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Rachael Elder- Inspiring Stories

Posted by | November 2, 2021 | Good Work Stories

Rachael Elder- Inspiring Stories blog header

It was a pleasure for the Do Good Jobs team to interview Rachael Elder, filmmaker, writer, sexual harm prevention advocate and Business Development Manager at Inspiring Stories. She spied an ad for her current role through Do Good Jobs and it brought her to Te Whanganui-a-Tara where she is right at home with creatives, change-makers and Do-Gooders.

Talking with Rachael, mutual passions and causes naturally bubble out, we chat about the inconceivable housing market and the things you learn from people by zooming into their homes. Rachael shares her journey with us, from picking up a camera to channel her own trauma and lived experience of sexual harm into uncovering gendered violence in Aotearoa, to heading to New York City for two years to continue her filmmaking passion. Rachael is someone who is willing to speak up and put her story out there to create the change needed for a better future. No wonder she found a home at Inspiring Stories, the people behind Festival for The Future and the Future Leaders programme.

Rachael is entrepreneurial as well, a natural Business Development Manager. She co-founded luxury fidget to focus tools, Didgets in Brooklyn while in NYC and worked as BDM for a property firm down South before jumping into her role with Inspiring Stories. It’s rare to see such business acumen and natural creativity in one person- The Inspiring Stories team snagged themselves a goodie who can do it all.

When we catch up with Rachael FFTF ‘21 has just been, Do Good Jobs was lucky to attend and experience the amazing vibes of the good humans in the impact space getting back together again after a virtual festival in ‘20. Behind the scenes were people like Rachael, making things happen, bringing people together and creating a safe space for them to be.

We’re including her interview here in its original form, with all of Rachael’s story-telling power.


As a little warm-up, what are some of the jobs/job titles you’ve held in your career to date (even some of the earliest “jobs” you had)?  

I’ve worked across the board, enjoying being a bit of an internal vigilante in sometimes ethically challenging private sector roles, which has (mainly) been my bread and butter. As a kid, I was always making stuff to sell off around the neighbourhood and at school. I think the most memorable of these enterprises was selling hundreds of homemade chocolates made from kremelta, milk powder and rice bubbles- they were revolting. My first ‘real’ job, at 15, was managing Happy Hens on the Otago Peninsula every Sunday – seeing those hens through from kiln to being excessively gift-wrapped for bus loads of tourists. My first people management role was managing a brothel at age 20 followed by managing a shoe shop; the later a role I left to have both of my feet fully reconstructed and relearn how to walk, ironically. I’ve picked up the labels Youthline Counsellor and Mentor, Queer Peer Supporter, Filmmaker, Co-Founder, Writer, many other things and, more recently, Business Development Manager.


What key moments in your career led you to the role with Inspiring Stories? Any steep learning curves or successes?

I was living in NYC, having a glorious time, but feeling the heart of that concrete jungle deflate as Trump rose to power. Meanwhile back home it looked like the right-leaning reign was coming to an end and so I put my fate in Jacinda’s hands- if she won the 2017 election, I would return home. Te Whanganui-a-Tara is my chosen home and it was through some targeted Do Good Jobs advertising that the BDM role at Inspiring Stories came up on my news feed- the rest is history. The role spoke directly to me and is a perfect blend of my business acumen and my unwavering community-minded advocacy- two parts of my heart that had previously been divided up between work and ’spare time’. Steep learning curve here, for me, was returning to Aotearoa, a country that I had left on pretty traumatic terms. It took a minute to remind myself that I’m a badass and to shake off the unnecessary imposter syndrome.


Were you already familiar with Inspiring Stories work? Or was there anything in particular about IS that really stood out that made you want to work for them?

I wasn’t aware of the work Inspiring Stories did, before I applied, but figured part of that was due to me living overseas for a period of time. I also found it hard to believe that an organisation like this existed in the world and that some people didn’t know about it! It’s the kind of organisation that people, myself and my colleagues included, wish existed when we were younger, especially those who come from isolated or marginalised communities. Growing up in Ōtepoti, feeling very out of place from a young age, I wish I had grown up connected to an intergenerational community of humans who are actively trying to support our planet and people to thrive through a more equitable kaupapa.


What is it about this particular role that you were MOST looking forward to?

I get to hang out with incredible rangatira mō āpōpō on the regular – that’s amazing. I get to support amazing leadership hui and listen to, and see first hand, how our young people are redefining what leadership looks and sounds like. I get to have conversations with the most amazing thought-leading people of influence in public, private and community sectors about the baller mahi that our young people are doing and how we can meaningfully awhi and enable people to be autonomous in their own individual and collective journeys. 

In all honesty, it has been really difficult to stay meaningfully connected since Aotearoa started going into lockdown last year. Back in July/August 1600+ of us came together in Wellington for Festival for the Future 2021 (and 40 Countries tuned into our hybrid) and that was amazing and surreal. The struggles make those precious moments we get to spend kanohi ki te kanohi that much more meaningful. It’s important to look forward to those moments. 


What drives you to do work in the Do-Good sector?   

I try really hard to “do good” or practice positive behaviours wherever I am – an everyday role-modelling kinda approach. Active listening is an essential component to avoid that “road to hell paved with good intentions”, as some say. I think it’s important for everybody to do better, regardless of what communities/ sectors they belong to or would like to belong to. 

I see ‘doing good’ as acting intentionally, with purpose and to support more than just your own wellbeing and interests, which requires listening and patience. I reflect that this is not always easy at times- especially if you’re living week to week, as an increasing number of our population do. And yet, often it is those who have little, that are the most generous.

Simultaneously, I find it incredibly re-energising to be surrounded by others who are also motivated to ‘do good’- they exist in every sector. It’s really special to feel motivated by your peers, colleagues and stakeholders.


 Three things that Inspiring Stories is focussed on this year…

  1. Learning and unlearning how to be better Tiriti o Waitangi partners- individually and as a collective.
  2. Supporting our wider communities, especially those part of our Future Leaders programme in the regions, through the ever-changing uncertainty of Covid-19. Building on the most EPIC Festival for the Future and Impact Awards ever, celebrating 10 years of Impact through Inspiring Stories. Centering our people and their wellbeing. 
  3. Strengthening sustainable multi-year revenue models for our high-impact programmes. We know that the work we do changes lives and has an amazing ripple effect across Aotearoa and beyond; with the right aligned buy-in we can expand the accessibility of these co-designed opportunities even further and help solidify Aotearoa as the thought-leading innovation nation of the world. 


What do you see as the BIGGEST challenge for the sector?

Community organisations are created out of direct need and fill systemic gaps, that Government can not. Government departments need to stop using resources and contracting consultants to design for marginalised communities – without the communities at the centre, leading the way. Marginalised communities should also be acknowledged and remunerated for their time, energy and expertise when occupying these spaces. Easy fix though – just practice asking what communities need, listen and accommodate. Flip the system – Problem solved!


You found your job through a Do Good Jobs listing. Let us know how you first found out about Do Good Jobs (if you remember!)

 I first started using Do Good Jobs when I was living abroad and was determined that if I was to be moving home to Aotearoa, that I wouldn’t just fall back into being the lone square peg in a private sector round hole. I kept an eye on Do Good Jobs, as I started moving into the NZ Property industry – the intention here was to better understand systemic inequities, understand how on earth I could ever own the roof over my own head and support others in similarly unstable living situations. I was working as the Business Development Manager for an independent property management company, when the role of BDM for Inspiring Stories found me through targeted advertising. I try to filter out advertising in general, but I’m very glad that your ad caught my eye.


What are some things you do that help your work and life hum?

During Covid-related lockdowns I had to completely reestablish my relationship with my laptop… To be honest, evolving work and life boundaries through this Covid-era has been really important (and really difficult) to actualise, in order to enable space for that hum. I manage physical and mental disabilities as part of my everyday, so a lot of my time is spent supporting function, so I can be amazing in a public-facing way. When I do have that glorious hum space, however, I write, develop my side hustle (ending rape culture in Aotearoa), swim, plan food dates and climb up Mt Victoria with some chill non-serious literature.

You can watch me discussing creating safe spaces at FFTF19 here and you can read an essay published/ listen to an interview on RNZ here. Trigger warning for both pieces – sexual assault and suicidality.

When someone’s side hustle is ending rape culture in Aotearoa, there’s no doubt they’re a force to be reconned with – and a huge force for good. 

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual harm and needs help, call Safe to Talk Kōrero mai, ka ora 24/7 for free, confidential help:

Call: 0800 044 334, text: 4334, live chat via the link below:

Find out more about Festival for the Future and the other great mahi Inspiring Stories do here.