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Civic entrepreneur & disaster-recovery guru


Sam Johnson is one of New Zealand’s most inspiring young citizens. His relentless energy to mobilize people around ideas has a magic ability in building movements that matter! Farm boy turned social entrepreneur, Sam’s work is on the leading edge of using the collective to overcome the bureaucratic - shifting our belief system about what is possible when teams, organizations and communities authentically connect and build empathy.

Sam became a household name in New Zealand when he started what has become New Zealand’s largest volunteer movement - the internationally acclaimed Student Volunteer Army. What started as a small social media page after the devastating Christchurch earthquakes has been mirrored across the globe as a movement for impact, not an organization for ego.

Sam developed a social enterprise in 2016 to connect generations and end social isolation in New Zealand. His venture joined forces with Mycare in 2017, reforming the home care sector through an AirBnB model of community support. Sam is now Head of Community Innovation at Mycare and helps recreate mutually beneficial models of community where they utilize Mycare's powerful technology to help realize ideas.

Awarded Young New Zealander of the Year for his leadership, Communicator of the Year for his honest media commentary and a Sir Peter Blake Leadership Award to remind him never to rest on success; in Sam’s world, there is no moment worth missing out on.

Sam is an Adjunct Fellow in the School of Education and Leadership at the University of Canterbury, #17 on the Readers Digest Most Trusted New Zealanders list, a member of the Ministry of Youth Development Partnership board, Westpac Sustainability Advisory Board and current Secretary of the International Association for Volunteer Effort.

Sam Johnson is an internationally sought keynote speaker who is known for his energy, humour, and thought-provoking keynotes. He shares time between his New Zealand home and family in Fort Collins, Colorado. Having previously lived and worked in New York and as a board member of a D.C based international charity, the International Association of Volunteer Effort, Sam connects well with US audiences in a raw, authentic and humorous way.

- Adjunct Fellow, School of Education and Leadership at the University of Canterbury
- Co-Chair, Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum Emerging Leaders Programme
- Member, Westpac Bank New Zealand Sustainability board
- Founding Trustee, Prince of Wales New Zealand Trust

Talking Points

Build Your Own Army!

Sam Johnson famously mobilised an army-for-good of 11,000 students to respond to the New Zealand earthquakes. Sam took social media and a clear need to mobilize an ‘army’ of helpers to solve a real problem. But how do you keep a good idea going and how do you integrate small ideas into local institutions, businesses and everyday behaviours? Sam’s journey is filled with real, raw and practical approaches to leadership and life. His team’s work has attracted everyone from Prince Harry to Hillary Clinton to the Parkland Students to visit and learn how a group of students turned a disaster into a national movement that has now has 2% of the county’s population involved.

Who this is for: Sam is most popular within the infrastructure, human resources, insurance, real estate, health care, sales or government industries given the direct relevance his work has to these sectors.

- Education and training industry events including teachers, principals, school supervisors, education department staffers, consultants, trainees
- Environment and waste conferences including local government, waste mitigation, utility, safety, three-waters, storm mitigation, disaster resilience, disaster risk reduction, disaster preparedness, FEMA, Fire Service, Volunteer Sector, emergency response sector
- Economic and community development at the national, state, regional, and local levels.
- Public service, service designers, public sector managers
- Hospital, medical, community health, nursing, health leadership events, health technology conferences
- People
- Agriculture or rural-focused events - events that attract people from smaller towns who are worried about the changing nature of communities

Key Takeaways:
1. Culture and leadership: culture is built by sharing responsibility for risk. Giving teams permission to execute is the most essential element to complex leadership challenges.
2. Strategy and action: You need three people with a combination of five skills to make anything happen: Vision, Plan, Promote, Do, Review.
3. How to build movements for impact, not empires for ego.

Why Choose Sam Johnson?

  • Sam is an amazing individual who has truly changed the world through his actions and he inspires audiences to do the same.
  • His messages are engaging and relevant around community, culture, strategy and building a movement – he WOWs the audience.
  • Sam has experience presenting around the globe and connecting with people from all backgrounds.
Sam was a delight to work with and we absolutely loved his presentation. Sam took time to come and mix and mingle with our delegates prior to his presentation the following morning. He was interested to get to know people and learn more about our industry group. Sam was a fantastic speaker. He was articulate, professional and his story was inspiring. Sam has the ability to convey a very human story with a business message. He was warm, funny, and he is a very special young man that will succeed at whatever he chooses to do. Conventions and Incentives New Zealand

Sam connected and engaged with everybody in the audience. He has some great experiences and stories to share that get to the hearts, minds and souls of the audience. Well done Sam!

Physical Education New Zealand

Excellent energy, positivity and engagement of the audience.

Wellington Regional Primary Principals Association

Let's talk, enquire with Courtney now

Courtney Timm

VP - Talent & Partner Relations

Let's talk, enquire with Courtney now

Courtney Timm

VP - Talent & Partner Relations

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