New Frontiers Festival Recap: As It Happened
New Frontiers is a festival primarily designed to spark conversations about integrated and innovative solutions to global problems.
An incredible amount of learning came out of the week, with participants forging new connections and exploring paths forward together into new territory.
The purpose of New Frontiers was to connect passionate and conscious leaders and pave the way for shared understandings, new experiences and emergent collaborations. The highly diverse crowd included entrepreneurs, visionaries, investors, business leaders, cultural leaders, farmers, artists, filmmakers, government leaders, activists, poets, educators and coaches, technologists and philanthropists, to name a few. It was a space to ask the big questions, and to plant the seeds that, with careful nurturing, may grow into big solutions.
To maintain a level of intimacy and organic connection, participant numbers were limited to no more than 80 people per day. This meant thinking carefully about which combination of voices to invite, to encourage balanced discussion. In an effort to ensure that the ideas and learnings spread far beyond the festival, we have made all presentations from New Frontiers (all 50 of them!) freely available to watch on our YouTube channel. Below is a guide to what topics you can explore in more depth.
With so many inspiring people around, we couldn’t wait to get started, and we ended up hearing from some presenters before the official programming even began. We were challenged on how we think about freedom and disability, and alternative models upon which future societies might be based. We were offered a glimpse into the history of one of America’s most successful environmental movements. We got some lessons in plant-based eating and passion-led education from influential voices in film, education, and regenerative agriculture. And then there were the impromptu musical collaborations.
The first official day of New Frontiers was centred around the question of how we can feed a growing global population without destroying the natural ecosystems upon which all species rely. Before we could host a discussion about the land, we were first welcomed onto it by a local Māori elder, Mohi Waihi. He was joined by the Mayors of Upper Hutt and Wellington, and the US Ambassador to New Zealand.
Recurring themes throughout the day included balancing ancient food growing wisdom with new technologies, and to what extent the global food crisis requires a shift in our social systems beyond any other changes. Building upon our rich agricultural history, how can New Zealand be an Incubation Nation for trialling new global food systems? What role does our diet play? What about permaculture? Is widespread adoption of urban gardening the answer? How do we value our unique native species, and rid New Zealand of invasive predators?
Check out our highlight reel from AgTech day here.
Digital Media Day
The Internet age has changed the way that we tell stories, and global audiences are now just milliseconds away. We heard from New Zealanders who are using the medium of film as a force for positive change. How does the framing of stories influence the psychology of empowerment? With the intersection of education, storytelling, and new online platforms, can we collectively influence each other’s stories through online collaborative decision-making? How do we address what one speaker called the "McDonalds-isation of the Internet”?
New Zealand Culture Day
This day celebrating New Zealand’s rich culture started out with a beautiful display of it from the youngest participants in New Frontiers. Our nation has a history as a peaceful, progressive society of innovators on the edge of the map, who are fair-minded, practical and get things done. We were leaders in the anti-apartheid movement and stood up against nuclear weapons. Are we still leading the world today, or is our growing social inequality letting us down? What potential can we harness in our young people, and our artists? Are our immigration policies suited to an increasingly globalised world, and what does the story of New Zealand look like these days?
At the heart of entrepreneurship day was the notion to reclaim the sacred nature of entrepreneurship to put impact at the centre, and catalyse a more beautiful world through creativity, invention, innovation and contribution. There was discussion around the challenges that impact entrepreneurs may come up against. For Kiwi entrepreneurs unfamiliar with US venture capital communities, how do we go about getting funded? What is the state of New Zealand’s entrepreneurial ecosystem? How do we produce value, attract talented entrepreneurs, and shake up business-as-usual?
Check out our interview highlight reel of participants discussing the entrepreneurial landscape in New Zealand.
Impact investing in New Zealand offers new models for creating positive returns for our natural environment, societies, and financial portfolios. But what does the impact investment landscape look like as more options are open than ever before? How are entrepreneurs going about attracting impact investment, and what expectations do venture capitalists and angel investors have around these sorts of investments? What is the role of government? Is there a role for philanthropic foundations to fund impactful businesses? How about foreign investors? Will the arrival of equity crowdfunding change the way that small-scale and first-time investors interact with business?
On our final day at New Frontiers, we discussed the ways that digital and community learning models are disrupting formal education, and what challenges come along with new models. In this increasingly technological world, how do we teach our children to not only read technology, but to write it? When degrees no longer guarantee a job, what kind of shorter, more agile education models are filling the gaps? Where does life experience fit in? How can we better collaborate with industry to provide experiential learning? How are these new alternative models of education being funded? What impact do loving family environments and different styles of parenting have on education?
In the closing of our event, Mohi reminded us that before we can go forward, we have to look behind. New Frontiers left many people with more questions than answers. Yet this was precisely the purpose of the gathering - to open minds to new ways of thinking about complex problems. Silos were cracked, new perspectives exchanged and learnings were shared. As people go back to their respective communities, they have new lenses through which to view the world, a new network of knowledge to draw from, and new frontiers to explore.