Unreasonable Lab ramps up social entrepreneurship in South Island

Ministry of Awesome has been selected to host Unreasonable Lab New Zealand 2015. Unreasonable Lab NZ facilitator, Catarina Gutierrez, discusses.

Ministry of Awesome has partnered with Unreasonable Institute out of Boulder, Colorado to produce Unreasonable Lab New Zealand, a 5-day hyper-accelerator for early-stage ventures that is tackling social and environmental problems, November 16-20 in Christchurch.

We asked ourselves whether we wanted to create our own accelerator programme when chief awesome officer, Lauren Bliss Merritt, stumbled across the Unreasonable Labs opportunity. Boulder is a city we look up to in Christchurch, as we rebuild and reflect. We see Christchurch having the same potential as Boulder, with similarities in lifestyle and landscape, and now with a budding social enterprise sector.

We think by bringing overseas interest from organisations like Unreasonable Institute, we will boost the attention Christchurch receives (and deserves). More importantly, we believe there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Accelerator programmes are a dime a dozen these days. What makes this one different is the fact that it’s a part (a week’s worth) of a longer accelerator hosted worldwide. Strictly around business model validation, we believe this lab fits perfectly between other amazing programmes such as Lightning Lab, Live the Dream and Start-Up Weekend.


One of the challenges with the growing popularity of social enterprise in New Zealand is the noise in the space. Christchurch struggles to find its own identity and understand where it lies in the sector, competing for attention with budding and booming cities like Wellington and Auckland. Organisations like Akina Foundation, Enspiral Accounting, and Canterbury Development Corporation, all have their eyes on the prize - attracting people to an innovative city. These groups have been partnering with Ministry of Awesome since the beginning of the year with us to host regular meet-ups and workshops via a Facebook and Loomio group called Social Enterprise Otautahi. On the heels of news about Christchurch hosting the Social Enterprise World Forum in 2017, we are excited to see the sector grow.

Image: The Ministry of Awesome team, Catarina Gutierrez, Lauren Merritt and Erica Austin. 

Unreasonable Lab New Zealand will focus on 9 teams tackling some of the world’s biggest issues. A big part of the criteria for these groups was making sure they had a strong understanding of their product or service and that they were ready to test the waters with it. A team’s coachability was also high on the list of criteria. And lastly, we wanted to see ventures that had a potential to impact not just New Zealand but the world’s biggest challenges like antiquated education models, poor agricultural practices and accessibility for the disabled and sick. It was incredibly hard to decide who to select but we’re confident that the 9 we’ve chosen will change the world. Below are the 9 teams and teammates that have been selected:

  1. Josh and Sarah Campbell - Vocal Saints speech therapists
  2. Keryn Davis and Stephen Lowe - Educational disruption
  3. Hai Sue Kang - P3 Seed Programme
  4. Eric Park - Global Equity Brokers
  5. Saioa Ojembarrena - Creative Extracurricular Programs
  6. Peter Cook - FinTech disruption
  7. Courtney Green and Harry Waddell - Equipment Library for sick and disabled
  8. Rasela Barrow - Bobby Cow business and agriculture disruption
  9. Timo Bleeker and Hazel Bradshaw - Tappy Rescue app for animal rescue

For more information, visit Unreasonable Lab New Zealand, or facebook.com/MnstryOfAwsm.