Inspiring Stories

Where: Wellington, New Zealand

When: 24th February 2015. The organisation began in 2011 when Guy won a Vodafone World of Difference award.

Who: I met with Guy Ryan, founder and CEO of Inspiring Stories. There are various other staff according to the level of activity going on – at the moment there are 23 others, the most there have ever been. This is about to change though, with a permanent core team being brought on board alongside Guy. There are also volunteers and interns who get involved in particular activities throughout the year.

What: Inspiring Stories is about supporting New Zealand’s young people to engage in creating solutions to the big issues of our time. They are ‘growing a movement of young New Zealanders who can, and will change the world’. Projects include:

– Festival for the Future, an annual conference bringing together young people to share how they are creating change and develop skills and ideas to lead to more ideas, innovation and action for positive effects.

– Live the Dream, an incubator for young social entrepreneurs to grow their ventures – it began one year ago as a pilot in Wellington, running for 10 weeks over the summer. This year it ran in both Wellington and Auckland, with 9 ventures in each city. Next year it will double again running in 4 cities.

– Capability building around storytelling and film-making running through all aspects of their outreach work (which began as an annual film competition for young people together with workshops and training to share their stories of how they are making a difference). A slight pivot on this has happened due to funding issues.

To give a more tangible example, here is Guy describing one of the recent ventures coming out of Live The Dream:


Why: The inspiration for Guy came from various places – a combination of peers on his Masters course being interested in social and environmental issues, travelling to places like Nepal and Morocco and seeing stark inequalities with his own eyes, and attending a guest lecture by founder Bill McKibben and learning about the need to act on climate change. With his interest in creativity and film-making, the natural beginning of Inspiring Stories was telling stories of people doing inspiring things to act, to share and spread the motivation for creating positive change.


– 4 consecutive years of sell out tickets to the national event, Festival for the Future

– 2 successful rounds of Live the Dream with 25 different enterprises coming out of it

– recently secured government funding to scale up their activities

– played a part in assuring government recognition of social enterprise and establishment of youth enterprise fund

– Guy has just won the 2015 Young New Zealander of the year award in recognition of all he has achieved to date and the positive change he is fostering

– a huge range of cross-sectoral partnerships formed from local councils and tertiary institutions, to international consultancy firms – people are rallying around their vision

The way Inspiring Stories measure their impact varies from programme to programme but includes personal and professional outcomes for participants, ticket sales for the conference, particular outputs for the ventures being created, and more systemic outcomes such as policy and procurement changes, in-kind professional services donated, and the strength of partnerships.


Future plans: With the recent news (just a couple of days ago!) that Inspiring Stories are to receive $500k over the next 2.5 years from the national government, the organisation has big plans. The main one is a new flagship programme called Future Leaders. It will recruit 3 young people (18-24 years old) from each of the 16 regions of New Zealand, provide them with a salary and small budget, and support them to run programmes and projects in their own backyard. These young people will form partnerships and secure local co-investment to help scale up what Inspiring Stories are doing, increase the scale of support from around 1000 young people per year to tens of thousands.

Guy has also identified a gap in support for young social entrepreneurs taking their start-ups to the next stage (i.e. after completing Live the Dream). To address this, he plans to establish the ‘Future Fund’ to provide a pot of money for seed investment and further support to move to the next stage.


Further info:, (TEDx talk)


Personal reflections: Out of any organisation I have met on this trip, this one links most closely to my previous work back in the UK with Student Hubs, empowering and providing opportunities for young people to make a difference. In addition, I found out about them just after I had all my musings about New Zealand’s potential in relation to sustainability leadership ( – it was so great to discover there is an organisation out there already creating the culture change needed to make it happen! As a result, I feel particularly excited about what Inspiring Stories are doing. Not only that, they are just at a turning point for scaling up and making their aim of 1 million young people actively engaging in positive change closer to reality. Besides receiving government funding, the evening after I met Guy, he was named Young New Zealander of the year. Lots of other people are getting to realise what a difference this organisation is making too – the ripples are beginning to generate waves…


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