Festival of the future

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Festival for the Future and Deloitte challenge millennials to be the change they want to see

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By Georgia Van Tongeren, Consultant, Strategy & Operations Consulting

Festival for the Future is a fast-paced weekend of inspiring speakers, future-focused panels, workshops, and a marketplace for great ideas. It ran from July 27-29th on the Wellington waterfront, with over 1300 attendees.

Inspiring Stories, who created the festival, believe that when people from diverse backgrounds and industries come together to explore the issues and share ideas, remarkable things can happen. Deloitte’s Social Impact practice leader Adithi Pandit agrees, and partnering with Festival for the Future meant that Deloitte could share thought leadership with an engaged audience, and enable our people to soak up all of the learning on offer across the weekend.

We asked a few of them to share their highlights:

Getting energised around millennials in the workforce: Anaya, a Senior Consultant in Deloitte’s Tax practice

Attending my first Festival for the Future was a hugely enriching, inspiring and humbling experience. Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to meet with, work with and listen to some of our country’s most brilliant minds.

Other motivations for attending included:

  • To be exposed to different leaders, thinkers and movers in our community and to different perspectives on issues that face our nation as a whole.
  • To connect with people who have initiatives in the social enterprise, non-for-profit and mental health space.
  • To learn how I can be the change I want to make, to understand the changes that are important to others, network and learn a whole lot from a large group of talented people

Of the workshops I attended, a highlight for me was a session on “Millennials and the Future of Work” (run by the Deloitte team in Wellington). As a millennial, this is an area I am particularly passionate about and was interested in learning more. The session explained the dynamic future of work, how millennials (the leaders of tomorrow) perceive these changes, and how businesses can align themselves with millennial values. The workshops were a great way to share ideas and meet people of all ages from across the country.

Tackling the big issues that matter: Georgia, a consultant in Deloitte’s Strategy & Operations Consulting practice

For me, the highlight of day one was the panel on Child Poverty. This was convened by Judge Andrew Becroft, the current Children’s Commissioner, alongside Kristie Baker (Child Poverty Unit), Anya Satyanand (Ara Taiohi), Tupua Urlich (co-founder of VOYCE Whakarongomai), and Whaiora Patrick (Mental Health advocate and Kawerau future leader). The panel represented both lived and expert experience, and their take on such a thorny and multifaceted issue kept even millennials with short attention spans interested throughout. Given Deloitte’s interest and work within the social sector, this discussion was heartening to witness, with its focus on and commitment to making change in the future. The panel drove home the pace at which change needs to be made, the system wide input required, and the absolute need to include the voices of those directly impacted.

Trying my hand at a masterclass, I attended a workshop on Personal Mastery, from Wellington’s Joel Bouzaid. With years of experience in coaching, leadership, motivation, and fitness, his aim is to enable people to live their life by design, and to find and live their purpose. Throughout the session, he shared insight in bite size pieces, and how to take these lessons and apply them to your own life. His key takeaways were his five principles for life – Slam it, Own it, Commit, Brave it, and Take it. He talked through developing habits, and how to live your life the way you want to. Attendees left with a renewed sense of motivation, and pragmatic ways of making changes in their own lives.

Hearing from those with lived experience: Duey, an Analyst in Deloitte’s Strategy & Operations Consulting practice

The final day of Festival opened with a speaker session on overcoming adversity, featuring a range of guests including Matt Frost from Autism New Zealand and Georgina Beyer, the world’s first openly transsexual Member of Parliament. The speakers shared their personal stories of incredible hardship, what they learned from their experiences, and how they triumphed in spite of them. An emotional and empowering start to day two, attendees left the session feeling inspired and determined to be more resilient as individuals. Following the speaker session was a panel discussion on mental health and wellbeing.

For me, this was a topic which was quite close to home, having seen the effects of mental illness in my own community. Many of the speakers had experienced mental illness themselves, lending considerable weight to what they had to say, and allowing them to provide real insight into what we can do to help those around us who are experiencing the same things. One key takeaway was that we should never expect ourselves to have all the answers – sometimes simply being there to listen is all one person needs.

After lunch I attended another panel, focused on the sustainability of New Zealand’s housing. The panel was unexpectedly emotional, as one of the guests was a young Māori youth who had experienced a period of homelessness alongside her peers. The inaccessibility and ruthlessness of New Zealand’s housing market had never been so visible to me, and I left the panel with a renewed perspective and awareness of privileges I had in my own community.

As a third-time Festival attendee, I had high expectations for the closing speaker session. The final session rounded out Festival in a great way, as its theme was taking action to turn ideas into impact. The final four speakers included the Hon. James Shaw, Minister for Climate and Statistics, and young leader Latayvia Tualasea Tautai, who despite her age, took to the stage with such presence and enthusiasm that I had trouble believing she was only a first-year university student. With each speaker bringing their unique perspective on what we could do in our communities to drive social impact, Festival closed with the lingering message that the power to create positive change was within the hands of each and every individual there that day.

Connecting around innovation and purpose: John, a consultant in Deloitte’s Tax practice

On the second day, Anaya and I attended a workshop centred on purpose driven business and social enterprises. The workshop was interactive and we had to break into small groups and tackle a real world problem, and create a two minute pitch to sell this idea to the other teams. A real highlight and feel good moment was that we ended up putting together a number of solutions that may help a real charity run by one of our fellow delegates at the table to tackle particular youth issues in NZ.

This session was a highlight for me because it underscored the incredible ideas and opportunities that can come out of a short, focused session when we have clearly aligned purpose. Despite being complete strangers, we connected over our shared concern of some of New Zealand’s most ‘wicked problems’ and innovated quickly within the given constraints, to conceive of real world solutions that would be achievable for those seated at the table.

Running a workshop stream on millennials: Dan Howell, a Senior Consultant in the Human Capital practice

As part of the partnership, Deloitte ran four workshop sessions covering two different topics over the weekend. Workshops were designed to be as interactive as possible, to cater to the needs of the 80+ in attendance at each session.

Session one centred on how individuals could be change agents. With one third of the workforce now millennials, they have the opportunity to be change makers in their own lives and impact the businesses and organisations they work in. Given the perceptions of business are declining, empowering individuals to make the changes they want to see is a way to equip millennials in the workforce for the future.

Session two used Deloitte’s Business Chemistry tool, to allow individuals to determine their primary and secondary personality type, and learn how to best tailor their approach to work effectively within teams with diverse personalities. The session allowed people to “hunch” their own type, and workshop how they could tailor their behaviour and preferences to the other types. This, and other soft skills, underpin the toolkit that millennials in the workforce will need to prepare them for the future of work. Attendees took home a worksheet tailored to them, to ensure that they were able to build on their learnings and experience outside of Festival.

As a team, we were blown away with the innovative ideas put forward and the commitments made by participants to start making small changes tomorrow. For example, one participant was passionate about improving mental health in the workplace, and was going to start mental health conversations with the people she worked with, with the aim to de-stigmatise the topic and eventually run a speaking series across her community.

An eye-opening experience

Overall, involvement in the Festival was an eye-opening experience – for those that attended, and for the session facilitators. For attendees, Festival offered a melting pot of ideas and stories to inspire, and countless opportunities to engage with some of the most ambitious and interesting people involved in shaping New Zealand. For facilitators, the sessions were a way to build on previous engagement with a similar audience, but on a larger scale, as well as to impart different ways of working and pragmatic steps that will help individuals back in their own day to day lives.

Our challenge now is to take this learning and thinking back to our respective environments and embed it in the work we are already and will soon be doing.

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