Live the Dream 2.0 – How Did We Get Here?

The idea for Live the Dream came from identifying gaps and opportunities in New Zealand. It sought to build on the 2013 visiting Fullbright Scholar, MJ Kaplan’s report on ‘Growing NZ’s Next Generation of Social Entrepreneurs & Start-ups‘. We’d created the epic national event, Festival for the Future, which did a great job getting people inspired about ways in which young people could change the world – but after the event, some of that energy would dissipate. We needed a ‘flow-on’ opportunity. The problem was that the vast majority of ideas and ventures we were seeing would struggle to fit into a commercial accelerator programme like the Lightning Lab. New Zealand had some great support for high-growth commercial enterprise, but big gaps in supports for ventures that are more focused on social and environmental impact – especially for young people. Through my own experience running a range of ventures and start-ups – both for-profit and those more charitable, I believe there’s a unique time in our lives where our ability to take risk is significant, and that every summer young people have time on their hands, and campuses have empty facilities.

Live the Dream – teams in action,

In 2013 we put a call out for young people to pitch us their ‘ideas for a better New Zealand’. We looked for ideas that we thought had the potential to create social, environmental and economic impact. We wanted to build social entrepreneurship & enterprise capability amongst young New Zealanders, because we thought that these were critical capabilities to help create solutions to some of the big issues of our time. Live the Dream was born. Seven youth-led ventures graduated from the first-time programme last summer – all very diverse, all participants had a transformational experience, and a year later four of those ventures are still going – Rate My Flat, Social Lab, Urban Kai, and WHAM.

Social Lab  – Christchurch Event, 2014

This summer, we’ve replicated Live the Dream across both Auckland and Wellington – two programmes running in parallel. It’s been another big step up – with two delivery teams feeling confident and supported to roll out the programme, with 17-ventures taking part in total. We’ve been humbled by the amazing response from the wider community of contributors who have reached out to support the programme. It’s a huge testament to the generosity of New Zealanders, the drive to make a difference, and our collective commitment to the next generation.

Starting a venture is easy. Turning venture into a sustainable enterprise is incredibly challenging – especially if it’s one with a strong core social or environmental mission.

Through founding Inspiring Stories and creating initiatives like Festival for the Future and now Live the Dream, one of my favourite things is challenging ourselves to walk the talk – demonstrating how this stuff can work, and how it can scale. Whilst we’re a charitable trust and hold true to our purpose, in many ways we have to operate like a business. We can’t rely on donations or grants, we simply wouldn’t exist. Some of our programmes earn income through fees and ticket sales, and are attractive to other businesses who want to align their brand to a great thing – it’s the art of finding strategic alignment, and finding the balance between viability and accessibility. We also take on consultancy work that’s on-mission, and can generate a surplus for the Trust. Any profits are always reinvested back into achieiving our aims to support young New Zealanders to unleash their potential to change the world. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s much easier said than done – we’ve had plenty of challenges along the way, but we’re committed to making this work.

We’ll be running a weekly blog throughout the programme. Be sure to check in on this space for updates from each city, as our teams and their ventures develop this summer.

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