About Lifehack

Lifehack is a systems-level intervention in youth mental health and wellbeing in Aotearoa New Zealand. Lifehack was launched in 2013 as part of the (former) Prime Minister’s Youth Mental Project, which aims to improve the mental health and wellbeing of young people and seed funded by the Social Media Innovation Fund.

Our goal is to see all young New Zealanders flourish.

We’re about growing the capacity of the system to support the wellbeing of young people, with an emphasis on co-design, prevention and capability building. That means we take a cross sector approach, working with a broad range of practitioners and organisations. We support them to develop new approaches, projects and ventures, with young people at the centre of the process.

Our influence on youth wellbeing can be traced through the actions and interventions of the partners we have worked with. These partners in turn add to a collective impact, over the long-term, that address various social determinants of youth mental health and wellbeing across the country. We measure our success by the changes achieved at a systems level, because this is where conditions for youth wellbeing are set and enabled.


In 2011, the Gluckman report made extensive and wide-ranging recommendations how New Zealand could improve outcomes for young people. It presented a clear message that no single intervention would be sufficient to make a substantive difference for young people; rather an integrated and consistent approach was needed across a range of new interventions and initiatives. International research on social innovation suggests that complex problems such as youth suicide require systems-level solutions that often emerge from within the system itself. It becomes difficult for traditional policy and programme delivery models to respond, where there is no agreement on what the problem is, or even what constitutes ‘best practice’.. When innovation and learning are required, new policy approaches are needed. The Prime Minister’s Youth Mental Health Project consists of 26 initiatives, of which Lifehack is one, is an example of an intervention designed to catalyse innovation and learning in a sector struggling to solve complex problems.

How we work

For the last three years Lifehack has been developing, modelling and evaluating approaches to innovation in youth-wellbeing, drawing on existing evidence from wellbeing science and the disciplines of design, social entrepreneurship and technology.

Lifehack works at a systems level, building the capability of the youth workforce to apply tools and methodologies from these different disciplines to enable them to work in a more cross-sectoral way, better identify local issues and youth vulnerabilities, and co-design more effective and contextual responses with the young people and communities affected.

There is a specific focus on improving workforce, community and sector capability to support young people’s participation in the definition and design of services and systems. This leads to increased participation by young people in social and civic life, and more appropriate and useful services.

An action research approach

Lifehack interventions are co-designed with participants and evaluated both during and after the programme, which informs future programme development and strategy. Connection with participants are maintained through the Lifehack network and community of practice. Although many of the medium-term impacts of the programmes are only now becoming visible, it has been possible for us to identify key areas of impact and outcomes, which have formed the focus of the work in 2016 and the model presented in this document. While we are able to reasonably attribute some specific outcomes to young people either directly through our interventions or via our partners, our core impact is measured through the changes achieved at a system level (workforce, organisations, sector, community), which is where conditions for youth wellbeing are set and enabled.

Specifically, this means working with change agents who already are working with (or have the potential to engage) vulnerable youth populations in their communities and have the potential to influence how young people are positioned, engaged and involved in those communities. This includes the design of the systems and services that impact them. As is appropriate to a systemic approach to change, the ‘youth workforce’ Lifehack works with operates across strategic and operational levels and includes formal and informal youth workers, those working in community, health and education settings, people working in justice, as well as local and central government policy and business.