Sam Johnson (activist)

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Johnson at launch of 2016 social enterprise, WeVisit

Sam Johnson (born 14 February 1989) is a prominent social entrepreneur from Christchurch, New Zealand.[1] Johnson is known as the founder of the Student Volunteer Army[2] which mobilised 11,000 students to assist the cleanup following the Christchurch earthquakes and has continued as a nationwide volunteering movement[3]

Johnson is an international thought leader in developing models of community that build resilience through volunteering and local action. [4][5][6][7]

Education and career[edit]

Johnson is from rural Canterbury and was educated at Christ's College and the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.[8] Johnson graduated from the University of Canterbury with a BA in Politics and Community Engagement in 2015.

Student Volunteer Army[edit]

Following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, Johnson founded the Student Volunteer Army to assist residents with the clean up of liquefaction caused by the earthquakes. [9][10] The Student Volunteer Army was managed by a core team of 15 people and a wider administration of 70 people who managed the three core operations which the SVA focused on; battalions, squadrons and street teams.[11] There were 13,000 students volunteering per week.[12]

StudentArmy IlamSchool in March 2011

Disaster response and preparedness[edit]

Johnson in a Tsunami stricken home in Japan

In late April and early May 2011, Johnson spent two weeks in Japan following the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami to set up a Student Volunteer Army at Waseda University.[13]

Johnson worked to assist mobilising young Nepalese volunteers following the Nepal earthquakes in 2015.[14]

Johnson and the Student Volunteer Army worked with other young people alongside the UNISDR in preparation for 3rd World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction.[15]

Local leadership and politics[edit]

Johnson successfully stood for the Riccarton-Wigram Community Board of the Christchurch City Council in the October 2010 local body elections.[16] At the time, he was endorsed by Prime Minister John Key for his election campaign.[17]

Johnson declared in July 2011 that he had no intention to run for higher public office in the near future.[18] In January 2013, it was reported that he may consider running for Christchurch City Council in the October 2013 local body elections.[19] The Press reported on 20 April 2013 that Lianne Dalziel would challenge Bob Parker for the Christchurch mayoralty, and that she had asked Johnson to be her running mate, with a view of Johnson becoming deputy mayor. Johnson eventually decided against running, saying it wasn't the "right thing for me right now".[20]

Johnson is a founding Trustee of the Ministry of Awesome, a Christchurch-based idea incubator.[21]

Social enterprise and business[edit]

In 2016, Johnson launched a social enterprise focused on the alarming rates of social isolation in New Zealand [22] which then joined forces with technology platform Mycare to improve the New Zealand care and support sector.[23]

Awards and celebrities[edit]

Johnson has received a Special Leadership Award from the Sir Peter Blake Trust[24] and was named Young New Zealander of the Year[25] and Public Relations Institute of New Zealand (PRINZ) Communicator of the Year in 2012.[26]

Johnson and the Student Volunteer Army have hosted many international icons and celebrities who visit Christchurch including several members of the British Royal Family[27][28], the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet [29] and organisers of the Never Again MSD gun control campaign.


  1. ^ "10th Anniversary Edition". Latitude Magazine – Canterbury's Own Lifestyle Magazine. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  2. ^ Jo Mckenzie-Mclean (9 June 2012). "Student Army Leader Sam Johnson Makes International..." Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  3. ^ "Another Student Volunteer Army mobilises". Newshub. 3 August 2017. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  4. ^ "International Volunteer Day takes leaders across the globe | Volunteering New Zealand". 3 December 2012. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  5. ^ "صحيفة عرب نيوز « مركز وارف لتنمية الشباب". Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  6. ^ "Google Events | Big Tent 2012". 2 July 2012. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  7. ^ "Kiwi of the year mobilizes world youth for disaster resilience – UNISDR". Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  8. ^ Wilson, Janet (18 April 2011). "Sam the man". New Zealand Listener (3702). Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  9. ^ "Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) : 14 September 2010". Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  10. ^ Tina Law (31 December 2011). "Kohan McNab | It's A New World For Students". Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  11. ^ "About – Volunteer Army Foundation". Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  12. ^ "Sam the man". New Zealand Listener. 18 April 2011. Retrieved 14 July 2011.
  13. ^ McKenzie-McLean, Jo (11 May 2011). "Japan to use Christchurch volunteer model". Retrieved 14 July 2011.
  14. ^ "Nepalese boy pulled from rubble 6 days after quake | World". 3 News. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  15. ^ "Kiwi of the year mobilizes world youth for disaster resilience – UNISDR". Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  16. ^ "Christchurch City Council – Riccarton-Wigram Community Board". Elections 2010. Retrieved 14 July 2011.
  17. ^ MacDonald, John. "Prime Minister and Mayor come to UC to say thank you". University of Canterbury. Retrieved 15 July 2011.
  18. ^ "A special night for a hero". Sunday Star Times. 3 July 2011. Archived from the original on 4 July 2011. Retrieved 8 August 2011.
  19. ^ Cairns, Lois (28 January 2013). "Johnson ponders running for council". The Press. Retrieved 28 January 2013.
  20. ^ "Student Army head won't run for mayor". 3 News NZ. 22 April 2013.
  21. ^ Vicki Anderson. "Sam Johnson Proposes Ministry of Awesome". Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  22. ^ "Visiting service set up for the elderly to curb loneliness". Stuff. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  23. ^ "Mycare & WeVisit Join Forces to Improve NZ Care & Support | Scoop News". Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  24. ^ "2011 Special Leadership Awardee: Sam Johnson". 2011. Archived from the original on 28 September 2011. Retrieved 12 July 2011.
  25. ^ Charles Anderson and Fairfax Auckland. "Sam Johnson Named Young New Zealander Of The Year". Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  26. ^ Sam Sachdeva (5 October 2012). "Sam Johnson Named 2012 Communicator of the Year". Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  27. ^ "Prince William: 'Grief is the price we pay for love'". TVNZ. 18 March 2011. Retrieved 8 August 2011.
  28. ^ "Volunteer Army gets Royal approval". Newshub. 20 April 2016. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  29. ^ "News | The Office of His Holiness The Dalai Lama". Retrieved 16 November 2013.

External links[edit]