Festival inspires hope for the future

Leadership Network members joined thousands of others at TSB Arena in Wellington recently to attend New Zealand's largest social innovation summit, Festival for the Future. In this article, Leadership Network member Hannah Duder reflects on some of the workshops she attended and why she found the event so inspiring.
A group of Leadership Network members sitting on rainbow steps outside the festival venue

Festival for the Future brought together leaders from around the country to explore ideas about social innovation

On the Friday night of the festival weekend, ten network members along with other Foundation stakeholders got together to chat and discuss what everyone was most looking forward to from the next two days.

At the gathering, something that fellow network member Samson Phommachack said about why he was attending the festival really struck me. He said he was "here for hope". Hope is exactly what I got from the three days of inspirational speakers and workshops.

As well as connecting with network members, at the Foundation’s Friday evening event we got to meet some of the teachers who are part of the Foundation’s Champion's programme – a new initiative aimed at building a cohort of Asia savvy educators across New Zealand. It was interesting to hear from them about some of the Asia-related initiatives they’re running from their schools and find out a little about the new Foundation programme.

For me, one of the standout speakers of the festival was Hon. Priyanca Radhakrishnan, the Minister for Youth, and our first South Asian minister in government.

She spoke about an inclusive Aotearoa and how as individuals we shouldn’t have to change who we are to conform to the expectations of others.

She told a story about how she didn’t take her husband's last name but considered it when someone told her no one could pronounce hers and therefore wouldn’t vote for her. It was a real eye-opener - I have a very white name and have never had to consider changing it to forward my career. Thank goodness she received some good advice from her now boss (PM Jacinda Ardern) and didn’t change who she was or her name.

Priyanca also spoke about the importance of forging our own path as leaders and creating our own style of leadership. This felt very relevant to the network as sometimes leadership can be scary and you can feel fraudulent in calling yourself a leader. Prianca stressed that leadership can take many shapes, something that resonated with me. Traditional ideas of leaders and leadership are now being challenged and opening doors to people who would once have been excluded.

Another highlight was network member Bridget Williams’ two full-to-capacity workshops, with some people even having to sit on the ground to hear her amazing insights!

At the festival, Leadership Network member Bridget Williams held two workshops looking at the power of creativity to take on the UN Sustainable Development Goals

The topic of the workshops was how to use the power of creativity to take on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Bridget runs Bead & Proceed an organisation that educates people about the 17 UN SDGs and inspires people to take action through creativity.

The workshop was incredible, upbeat and educational. It was sad to hear that New Zealand has dropped from 11th to 23rd on the Sustainable Development Report, the overall score measures a country's total progress towards achieving all 17 SDGs.

Bridget's workshop also really struck a chord with Foundation education Champion Natalie Stone who said, "I left feeling hopeful for our future not only in New Zealand but for the world - our young people not only care but are prepared to take action and motivate others!"

Finally, I’d like to mention the talk given by mental health activist, film director, and author Jazz Thornton who spoke about creating change in the area of mental health by using her lived experiences and powerful storytelling to reach millions of people around the world.

I had always wanted to hear Jazz speak after following her on social media for a while. She is a bright light and her posts are very motivational.

She told an amazing story of Harry and Tom. Harry and Tom were patients in a hospital sharing a twin room. Harry was unable to get out of bed, so every morning Tom would describe to Harry the beautiful scenes outside their window. For months Tom did this, until one day Tom passed away and Harry pleaded with the nurse to describe to him what was happening out the window. The nurse was confused and said “Harry there isn't a window in this room”. The message of this story was to speak of hope and change even when it is hard to see or things get dark.

Some quotes from Leadership Network members

Suchita Jain

"Each year Festival for the Future provides new learnings through various inspirational speakers and engaging workshops. This year was no different. Key takeaway for me was the question of what kind of ancestor do I want to be? Throughout the weekend I found myself coming back to this question to see how I could meaningfully contribute to a better future."

Lingy Au

"I’ve been fortunate enough to attend this festival multiple times and can confidently say it gets bigger and better each year! The quality of speakers along with their personal stories guides you on a journey and leaves you with a sense of hope for what is to come."

Erica Austin 

"As a festival returnee, the experience was different this year for me to intentionally reconnect with others who have come on this impact journey over the years. A common theme that stood out to me was how important it is to know who you are, your whakapapa, your whole story and how you show up with your holistic self."