Attendees from over 40 not for profit organisations convened in Auckland from the 19th to 20th of February for the 2019 National Not-for-Profit Sector Conference, centered around the theme of “Changemakers Making Change”. AFS was a proud sponsor of this years conference, which allowed us the opportunity to act as one of five stallholders in the exhibition and networking room, as well as to profile our impact goals and strategy to ensure that we can recruit new and retain our long-standing volunteers.

With “Change Making” and diversity at the core of the event, it was exciting to have such a beautiful mihi whakatau to open and welcome attendees to the conference. Director of Grow, Shaun Lines, implored the audience to keep an open mind throughout the conference, as well as considering three issues for the future of New Zealand throughout the programme: a growing and aging population, the cultural diversity of our residents, and rising inequality between classes.

We heard from 6 inspiring Keynote speakers discussing a wide range of topical issues for leaders within the not for profit sector. Andrea Midgen, CEO of RNZSPCA opened the conference with a Keynote addressing the importance of collaboration and collectivism in supporting across-board development, as well as the need for “education more often than prosecution” in curbing negative relationships between humans and animals.

Dr. Angela Lim advocated for leaders to “throw themselves into unfamiliar environments to discover different realities within the world”, creating opportunities to experience new interests or areas of change that may be necessary.

In the afternoon, Jackie Blue presented her Keynote on a personal perspective of being a changemaker, encouraging attendees to invite new opportunities into their lives, as one will never know where a path may lead them in future.

Of particular impact was Annah Stretton’s case study detailing her social venture RAW (Reclaim Another Woman). Launched in the Waikato, RAW works with recidivist female offenders who have had trouble reintegrating into society. With her extensive connections, Annah has created a programme that offers accommodation options, educational opportunities and job prospects to women who are driven to make better decisions looking forward. Her personal leadership journey has led her to the conclusion that “we need to stop applying our normal” on to others when assessing whether a situation is “right” or “wrong”. Annah’s story provided contextual evidence that inclusion and diversity often concerns our nation’s most vulnerable, and that these people are often living realities that we may not be able to conceptualise. In effect, changemakers are able to analyse and understand the stories of people different from themselves and act in empathetic and empowering manners.

The conference offered the options of six different workshops intended to improve different areas of leadership skill sets, including “leading the people side of change”, “cultural intelligence”, and “building an innovation culture”. Each workshop facilitator would share their personal experiences developing certain leadership skills over the course of 75 minutes,presenting the attendants with tips and tricks to more efficiently lead their teams.

“Educating for the future” became a key message throughout the course of the conference – a similar statement to AFS Intercultural Programmes’ vision of educating and raising global citizens to be future leaders. We were also honoured to be mentioned in one of the plenaries as one of the key organisations across the sector who can recruit and train high quality volunteers who can contribute their time and skills in fomenting diversity and inclusion to many valuable causes.

The conference was an exhilarating and inspiring way to experience the passion and drive of some of the leaders within our national not for profit sector. AFS’ mission to create a more just and peaceful world was supported by many organisations leading the charge in New Zealand to create a framework for empowering and empathetic change in the present and future for our people.