Top 5 reasons to support your people to attend the Flourishing Fellowship

Are you a manager or decision-maker trying to decide whether to “sign off” on somebody’s participation in this year’s Flourishing Fellowship? Well – this blog post is for you.

Paul McGregor was one of our original Flourishing Fellows. Now, as a member of the Lifehack team, he has a unique perspective on the impact of the Fellowship.

This time two years ago, I was sitting down with my manager to convince her to support my attendance at this thing called “The Flourishing Fellowship.”

It was a challenging conversation. Funding was tight. (When is it ever not?) I’d just recently been to an overseas conference. And it was the first time the Flourishing Fellowship had been run.

The Fellowship’s benefits were listed on the website, but even as I sat there saying the words to my manager, I felt unsure myself.

Could a 3-month programme really deliver on the promise of being “life-changing”?

Would I really become part of a lasting network of system-changers working to improve youth wellbeing?

This year’s Fellowship will be the third iteration. And as I’ve moved from Flourishing Fellow to a member of the Lifehack team, I’ve witnessed first-hand the impacts of the programme.

Lifehack has carefully evaluated the impacts of the first two Fellowships. Which means the impacts claimed below are not just based on hunches or hopes.

So here they are: the top 5 reasons to support your people to attend the Fellowship!

1. More effective programme design: Fellows are better equipped to co-design projects with young people from the start

Something that is designed for young people AND with young people. That’s the core of co-design. The unique perspectives of young people are designed into the fabric of an event, project or initiative.

The Fellowship provides participants with experience in facilitation and participatory design tools. Using these allows greater participation from young people not normally engaged in community initiatives.

Mike Ryan, Director Community Services at Upper Hutt City Council, was part of our local Fellowship – Oro Upper Hutt. He shared these reflections about the impact of Oro on his work:

The Oro—Upper Hutt programme came at an opportune time. Council were looking at Youth Strategies; Youth Plans and Youth Councils and how we could get these in place and up and running.

The outcome from the Oro—Upper Hutt programme is that we need youth to determine what and how they want to engage with the community and how youth would like to be engaged with.

This may lead to Youth Strategies/Plans and/or a Youth Council, but it may go down a completely different pathway.

It is about trusting the process and trusting youth to determine for themselves how they would like to provide direction and guidance to Council and what they would like to see happen within the community to benefit youth.  

You can read more about Mike’s reflections here.

2. Cross-sectoral collaboration becomes possible: Fellows have access to a diverse, cross-sector and national network for support and collaboration

After each Fellowship, we’ve seen the new networks spring into action time and again. The Fellows leave with a strong shared understandings about how to make cross-sectoral change.

One of the many stories that springs to mind is the story of SHIFT.

Fran McEwen had a background in community development and a passion for supporting the wellbeing of young women. She knew that reduced participation in physical activities was a contributing factor to negative health outcomes.

She succeeded in gaining the support of Wellington City Council to start a programme to meet this need. But soon realised she wasn’t sure how to develop this to meet the needs of young women most effectively.

The Flourishing Fellowship provided Fran with access to cross-disciplinary connections, knowledge and perspectives. The cohort used Fran’s idea as a prototype exemplar and through the Fellowship Fran was able to prototype aspects of the programme.

Go on – learn more about the Fellowship’s impact on Fran’s work here.

3. Wellbeing is better incorporated into your organisation: Fellows are better equipped to support their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of others

“” a heightened awareness of my own wellbeing and to embed that across the projects I am undertaking.” Dougal Stott, Social Entrepreneur

Dougal’s experience is typical of the Flourishing Fellowship. It stems from our knowledge that you cannot support young people’s wellbeing unless you know how to support yourself.

The Fellowship provides a unique hybrid of professional and personal development. We introduce a range of science-based wellbeing tools such as the Five Ways to Wellbeing and Te Whare Tapu Wha.

A continuing feature of the Fellowship is a workshop called the Inner Dialogue or Inner Critic workshop. The workshop highlights the internal chatter that goes on inside our head, and suggests practical ways to use that chatter to our benefit.

Christel Price, one of the 2016 Fellows, produced a short video on the Inner Critic workshop. Check it out below.

4. Increased engagement, motivation and capacity for change: Fellows feel re-motivated in their work alongside young people

Youth wellbeing is what we call a “complex challenge”. The nature and scope of the challenge changes every day.

Compare that with a “technical challenge” such as flying to the moon. Without doubt, that’s an immense challenge. But the challenge remains the same day after day. Gravity doesn’t change, the laws of physics are constant.

Working to improve a complex challenge like youth wellbeing can be emotionally taxing. That’s why it’s crucial to have a network of people who understand the motivations and challenges you face in this work.

Fellows report to us that the people they meet on the programme are one of the more important and long-lasting benefits.

Here’s what that that cross-sectoral network can look like in action.

Barney Kuki-Wikitera left the 2015 Fellowship with plans to push forward a project called ‘Tough Choice’, which aimed to put young people at the centre of a movement against violence.

However, after several months Barney was running out of resources and energy to keep his project going. He put a call out on the Fellowship Facebook group:

Hey whanau! … This is an SOS to the Flouriship whanau, we have a meeting this Friday from 6pm onwards to resurrect the kaupapa and I need some tautoko on this one – any of the whanau keen to help breathe life back into the kaupapa? Brouther Barns is feeling breathless… every time I read the news I see the need to educate our young people about the repercussions of violent behaviour…

The response was astounding – 9 of the Wellington-based Fellows went to Barney’s meeting. Using tools and frameworks which they had adopted through Lifehack programmes, they workshopped Barney’s project and breathed new life and energy into it.

5. Deeper connections with young people: Fellows better engage young people by connecting with them personally

The Māori concept of whakawhanaugatanga is built into the design and format of the Fellowship. Personal connection is put at the forefront of the programme.

We’ve learned that building meaningful relationships with young people (and your colleagues) is crucial.

Soul Mehlhopt is a youth worker for the Youth One Stop Shop (YOSS) in Palmerston North. During the 2016 Fellowship, Soul was planning a two-day professional development course.

After using some of the tools and methods from the Fellowship, Soul had this to report to the other Fellows:

Hey awesome peeps!
Just a quick update.

If you remember I did mention a few times that my buddy and I were gearing up to run our first pro development that spanned two days.

We completed it only yesterday and have had some really awesome feedback!

The thing that was noted in the evaluations by all people attending was that they really digged the personal element and the chance to really connect with other. (Thanks Lifehack for teaching the importance of this.)

You can read more about how we incorporate whakawhanaugatana into the Fellowship through a framework called Ngā Uri Ō here.

Does your organisation work alongside young people? Support your staff to apply!

Applications for 2017’s Fellowship are closing on 1 March! Travel subsidies, scholarships and discounts for non-profits and unwaged individuals are available. We are committed to making the Fellowship financially accessible.

To find out more about this opportunity, and the impact it could have on youth wellbeing, just visit


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.