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Expert Voices

Meet our new champion in leading change…

We recently held our first face-to-face session for Leading Change for Good, and it was the perfect opportunity to formally introduce our new programme lead at The Mind Lab.

Our founder, Frances Valintine, introduced our newest programme lead with the observation that people in the business of doing good seldom do only one good thing; Saskia Verraes is no exception…

Saskia began her session with this:

Ko Ranginui e tū iho nei
Ko Paptūanuku e takoto nei
Ko Tane mahuta nāna te ngahere
Ko Tangaroa nāna te moana
Ki uta, ko ngā awe me nā roto
Ko Aotearoa tōku ūkaipō

It is the Tiaki Promise Pepeha, a collaborative effort of the tourism industry and government to create awareness among both domestic and international explorers to travel respectfully through New Zealand and take on the collective responsibility of guardianship. 

Saskia comments that this Pepeha is a perfect summation of what “good” means to her as it sums up her passion, authentic values and commitment to doing the right, responsible (good) thing.

She adds that she drove this initiative from within Tourism Holdings Limited, in her role as Chief Responsible Management Officer. It is therefore also a testimony to being able to drive change from within, to being able to work within organisational structure, legislation and governance and  lead change for good no matter what. 

“The promise is all about collaboration, about starting with a shared vision and purpose, no matter where we come from. To me, that is leading change for good, it’s not about one person doing one thing, it’s about doing it all together, with that one purpose in mind, and to make it work.” 

“It’s honestly about perseverance and passion – there are a lot of very hard days and challenges and they can be insurmountable without the right amount of deep conviction,” says Saskia.

“My journey started in the Netherlands, both my parents were teachers and I have been very, very lucky to have grown up in a liberal country.” 

“I was the 12 year old girl protesting against nuclear arms – I’ve always wanted to help the world get better and bring people along with me.” 

Saskia believes the trick is in approaching challenges with a “yes..and” instead of a “here’s why not” policy; in moving forward by cobbling together ideas that are already out there and pooling resources to exponentially scale up change. 

Not content with driving sustainable change and guardianship in New Zealand, Saskia set her sights on the rest of the world.

“I didn’t feel as though I was doing enough to change the world so I also set up my own virtual not for profit to help accelerate impact: to match organisations that are already doing the right thing with organisations that have resources to scale up that impact. I studied a virtual course at Stanford University called ‘Lead, learn, engage, accelerate, disrupt’ to refresh and accelerate my skills so that I could do the same for others.” 

Through that learning community the not for profit was born. 

“Currently we are working on changing the lives of kids in the favelas of Brazil. In Rio we found a software company with a social arm teaching digital skills to kids from the favelas  so that they could lift themselves and their families out of poverty. We funded these kids to learn the digital skills and then they started designing and building an app for our not for profit. Evelyn was one of two kids who was sponsored to go to Palo Alto to share her experience and knowledge. From a leading change perspective, that is such a powerful thing. They say that you can’t change the world but that changes the world for somebody like that.”

People have told me all my life that you cannot change the world, but you can. And you must,” says Saskia.

“I am incredibly excited to support anyone in any way that I can; the time for change is now, and we don’t have much time, that’s why it’s important to have the tools not only to identify change solutions, but to scale them up, accelerate them, and allow them to have maximum impact.

I am so excited to be a part of this programme and look forward to supporting each and every student to help make this world a better place.”

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Leading Change for Good

We believe Kiwis can lead the way with a new style of leadership, where we lead others with openness and care, and focus on purpose-driven change. So we’ve created Leading Change for Good, the first postgraduate leadership programme in Aotearoa that focuses on genuinely doing good.