The Ascent of Great Leadership – The Hillary Institute

Hailed as the "New Zealand equivalent to the Nobel Prize for leadership" by former Prime Minster – and Institute Patron – Helen Clark, the Hillary Institute celebrates and connects exceptional mid-career leadership addressing global issues such as climate change, poverty, disease, peace and justice.

Since 2009, the Hillary Institute has conducted a yearly search around the globe for their annual laureate – an exceptional mid-career leader who is making an impact at scale and has a deep sense of purpose driving their work. The Hillary Institute Laureate prize provides these leaders with prestigious recognition, funding and promotes and celebrates their work.  

In 2016 and 2017, one of our Gift Account donors made a series of grant recommendations to support the growth of a new endowment fund for the Hillary Institute’s work from their Gift Account funds.


This Year’s Laureate

The eight Laureates to date have come from the US, UK, Sweden, China, South America and Kiribati. All are committed to existential issues like climate change and embody the humanitarian commitment of the late Sir Edmund Hillary, the inspiration for the Hillary Institute and New Zealand’s most celebrated public figure – a worldwide symbol of courage, determination and leadership.

The recently announced Hillary Laureate for 2017 is Johan Rockström, director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre and a professor of environmental science at Stockholm University.   Johan is an internationally recognised scientist for his work on global sustainability issues. He helped lead a renowned team of scientists that presented the planetary boundaries framework, first published in 2009, with an update in 2015. This framework has been embraced for sustainable development and is fundamental to maintaining a "safe operating space for humanity".

Author of over 100 scientific papers and four books Rockström also acts as an advisor to several governments and business networks including the UN General Assembly, the World Economic Forum, and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conferences.


Future Fund  

Initial funding for the Hillary Institute came from the generous support of Jan Cameron who loaned the Institute NZ$2.5 million. To date, interest earned from that capital loan has financed the Institute’s operations and Laureate prizes. Jan’s capital was returned to her in 2015, but retained earnings continue to sustain their current work.

As the Institute increasingly scales its impact our primary challenge is the establishment and further development of a capital base with which to sustain our long-term leadership work
— Mark Prain, Founding Director of the Hillary Institute

The Institute has established a capital endowment fund to build a solid foundation for the future and is actively seeking contributions to this. This capital will help to underpin the Institute’s future operations and its annual operating costs. The target is to raise NZ$5 million.

We are very grateful to those who have supported the soft launch of our endowment fund.  The Gift Trust’s donor’s funds have also helped with this early support for our capital base, to ensure we can continue to support leaders in mid-career who are addressing the global challenges of our times.
— Prain

Read more about the work of the Hillary Institute at