up relief teaching work where she could, sleeping on friends’ couches, partying and exploring. Then, one day in May, she realised something wasn’t right.

“My boobs were hard and sore, and I could feel something like a lump of gristle in my left breast – it turned out to be an aggressive form of cancer called Her2-positive, and it was at Stage 3 when I caught it.” For many people, such an earth-shattering diagnosis would likely call any future adventures abroad to an early halt, but not so for Jess.

“I had wanted to be overseas for so long, I wasn’t going to give that up for anything. The last resort was to catch a plane home, but it honestly never occurred to me once. I carried on working full-time through chemo treatment; in fact, the day after I was diagnosed I went for a job interview and got a job teaching art at a Catholic boys’ school.” And she kept travelling. Every three weeks, she would book in another trip abroad, eventually making her way around Portugal, Prague, Munich, Paris and the south of France. “That was my reward, I always had something to look forward to.” After eight rounds of chemotherapy to shrink the tumour, radiation therapy, specialised drugs and surgeries, Jess was finally in recovery. And she had a burning desire to make a difference. “I started volunteering and doing presentations to groups of young girls. In the room at my very first presentation was the speaking coordinator for TedX SquareMile, so I ended up giving a talk there called How Cancer Gave Me Purpose. That was a really cool experience.”

Jess returned home around Christmas time in 2014, aged 29, and continued to fundraise and travel around to conferences in the US and Australia to educate and raise awareness of breast cancer. Then she stumbled upon Festival for the Future online, and bought a ticket on the spot. “I just thought ‘this sounds like a bit of me’ and it totally blew my mind open. Weeks later I was still on that hum, and decided to apply for the Live the Dream programme,” she says.

“It was actually quite life changing, being around such amazing people who believe they can make a difference, and knowing I’m not the only one trying to save the world. It was inspiring to be around such an epic crew of people, we really fed off each other and the support. It was scary but amazing to do my own thing and be 100 per cent supported and encouraged and be able to keep going once that programme finished.” Jess’ venture, The WELLer Network, is all about “supporting healthy conversations that can save your life”. It puts information and contacts in the hands of young New Zealanders so they know what they are dealing with when it comes to cancer. Although Jess’ own story involves breast cancer, she is keen to expand wider to include all types of cancer, and continue building the support network.

“Talking about this sets my soul on fire, and it’s so important we do talk about it because we’re so afraid of cancer. I try to use a little bit of humour whenever I do; I went to a school the other day and had 200 girls giggling and laughing. You never know how an audience will respond but if you have a bit of a laugh you can shine a light on it and have a really healthy conversation and that’s the whole point of what I’m trying to do.” At the moment, Jess is working for the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation, doing school visits, carrying on the conversations. She is still building up The WELLer Network in the background, and if you want to know more you can visit her on her blog, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or email her directly.

2016 – Year Six

Kia ora!

It’s been a huge start to the year for Inspiring Stories. It’s our sixth year of operation, and I’m very excited! In February, our 9-week intensive Live the Dream programme finished up across three cities – Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Being our first time running the Christchurch chapter we were a bit nervous, but the team did a phenomenal job. 150 people packed-out the Council venue for the Final Showcase event, which was a huge success – even local Mayor Lianne Dalziel was brought to tears from being so moved and inspired by a couple of our young entrepreneurs.

Since wrapping up Live the Dream, we’ve completed a strong evaluation of what worked, what didn’t, and how we can really strengthen things moving forwards. There’s a lot to build on. We’ve also kick-started monthly meet ups with alumni, and it’s been great to catch up with the crews across all three cities. This is one way we’ll look to develop and strengthen the community throughout the year.

Whether Festival or Live the Dream, a lot of the opportunities we’ve developed for young New Zealanders are more accessible for those who live in the cities. There is a real need for young people from more rural and provincial areas to be able to access these kinds of opportunities, and we’ve got some exciting news. In partnership with the Mayor’s Taskforce for Jobs and a number of Councils, we’re piloting a new programme – Future Leaders. Throughout the year we’ll be working alongside young people in Buller, Kawerau, Opotiki, Manawatu, Palmerston North, and Rotorua. We’re excited to welcome Maddy King to our team, who is leading the programme.

Watch this space. We’re also gearing up for this year’s Festival for the Future – September 23–25 – save the date. Last year was our fifth consecutive year, with 550 people attending the event including young leaders from 20 Pacific Nations – it was epic. In fact, last year the Festival sold out five weeks before the event, and we maxed out capacity. This year we’ve booked the Aotea Centre in central Auckland. It’s going to be a big step up – we’re a tad nervous, but super excited. From here, we’ll be taking a co-design approach working with a range of young people and other key stakeholders to design the experience.

Check out Pippa and I below checking out the Aotea Centre – an iconic venue in the heart of Auckland. Imagine the possibilities!!

Mauri ora – and all the best for an epic 2016!!

How making a difference enriched me as a filmmaker

In December 2015, I heard about the story of a girl named Sehar. She immigrated to New Zealand at a tender age to escape the hardships that were present back in her home country. However, things did not go smoothly for Sehar. Not long after they’ve arrived in New Zealand, she and her sister had been given a “refugee status” due to the mistreatment they had to endure in their own home. The journey of finding comfort and confidence in her new environment had been long and tough for Sehar, but she was able to not just survive through the difficulties but thrive amidst of these, and her goal now is to help others who are facing the same ordeals as she once was, to find their feet and their voice as they settle into a foreign place.

I thought her story was one worth making a film about to share with others, to inspire people and spread awareness on the many issues that her story touches on. So I contacted Sehar and interviewed her soon after that. I thought that “Making a Difference” was a perfect platform to enter the film into, as it is about young people, specifically young New Zealanders, who are making a difference and inspiring change. I submitted Sehar’s story and we emerged as the overall winner for that year.

I was very much amazed to see the dedication and generosity of the Inspiring Stories team, which were evident in all their efforts to help young people achieve their dreams, enhance their creativity and be instruments of positive change in the world. I have joined the competition in 2014 and again in 2015, and on both occasions, Inspiring Stories had organized tours and meet-ups for us (the participants and our guests), wherein we were given the chance to explore some amazing post-production houses such as Park Road Post and Weta Workshop. During those times we learned so much about the way films are made in the industry, the processes involved and the creative inspirations behind some of the films we loved. Those experiences have definitely stirred something within me and have inspired me to keep on pushing to be better at my craft and to keep the dream alive of making great films someday.

What can we learn from the World Forum?

Since its debut just seven years ago in Scotland, the Social Enterprise World Forum has grown in influence, scope and scale. It’s provided inspiration and visibility, informed practice and policy, and helped to fuel a global movement. Welcome to Italy, for SEWF2015!

I attended with fellow Kiwi, Alex Hannant, who’s CEO of Akina. I’d been invited to sit on a panel with Nobel Peace Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus and a handful of awe-inspiring young social entrepreneurs from across the globe. I’d never been before – didn’t know what to expect, who would be in the room, or what might grow from it. It was three-days of action packed programme from dawn til dusk, with more than 150 contributors and about 800 attendees. And yes – despite wearing a suit the day before my panel, it was 37 degrees on the day and my boardies and jandals got the better of me!

The experience at SEWF was amazing. More than anything, it hugely validated that social enterprise can be an incredibly powerful tool in delivering trasformational change in response to the big issues of our time. I’m returning feeling very inspired, with a stronger sense of how we better grow and support this stuff, and connections to a range of amazing social entrepreneurs and enterprise examples from across the globe. There’s a chance that NZ may get to host the Forum in 2017 – thanks to Alex for leading the bid!

Who were some of the stand out social entrepreneurs and enterprises?
We heard from a broad range of social entrepreneurs leading a wide range of high-impact enterprises. They ranged from food and agriculture to energy; health and wellbeing to education; technology and transport to youth development. In addition to the previous three examples in the previous blog posted by Charlotte, here’s a few more…

Fiza Farhan, Buksh Foundation // Pakistan
I got to share the panel with 29-year old Fiza Farhan, CEO of the Buksh Foundation, which provides clean energy to the poor in rural Pakistan. Buksh focuses on the empowerment of women through entrepreneurship to grow renewable energy in their communities through by providing them with a proven business model, finance, systems and support to lead their local energy franchise. Fiza was named in Forbes Magazine’s ‘30 under 30‘ social entrepreneurs in 2015. She’s awesome!

Anthony Kamato, PureFresh // Kenya
I got to meet Anthony Kamato from Kenya, who’s using social enterprise as a vehicle to provide clean water to his community. His background is in business, and he brings a sharp commercial mindset to his work. Previously, their local drinking water was contaminated with dangerous levels of chloride, which resulted in high levels of rickets among babies, as well as very weak bones and teeth. To change this, he set up a purification plant that leverages world-class water sanitation technology to eliminate microbial and chemical contamination of the local water. Smart systems help to monitor water quality, and identify any systems needs like filter changes. The most significant part of his innovation is that they have been able to bring the price down twenty-fold – it used to cost $20 for a 5 gallon container; it now costs 60 cents, and everyone can afford it. They’re working to bring this cost down even further. Now that Anthony’s proven the model, he’s looking to replicate this in other communities as well as expand with other products like clean energy. He wants to build an ecosystem – partnering with other social entrepreneurs to plug into and replicate various solutions – i.e. for energy, youth development, and waste. He believes we need to be open-sourcing these innovations, and is committed to creating the ‘new Africa story’.

Sophie Tranchell, Divine Chocolate // Ghana
Based in Ghana, Divine Chocolate is a cooporative of Ghanian cocoa farmers consisisting of over 80,000 members across more than 1,250 villages, which has turned over more than $100m. The company is based on Fair Trade principles and is democratically organised. Divine’s Managing Director, Sophie Tranchell from the UK, presented at the SEWF15. Originally just a cocoa production co-op, they launched the chocolate production company (Divine Chocolate) in 1998, which operates with the mission to improve the lives of small-scale farmers in West Africa. Now several years on, Divine is gearing up to compete on the world stage where chocolate is a 107-billion-dollar industry – but doing it in a way that flips the conventional slave-labour and unsustainable multi-national chocolate practice on its head.

How are other countries supporting the development of social enterprise?

Scotland takes a strong cross-government approach, and have invested nearly $40m in developing the sector. Their equivalent of New Zealand’s Minister of Finance (Bill English) and other key government leaders see social enterprise as a critical vehicle to deliver better social and environmental outcomes for the nation. By contrast, New Zealand Government support for social enterprise currently sits only within the Department of Internal Affairs. In Russia, the Government is providing more than $30m in subsidies for social entrepreneurship support, has trained more than 1,000 social entrepreneurship ‘tutors’ (equivalent of Business Mentors from the likes of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise), and has committed to supporting 18 innovation hubs across regions throughout Russia. In Taiwan, support to develop the sector is going from strength to strength. It’s estimated that Taiwan has about 1,000 company-based social enterprises operating. Initiated in 2014, Taiwain’s Social Enterprise Action Plan is a new cross-government initiaitive that spans their Ministries of Economic Affairs, Labour, Health and Welfare, Education, and Agriculture. And get this – Taiwan’s Premier, the equivalent of our Prime Minister (John Key), even gave up his residence (equivalent of Premier House in Wellington) and has had it transformed into a social enterprise hub and co-working space. Maybe we should suggest the idea to John!

So it’s been an amazing experience – what next?
The chance to share our work in New Zealand with leading thinkers from across the globe has been an incredible opportunity. It turned out, that ‘supporting the next generation of social entrepreneurs to change the world’ was actually a session as part of the conference. Hearing other examples on how other countries are approaching this really brought home how innovative and timely what we in the New Zealand social enterprise sector are doing actually is. As I think about the critical next steps, three things that Inspiring Stories already have in motion spring to mind:

1. There’s a massive gap in New Zealand for young social entrepreneurs being able to access seed funding and support to develop. Right now, we at Inspiring Stories are looking to get $11m committed to kick-start the Future Fund, which will enable us to meet this need. Stay tuned, because $1m of it will come from running New Zealand’s biggest ever crowd-funding campaign – we’d love to have you involved!

2. We need to amplify, encourage and learn from youth-led social, economic and environmental change in New Zealand. This happens already, through New Zealand’s most significant national event for young social entrepreneurs – Festival for the Future. We’re running it in Auckland from September 4–6 this year. You should be there!

3. We also need to build on our accelerator programme, Live the Dream, to help get more youth-led ventures off the ground. This summer, we’ll providing intensive professional development for dozens of young social entrepreneurs with three programmes running in parallel across Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch.

To everyone who made SEWF2015 possible – thank you. To all of you awesome people back in Aotearoa New Zealand – hope to catch up with you soon!

Year Five. What a start!

Kia ora!

It’s been an incredible start to the year – 2015, our fifth year of operation. Our accelerator programme to grow young social entrepreneurs and their ventures, Live the Dream, supported 18 early-stage youth-led ventures across Auckland and Wellington. We ran two programmes (AKL + WGN) at the same time, and have had an incredible community of participants, guest speakers, workshop facilitators, mentors and supporters involved – with a combined audience of about 400 at the final showcase events. It’s been epic.

On Feb 20th at our Wellington ‘Final Showcase’ event for Live the Dream, Youth Minister Nikki Kaye announced $500k investment into our flagship programmes as part of the ‘Youth Enterprise Fund‘. This will enable us to grow both Festival for the Future and Live the Dream to reach and support more young New Zealanders. To put that in perspective, that’s about ten times as much as any previous single chunk of funding we’ve ever had. It’s going to enable big things – watch this space.

Literally the week after, I (Guy) was awarded the 2015 Young New Zealander of the Year Award. The New Zealand Awards are the most prestigious of their kind, and were presented in front of an 700-strong audience at the Langham Hotel in Auckland. To have both the $500k announcement and this award all within the space of a week was unreal. It’s a huge validation for our work, and the community of remarkable people and organisations who have rallied around our vision. To everyone who is part of this community – on behalf of our board of trustees and crew – thank you!

Since the announcements, my schedule has gone from ‘busy’ to ‘intense’. It’s been humbling and exhausting, and I don’t think I’d ever looked forward to having some time to chill out over the easter break quite so much. There have been a few exciting things that have followed. One of which, has been being invited to speak at the Social Enterprise World Forum in Milan in July, sitting on a panel as part of the closing ceremony with world renowned social entrepreneur and Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Mohammad Yunus.

I’m also delighted to share that we now have a very clear Strategic Plan for where we want to take things 2015–17. It sets out a very strong intention towards growing a generation of young New Zealanders to change the world. If you’re keen to check it out – here it is. There are some very exciting things on the horizon. Watch this space! Nga mihi nui.