In New Zealand, Connecting Young Leaders

Posted by Adrian Pratt
October 7, 2010
Young Leaders in New Zealand

About the Author: Adrian Pratt serves as Assistant Public Affairs Officer at U.S. Embassy Wellington.

Organizing a conference for future leaders in New Zealand can take a lot of work. But when you bring together 50 vibrant, engaged and driven students from across the country together for the first time, fun is a natural by-product.

The early October "Connecting Young Leaders" conference, coordinated by the U.S. Embassy in Wellington, wove together a number of top goals: We used social media to deepen our outreach to the young and future leaders of New Zealand, built mutual understanding between our countries as well as long-term relationships.

By way of background, Ambassador David Huebner, almost as soon as he arrived, began assembling student advisory groups at each of the country's universities. These students were selected for the promise they showed as future leaders of New Zealand. The ambassador met with each of these groups while he was traveling, but the students themselves had not met their counterparts from other universities.

"Connecting Young Leaders" was to fix that. We had already established a by-invitation-only Facebook group -- Kiwusdo -- for student discussions.

Now we wanted to get them all to meet.

The students were a little reserved when we brought them together for a reception and political history lesson at parliament on the first night. By the end of the second evening, there was no keeping the group quiet. They had bonded.

Along the way, we organized panels to discuss the state of the world, Kiwi and international politics and law, environmentalism, Pacific development, the global economy and trade. We even invited a leadership guru, who finished the conference on a high note.

The ambassador then hosted the students at his residence for a high-decibel dinner at which the themes of the day continued to be hashed out.

The conference has already been tweeted, videoed, and blogged about. Speakers from Washington, DC, greeted the students via a recorded video message. Questions from the students to the speakers that were not answered due to time constraints during the Q&A sessions were answered later online, through Kiwusdo. Throughout the day photos of the conference were uploaded to Facebook and Flickr, so that the students could share with their friends and family in real time using the free wi-fi provided.

The goals now will be to keep the students engaged -- with each other, and with us. With social media, we're already well on the way to achieving that.

To read more about the "Connecting Young Leaders" conference, visit U.S. Ambassador Huebner's blog.

Comments

Comments

Mahina-a-rangi B.
|
New Zealand
October 8, 2010

Mahina-a-rangi B. in New Zealand writes:

Kia ora,

This was such a great weekend. I was so energized and motivated by being around so many inspiring and accomplished young people.

Whilst this conference was just a natural extension of the Ambassadors work with his student groups, this event was a truly unique opportunity to engage with a wide range of speakers on important issues.

Thanks so much to the team!

Oystercracker
|
United States
October 8, 2010

O.C. in the U.S.A. writes:

I'm curious to know how many people of color attended as the picture only shows white students. Was there an equal distribution and representation of Aborigines, Chinese, Thai, etc? As these ethnic groups are also part of Australian society.

R. B.
October 8, 2010

DipNote Bloggers write:

@O.C. - You can see additional photos of the group here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/us_embassy_newzealand

Oystercracker
|
United States
October 8, 2010

O.C. in the U.S.A. writes:

I saw the pictures and I still can't see much color in the picture. Did you use the wrong type of film?

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
October 8, 2010

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Uh...OC Right film, little underexposed (shutter speed too fast you know)...and you have the wrong country dear.

Oh and yes I did note mixed race among folks present in aprox proportion to stats below...so I don't know what you are attempting to imply, just use your eyes.

(partial stats from Country Background Notes-US Dept of State Website)

Geography
Area: 270,500 sq. km.; about the size of Colorado.
Cities (June 2009): Capital--Wellington (386,000). Other cities--Auckland (1,333,300), Christchurch (386,100), Hamilton (200,300).
Terrain: Highly varied, from snowcapped mountains to lowland plains.
Climate: Temperate to subtropical.

People
Nationality: Noun--New Zealander(s). Adjective--New Zealand.
Population: 4.36 million.
Annual population growth rate (during year ending June 2010): 1.3%.
Ethnic groups: European 76.8%; Maori 14.9%; Asian 9.7%; other Polynesian Pacific peoples 7.2%; Middle Eastern, Latin American, and African 0.9%. (Note: People can choose to identify with more than one ethnic group.)
Religions: Christian 55.6%, no religion 34.7%, Hindu 1.5%, Buddhist 1.3%, Islam/Muslim 0.8%, Jewish 0.2%, Spiritualism/New Age 0.5%, other 0.6%.
Languages: English, Maori, New Zealand Sign Language.
Education: Years compulsory--ages 6-16. Attendance--100%. Literacy--99%.

Oystercracker
|
United States
October 9, 2010

O.C. in the U.S.A. writes:

@Eric,
I really didn't see any representative populations given the statistics you indicated. The point being that if ethnic inclusion is an aspect of foreign policy, where's the rainbow of people? If you know something I don't please let me know.

Oystercracker
|
United States
October 9, 2010

O.C. in the U.S.A. writes:

And furthermore Eric from New Mexico, land of prickly things, Can you point out which one was Hindi?

Andrew D.
|
New Zealand
October 10, 2010

Andrew D. in New Zealand writes:

O.C.:

You're misunderstanding the subtleties of NZ's ethnic diversity/make-up. It is not that simple that you can always just 'look' at someone and determine whether they will identify themselves as NZ European (what we normally call Pakeha) AND/OR Maori. Identity here is much more complex than that. While whakapapa (heritage and ancestry) is hugely important to Maori, those with Maori forebears can largely choose to identify themselves as Maori, or Pakeha, or both. Simply looking at photos isn't enough.

I attended the conference, and I can tell you that there were many at the conference with a shared Maori and Pakeha background. Indeed a brief waiata was sung at the dinner; this was an inclusive event, respectful of diversity.

There were students there from India, the Pacific Islands, recent immigrants from continental Europe and even a student from Zimbabwe. Thus while it is unfair to expect 50 students to exactly represent New Zealand's ethnic diversity anyway, I still think this conference did a pretty good job at including people of different faiths and backgrounds.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
October 11, 2010

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Andrew D. in NZ

When I told OC

"just use your eyes."

I was hoping she'd use them to read with, but apparently she didn't understand me.

"(Note: People can choose to identify with more than one ethnic group.)"
- NZ country notes

Thanks for illuminating the point.

So how are folks doing in Cristchurch?

We didn't get much followup news about the earthquake, but I take it you'all were very lucky indeed to avoid serious numbers of casualties.

Best Regards,

EJ

Oystercracker
|
United States
October 11, 2010

O.C. in the U.S.A. writes:

@Andrew,
That's good to know that ethnic people were fairly well represented. It let's me know that the State Department is doing its job and matching their actions with their rhetoric. I just have to keep everyone in check.

Fabian W.
|
New Zealand
October 21, 2010

Fabian W. in New Zealand writes:

Hi guys, I just had a look at all the photos and videos... Looks like they made me the poster child! That's... Flattering ;) Thanks again to all those who organized this awesome event, we all had a great time!
There seems to be a bit of concern about diversity in the comments below. I think we had a very balanced share of girls/guys, and also a quite a few non-pakeha participants. Probably not as many as there could have been, but I would be hestitant to blame that on the embassy... I'm actually Swiss myself ;)

Sarah. C.
|
New Zealand
October 31, 2010

Sarah C. in New Zealand writes;

@Eric

Christchurch is recovering well, parts of the city have a long road ahead and we're still experiencing fairly major aftershocks. However on the whole I think people are now looking to the future and just working on picking themselves up and carrying on. We were extremely blessed to have no casualties.

@Andrew D.

I think you've summed up the spirit of New Zealand ethnic identity perfectly. I think our diversity and acceptance of other cultures is self evidenced in the fact that those of us of European descent identify ourselves as "Pakeha" rather than "NZ European."

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
October 31, 2010

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Hi Sarah,

A few injuries and no fatalities is indeed miraculous and I bet folks feel blessed.

I've been in a 3.5 out in LA once and my cat started climbing the walls just before hand (which warned me) and hid under the bed during while I braced in a doorway.

Didn't stay long after that, came back here to New Mexico to feel solid ground under my feet again.

Not the kind of rock and roll I was looking forward to anyway.

Well, at least the geology there in NZ is working its kinks out and hopefully after things quiet down it will be long while before something like that happens there again.

Best,

EJ

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