Sam Johnson is one of New Zealand’s most inspiring young citizens. His relentless energy to mobilise 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, organisations 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 organisation for ego.
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 the Founder and Chief Executive of the Student Volunteer Army is most well-known for his entrepreneurial ideas that continue to make significant differences to the lives of others. Sam leads the charity’s staff team who design and operate projects that impact over 65,000 volunteers each year in New Zealand. Sam’s latest example with Covid19 saw his organisation partner with New World supermarkets to design, develop and deploy an end to end shopping service for people most at risk from the virus within a week. Sam oversaw his team scaling from a team of 7 to 98 and building capacity to contactlessly deliver groceries for up to 10,000 households a week. Sam and the SVA team are continuing to make the most of the crisis, as every organisation must do, by rapidly testing new initiatives, and evolving their business model to fit the challenging times we are in.
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 utilise Mycare’s powerful technology to help realise ideas.
Sam is also engaged with the international community and shares his experience regularly with governments, agencies and business on unlocking the latent capacity we have to help others. This work extends into his local advocacy and governance work with the Australian New Zealand Leadership Forum and as a member of Westpac Bank New Zealand’s Sustainability panel. Sam is also a trustee for His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales New Zealand trust, ‘The Prince’s Trust.’
Sam is an Adjunct Fellow in the School of Education and Leadership at the University of Canterbury and teaches occasionally into the new degree, the Bachelor of Community and Youth Leadership, which was created as a response to the Student Volunteer Army’s popularity.
In spare time, Sam rests, goes to bed early and stays away from any screens. As anyone recovering a head injury can attest, the journey is long. He’s currently writing a book called “Don’t Hit Yourself In the Head with a Hedge Trimmer and other bits of life advice” which will make you laugh, cry and be thankful for all the good things in life.