Sam Johnson

Sam Johnson is the Chief Executive of the Student Volunteer Army, former Young New Zealander of the Year and most recently won the prestigious High-Tech Award for ‘Impact for Good’ with the SVA for their work during Covid19.

He has lived his life in the public eye and built a career doing service to others. His relentless energy to mobilise people around ideas has a magic ability in building movements that matter! Farm boy turned social entrepreneur, Sam’s kaupapa is using the power of the collective to overcome the bureaucratic - shifting our belief system about what is possible.

He became a household name in New Zealand when he started the internationally acclaimed Student Volunteer Army, in the wake of the Christchurch Earthquake which for Covid19 morphed itself into a grocery delivery service.

He also founded and eventually sold his startup company, WeVisit, which focused on the connection between older and younger people.

Sam thrives in turning a crisis into an opportunity and in using simple, old school models of community, with great tech, to make a difference.

Awarded Young New Zealander of the Year for his leadership, Communicator of the Year for his honest media commentary and a Sir Peter Blake Leadership Award to remind him never to rest on success. In 2021, Prime Minister Adern awarded Sam and the SVA a prestigious High-Tech Award for ‘Impact for Good.’

Sam is the Chief Executive of the Student Volunteer Army is most well-known for his entrepreneurial ideas that continue to make significant differences to the lives of others.  Sam leads the charity's staff team who design and operate projects that impact over 65,000 volunteers each year in New Zealand. Sam's latest example with Covid19 saw his organisation partner with New World supermarkets to design, develop and deploy an end to end shopping service for people most at risk from the virus within a week. Sam oversaw his team scaling from a team of 7 to 98 and building capacity to contactlessly deliver groceries for up to 10,000 households a week. Sam and the SVA team are continuing to make the most of the crisis, as every organisation must do, by rapidly testing new initiatives, and evolving their business model to fit the challenging times we are in.

Sam is also engaged with the international community and shares his experience regularly with governments, agencies and business on unlocking the latent capacity we have to help others. This work extends into his local advocacy and governance work with the Australian New Zealand Leadership Forum and as a member of Westpac Bank New Zealand's Sustainability panel. Sam is also a trustee for His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales New Zealand trust, 'The Prince's Trust.'

Sam is an Adjunct Fellow in the School of Education and Leadership at the University of Canterbury and teaches occasionally into the new degree, the Bachelor of Community and Youth Leadership, which was created as a response to the Student Volunteer Army's popularity.

In spare time, Sam rests, goes to bed early and stays away from any screens. As anyone recovering a head injury can attest, the journey is long. He's currently writing a book called "Don't Hit Yourself In the Head with a Hedge Trimmer and other bits of life advice" which will make you laugh, cry and be thankful for all the good things in life.


"Can you please pass on our thanks to Sam.  The feedback I received was all positive, and staff found it very motivational and interesting which was the reason behind holding our strategy day" Kylie Hunt, Selwyn District Council