Written by Rebecca Savory
In 2006, Alistair Kwun was self-employed and searching for who he was and where he was heading. The Leadership NZ Programme was the perfect combination of “right place, right time” for him.
During a year of soul-searching, it gave him a sense of grounding, shaped the direction he was heading in and helped him discover what he wanted to do next.
“It was very much a catalyst for me to discover who I am,” said Alistair, acknowledging the Programme as a key part of his identity and current projects.
“The Programme was a gift to me, and a very generous one. I had no idea what leadership really meant until I completed this Programme.”
Alistair left the Programme with a new direction as well as three key messages he now carries through his community projects.
“To me the Programme is centred around innovation, making things happen and generosity of spirit… It’s inspired me to give back to the communities which I serve.”
As well as this, he learnt the importance of working in a team of diverse personalities and creating environments that bring out the best in people.
Alistair was inspired to embark on a number of “passion projects” that he ran outside of his professional life as an events manager for SkyCity.
Identifying himself as a cultural innovator, he wanted to explore what it meant to be Chinese in New Zealand and his own cultural identity.
He became heavily involved in the New Zealand Chinese Association, shaping the annual Leadership Development conference for Chinese New Zealanders.
Driven by his own experience discovering his identity through the Leadership NZ Programme, he wanted to pay-it-forward and provide other people with the same opportunity.
“I feel quite privileged to be able to give back like this, I think that’s one of the things that gives me the most satisfaction out of the work I do in the community. It’s the idea of sharing knowledge but contributing to helping people find who they are and realising their potential.”
The Leadership Development conference had a snowball effect to many other projects for the New Zealand Chinese Association including the Banana Conference, a cultural storytelling platform to share Chinese stories with New Zealanders of all ethnicities.
“Traditionally a lot of the cultural storytelling is celebrated within individual communities. The environment we’ve created is we’ve invited non-Chinese to come and learn about us together. Through that we’ve created a dialogue and a stronger sense of belonging for the people who come along and share with us.”
Following from this came Future Dragonz, a project focusing on the well-being of future generations and a network for young professionals, based around the new ways of thinking.
“There’s a sense of disruption coming through. What we’re about is what I would call cultural innovation, we’re not afraid to challenge the traditional. Through that, new stories emerge.
“We have grown up with certain stereotypes that we’re trying to challenge… The programmes that we’ve created are about breaking up those stereotypes, and that’s really important to me. [We are] challenging what it means to be Chinese in New Zealand.”
The programmes aim to disrupt the traditional practice of “work, work, work” and telling fresh and contemporary stories.
“It’s about caring for others, and it is about standing up for what you believe in,” said Alistair.
Alistair hopes that some of the people he is working with in the New Zealand Chinese Association will continue on to also take part in the Leadership NZ Programme, just as he had the Programme recommended to him by 2005 Alumni Gia Nghi Phung.