Overall, a fantastic festival - a weekend full of amazing speakers, thought provoking workshops and a great way to network and make new friends.
I only found out about the Festival when I was sprawling the Interwebs about entrepreneurship then it props up - I'm thinking oh this festival looks interesting, must be a new thing.
Turns out its been on for over 5 years. How did I not know about this? Well that's because I'm too busy Instagramming my food.
Initially hesitant - am I too old for this Festival? Having a look, it probably catered for a much younger crowd - either high school or uni students. But I thought, screw it - I'm still technically studying and bought a ticket. I wasn't wrong on my prediction- 50% of the turnout was for high school students. Not completely a bad thing, if anything its encouraging that this many young people actually turned up!
Founded by Mr. Guy Ryan, 2015 New Zealander of the Year and CEO of Inspiring Stories - the charitable trust responsible for hosting the event aims to get young Kiwis tap into their potential to hopefully develop their ideas, connections, confidence, potential to make a difference in NZ and/or the world. Truly a great ambition that we don't hear enough in mainstream media - it makes me think that I wish I heard about this sooner or there was an event like this when I was in high school/uni.
Geez, I'm freaking old when I write a statement like that!
Walking into the festival and speaking to the festival goers, some were from the media, majority of them were still studying and few older professionals attending for the first time. I spoke to a volunteer and they said that there were over 900 people that registered - impressive! The Aotea Square venue is perfect for a festival like this, parking is real easy, there's plenty to see and do.
The main attraction to the festival were the panel speakers and the workshops and what I really enjoyed was the Human Library.
The panel speakers hailed from all over New Zealand and some from overseas - it was great to see so many individuals who were just normal folk making a huge difference in their communities and around the world. All of them were superb and a role model for all - they will make you feel lazy and that you're haven't done enough in your life. But I think that's the point of the festival, you should be inspired, challenged or both.
One of the panel speakers, Dan Flynn - the found of the thankyou. company in Australia described what he did to get to where his company is today. With the vision of ending poverty with bottle water, a true litmus test on human empathy - several years ago, many people thought this was a stupid idea. Dan went ahead with it anyway - screwed up his first launch. Still went ahead anyway, he described his 3 years as hurdle and wanting to give up. He now has 50 people working for him with over 40 different products and a best selling book called Chapter 1. As he is talking, he makes it sound almost like an easy seemless experience. However in reality, we know its not. He had plenty of setbacks but he used creativity and resilience to push through.
I was fortunate to ask him some questions in a Idea & Skills cafe workshop - his key message was:
Momentum changes everything.
Stand out from the crowd.
I can relate to these messages completely. Especially the second point. I'm still working on the first one. That's a lie, I need to work on everything but it was inspiring to see how one guy made his vision/idea into a full fledged reality.
Food at the Festival
Because of the large amount of attendees, there would have been a lot to cater for.
This is my suggestion for the festival and I hope I'm not coming off as complaining - please provide more meat options. A lot MORE meat.
It was typical catered food, nothing spectacular but I guess with a limited budget it couldn't have been helped.
Also I don't understand why Fruit needed to be labelled as Gluten free, Vegetarian and Vegan. I mean holy freaking damn - that's a worry!
But we're not here to eat - you go to these events to be inspired and encouraged.
So for future Festival goers - bring your own snacks. Lots of them. They do provide gluten free, vegetarian and vegan fruit though.
After the workshop, you can grab some food, mix and network or do some other activity.
I managed to talk to some amazing organisations that were doing some charitable and altruistic work. One of which was the Cause Corps. Not a typical volunteer organisation, it wants more people to get involved in whatever shape or form they can. The issue they want to tackle is the volunteering can take up a lot of time and resources. At the festival, they had a bunch of cards and stickers. They were used to be written out with funny or kind messages to be sent to sick kids (really sick with Leukemia, cancer and that kind of sad, serious stuff) around the world. I loved the idea, a great way to do something when you have a bunch of friends over a meal and just write some nice cards.
There was also the Human Library, easily one of my highlights of the festival. The Human Library is essentially borrowing a 'book' who is an actual living breathing human being and they have an unique story to tell.
One of the 'books' I borrowed was HIV Positive. I never had any experiences about AIDS or HIV and have only read about it in textbooks and sex education way back when. The book was so amazing, I connected with them on a deep personal level. What was amazing is that they didn't let their condition define who they were.
For confidentiality reasons, I will not state who they were but with my brief time with them - they showed me that having a disease like HIV was not the end of the world. This 'book' thrived on positivism, happiness, generosity and graciousness. I wish I could loan my 'book' out for longer, they were an absolute pleasure to talk with. My biggest takeaway from the 'book' was this statement they shared:
Don't live in your illness.
I love this statement. The 'book' did not rattle on about the specifics on HIV because it was beneath them. Why worry about the symptoms and let that drag you down to a compromised way of living. I loved this statement and is one to remind ourselves that we shouldn't have to let a physical or mental illness completely define us as a person.
Another interesting moment during the festival was during the Social Innovation workshop.
This workshop introduced the concept of 'design thinking' and how to get more young people to vote.
I learnt a lot about voting and why it matters - it never bothered me only until attending this event. Well turns out that young people are aware of voting but simply don't care or not educated enough about how politics work.
What was a lightbulb moment for me was when a lady said that the attitudes of how young people approach voting hasn't changed in 13 years since she left school. I agreed with her statement. To this day, I believe that voting is the absolute bottom priority for most New Zealanders. Even though voting is the one thing that contributes to how policies and everyone's livelihoods are shaped.
It began a conversation about how the young generation are simply not education enough voting which turned into a conversation about education in itself.
I highlighted the fact that public schools in particular just churn out average students to be average citizens and that some schools don't teach entrepreneurship. This is a crime to be honest. The group I was talking to agreed, even to how we assess students. Examinations are becoming less effective and evaluating a students potential as taking an exam is only one skill in itself. The key message I got from that workshop was:
Education is the step to making change.
I will write another article on the education front but what was encouraging in the very least was that everyone in my group agreed with me that it was an issue. This made me feel that I wasn't alone - YAY!
Also get out there and VOTE!
What I loved is that this festival also incorporated the Maori culture - there was a Haere Mai and closed with a beautiful Haera Ha that really helped cement why everyone was there. I loved this incorportation of Indigenous culture and needs to be done more and helped shape the identity for me as a New Zealander.
I am so glad that I stumbled onto this by accident (see the Internet can be used for good) and I ended up going to this festival, it was an absolute blast. I learnt so much, made new friends and got new ideas - it was more than I expected and I can't wait what the future holds!