This is the first in a series of profiles about Kiwis working overseas, who retain ties to New Zealand through Kea the world class network. Kea connects more than 180,000 talented Kiwis and ‘Friends of New Zealand' around the world.
As a little girl growing up in Invercargill, Dale Marie Pfeifer used to dream about working close to the White House. The communications strategist now lives in Washington DC and has worked with US Congress on reforming the American security system.
"The Project on National Security Reform (PNSR) was a temporary nonpartisan effort mandated by the United States Congress to recommend improvements to the US national security system so it may become more agile and efficient in order to combat new threats such as terrorism, transnational crime, and rogue states," Pfeifer explains in her online resume.
"PNSR completed its mission in 2010 after having led the dialogue and created a blueprint and implementation plan for national security reform. My responsibilities included developing and managing national security reform networks to provide ideas, resources, situational awareness, and influence; strategic leadership and oversight of communications to key constituents including the US Congress, White House and partnering institutions; and management, coaching and mentorship of communications staff."
Heady stuff for a girl from Invercargill. Pfeifer is home for the holidays, spending Christmas at a family farm in Conway Flat, south of Kaikoura. She explained how she ended up living in the United States.
After working as a researcher at Massey University, Pfeifer led Victoria University's Study of Leadership. Her research on Maori leadership, looking at how effective leadership brought together a diverse group of people, got picked up by Harvard University.
She was flown there to present at a round table conference where she met someone from EastWest Institute who invited her on Outward Bound's Global Leaders programme, which involved climbing Mt Kilimanjaro.
"I was with all these other incredible emerging leaders, a girl from [the] Thai army, a guy running Save The Children from Afghanistan, a politician from the Philippines - it was a diverse group. It was also a great job interview."
She was hired to work at EastWest Institute in New York, holding a lot of the off-the-record, closed-door meetings between the US and Russia and US and China, between senior politicians diplomats, scientists, academics.
She is about to launch her own company, Good World, which she built up while working part time at Future View where she works in leadership strategy, communications and programme management for non-profits.
In 2013 she helped the Rockefeller Foundation run its Centennial Programme. Her business Good World helps non-profit organisations to fundraise online through social media by posting a comment or sending a tweet. She hopes fundraising will be spread naturally, as people can see on Facebook that their friends have donated to a cause they consider worthy. She said research showed 54 per cent of non-profits on Facebook wanted to use it to raise funds but only 1 per cent had.
"Our technology makes that easy. Because of the tax incentives, people donate a lot here because it works in their favour."
Pfeifer said she had been passionate about working in the non-profit field for a long time.
"I am from a family that has always been very service orientated. My father is a surgeon and my mum was a public health nurse. They were always helping other people and I was brought up to try to improve the community, country and world in whatever way you can."
What have you achieved professionally overseas that you couldn't have in New Zealand?
At the Rockefeller Foundation we were charged to really influence and design that programme. It just launched a US$40 million (NZ$50m) grant to build resilient cities around the world. The scale and types of resources available to create things is the key difference.
What was your biggest professional triumph this year?
Taking Good World from an idea I had in New Zealand last new year . . . through to building a company to the point where it's nearly ready to launch. The learning curve and personal growth associated with that has been huge.
What are the biggest challenges for the sector you work in?
The philanthropic landscape is just changing so much. It is going from non profits having these relationships with individual donors who give larger cash amounts to more crowd-funding reaching people like me, who would rather, instead of giving $1000 to two organisations once a year, give $100 to 20 organisations online.
When I see something and it opens my heart I want to be able to give money right then and there. That is how social media is having such an impact - we're much more impulsive.
What is the first thing most people say to you when they hear you're from New Zealand?
They talk about how beautiful New Zealand is, then there might be some jokes about Middle Earth, but generally it's the beauty, landscape.
What do you know about The New Zealand Story campaign the Government has recently launched and what do you think about it?
I think it's great. For New Zealand to have a really strong grab that's more than just about the natural beauty. People see through Lord Of The Rings. We need to be able to tell that story and it's a great step towards doing that.
As a resource, it's great for people like me who talk about New Zealand to refer people to.