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CHANGE! Festival for the Future and Vincente Ovalle

Festival For The Future is huge for people who want to change the world, bringing together up and coming leaders of the future with people already making steps.


If you want to change the world, you should start by getting yourself to Festival For The Future. This year it returns to Wellington, that bastion of social discourse, public policy, and espresso-fueled co-design sessions.

What’s the buzz and why should you go? Here’s our top 10:

#10: Because Vincente went

Earlier this year the organisers of Festival For The Future and The Big Idea awarded artist Vicente Ovalle for the courage he showed for his art. Not one to compromise, he spent seven days half naked and fully silent, in chains on the streets of Auckland (watch his video here). He told us:

“One of the motivations I have for my work is because of the trauma, violence and war that I witnessed in Columbia; these scars and memories – I have the responsibility to do something.”

Not for the faint of heart, Vincente’s art is harder, more visceral and more real than most. In short, he is change.

#9 Big issues and plenty of them

With a massive festival programme covering housing (or lack of it), crime, mental health, work, education, refugeeism, economics, culture, technology and more, you can expect deep dives into anything and everything that affects us all, and all our worlds.

Or, as Vincente says, “I don’t have the answers, I don’t know how to fix everything. The only thing I know is simple logic.”

There is no “have to”. The Festival empowers people to seek a different route, examine societal expectations and ask two very big little questions, “why?” and “why not?”

#8 Purpose over profit

You’ll encounter a diverse range of views, from Elon Musk-quoting apocalysts to steel-rimmed Trotskyite revolutionaries. But, love it or hate it, you can bet the economy won’t be at the beach, except in the form of billions of externalised microplastics.

In fact, it’ll be a bit like Vincente’s own art: “I allow myself to be brutal, literal, visceral – it’s in your face, you can’t avoid it, you can’t ignore it.”

You can expect robust discussion on how the economy will shape - and be shaped by - us all,  and what that means for ethical investment, social wealth and the management of resources.

#7: 125 years of suffrage

You really think that Festival for the Future could let this pass? Expect loud and exuberant celebrations from all present, and give a cheer to the Ministry of Women while you’re at it. Hell, give a cheer to women, generally.

Saturday, July 28th marks the moment. Diarise it now, and then consider this:

“Everyone who is a member of this society has a certain degree of responsibility.” Vincente, we agree wholeheartedly.

#6: Create a community

You are not alone, as Michael Jackson sang. And, as Vincente puts it: “It’s not a little wave, it’s not subtle. If they want to see it, they will see it.”

You’ll connect with tons of people with a similar vision and are looking for long-term sustainable solutions. You’ll be literally surrounded by folks who are fully committed to bringing Aotearoa New Zealand into some kind of sustainable version of the future.

And here’s the thing: they probably need the help of someone exactly like you.

#5: Defy!

Push back. Resist. Change. Disrupt. Agitate. Confound. Mix it up and spit it out.

Talk about sex, or the opposite of sex. Learn how someone with a differently wired brain from yours sees the world. Walk a mile in another person’s shoes and then sniff your feet.

You want change, right? So let’s start by binning the status quo. What does that even look like? Seriously, what?

For Vincente, “as an artist I cannot compromise. I do not perform for someone else’s pleasure.” Nice.

#4: Lead the leaders

Among others you’ll be in direct contact with 250 leadership coaches and their proteges from every corner of Aotearoa, all part of the Future Leaders programme. And, as every leader knows, it’s all about the people you surround yourself with.

Festival for the Future empowers leadership at every level. Not only that, but you’ll get the nous on how to empower others.

“Our hope is in the young leaders,” Vicente says. “The hope that we have as a society is in them; whether they are leaders of organisations or business or community or their group of friends, they are making a difference.”

Wellington is, of course, the public sector city; all the big government departments and decision makers are here and, with representatives attending, there’s a real opportunity to shake the trees that matter.

#3: Make History  

The festival asked: what do we want this generation to be known for. The answer? That we won’t sit back and watch injustice occur. How many levels might that apply to? From the climate to the toilet, the personal is political, and injustice is just a heartbeat away.

The festival aims to arm the next wave of leaders to drive social change that works for everyone.

Vicente: “The mission of the arts is not to change anyone’s view or their minds; I don’t want to weigh people’s minds in one direction or the other, I just tell my story. I try to create a catalyst.”

#2: Make some noise!

It’s going to be big and it’s going to be noisy. Literally, there’ll be music, arguments, debates and discussions. There’ll also be quiet stuff, like yoga and mindfulness.

Vincente: “The way I create, my process, I allow myself to be brutal, literal, visceral.”

#1: The end of the beginning

You’ll finish on a high, but it’s not going to end. There’s a range of resources to help little ideas get traction, go forward and grow into big ones. Regional hubs, meetup groups and forums will give you plenty of ways to keep the ball rolling.

All you’ll need is your ticket. Yes, there are early bird deals (at time of writing). And yes, there are hardship deals too. The festival wants you there.

And, to give the last word to Vicente: “We have enormous problems; there is such complacency. Yes, you’re safe in your perfect bubble. But for how long?”

By Kate Spencer

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