By Kimberley Collins 18/08/2015

Tonight, I went along to the pitch night for The Drawing Board Challenge. Over the past 10 weeks, this programme has run a series of workshops for students at Marsden College in Wellington. It aims to give them the skills and confidence they need to start changing the world.

The idea came from two incredible women working in technology & science – Madeline King and Emily Mabin Sutton. While they had to teach themselves the skills to run campaigns and social enterprises, they saw a need to impart that wisdom to the next generation and ensure they learn useful skills earlier in life.

They encouraged students to think of a big problem in their world and do what they could to solve it. With help from a range of guest speakers, students have learned to “hustle”, celebrate their failures and communicate their message – by building a website, learning to tell good stories, and mobilising their peers.

This evening saw students pitch their ideas to a panel of judges working in the industry. It was awe-inspiring to see the next generation of leaders not only understand some of the big issues facing our world – but act on them to make a difference in their local community.


The first team decided early on that they wanted to raise awareness of the billions of pieces of plastic that end up in our oceans. They started collecting plastic from around their school and raised $200 towards new recycling bins. Their long term vision is to see other Wellington schools do the same, and so they started an online campaign called “Life in Plastic – It’s NOT Fantastic“.

The next team wanted to tackle mental health issues in young people. They started by surveying 89 of their peers, and found that just 10 people said they feel comfortable talking about their problems with adults at school.

So, they created a student support group to give people a safe place to share their positive and negative thoughts.They hope to reduce the prevalence of mental health issues in their community and educate students about the services (such as YouthLine) that are available to them in times of need. Because their research found that Year 9’s felt more isolated at school, they paired them with older students – in the hopes they would inspire they younger students to become leaders in their programme after they have moved on.

The third group took on a hugely important issue – climate change. Calling themselves “POP“, which stands for Protecting Our Planet, they hope to inspire action against climate change by making more people aware of it.

They are encouraging their peers to decrease the amount of electricity they use, reuse plastic items like drink bottles, plastic bags and shopping bags, use more blankets and jackets to keep warm instead of using the heat pump or central heating and plant more trees. When the judges asked them whether they had planted a tree or asked their parents to cut down on power use, they all replied in unison – “YES!”.

candlesforacureThe fourth group was “candles for a cure“. They believe that no child should go through cancer alone and are selling home made candles to raise money for Canteen New Zealand. They polled their classmates to find out what “flavours” might be the most popular and have since started selling vanilla and mango & papaya candles in their local community and on a Facebook page for $15. I myself am now the proud owner of a vanilla scented candle and boy, do they smell delicious!

Last up, was “The Winter Project” – who won the overall project. They started by telling us that 1 in 4 kiwi children are living in poverty – and that many get sick because they don’t have warm homes.

They raised $500 with a sausage sizzle, and put out a call on their school’s Facebook page for people to donate unused blankets. They went around Wellington, delivering the blankets to homeless shelters and schools in low socio economic areas and achieved their goal of making “100 warm Wellingtonians”.

I came away from these presentations feeling overwhelmed by the difference that 20 year 11 students from Marsden College have made to such a diverse range of hard-hitting issues. It really puts into perspective the power of youth – and reminds me how important it is to train a new generation of leaders and smart thinkers who could easily become part of the team to solve our world’s problems in the future.

It’s safe to say that the Drawing Board Challenge have had an amazingly successful pilot programme, but I would love to see it continued in the future. They’re looking for sponsors to take the programme nationwide – so if you know of anyone who wants an active role in helping young people change the world, get in touch with them!

Click here for a collection of Tweets from the event.