Our stories

Roots and branches – Bearing fruit for Award alumni


Completing his Gold Award in 2003, Dan Howell embodies the transformation that the Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award can have. For Dan, the Award helped him “grow roots”, gave him opportunities to branch out, and bore bountiful fruit. For Dan, the Award helped create his mindset. 

Dan demonstrates qualities of leadership, compassion, and perseverance. He started Gravity Lab; a tech company that helps businesses improve process automation. But Gravity Lab is much more than just a successful business. It’s also a social enterprise. A B-corp company, they work alongside charities to create positive change. The Award is “a catalyst”. The Voluntary Service Section has become a touchstone in Dan’s life, guiding him: “I want to serve. How do I want to serve? What do I care about? What can I do? And then you do it, everybody should do that.”  

Our 2021-2022 Social Impact Research showed that 79% of Award holders, continue or intend to continue with Voluntary Service.  Dan says, “[the Award] shows you what things are valuable, like that we all need to contribute to set a map to create a better world”.  

Like many of our community, Dan realised how fulfilling it is to know that “you’re going to get to the end of your life and go ‘I gave it a good shot’, I feel proud of my life”.  

It was not only the Service Section that set Dan up for future success. His Adventurous Journeys and Gold Residential were formative experiences. While intense, and challenging, the experiences helped him to go “I can do things”. While he didn’t know the skills required, he was able to persevere and learn. The Award armed Dan with fortitude and the mindset of going “I can do it and that’s exciting”. Through the Award rangatahi have many opportunities to attempt new things and embrace the challenging. Those lessons serve them in life, and careers long past their Award programme.  

Dan relates the Award is worth it. It helps our young people with self-development, positive mindset, and growth, and that “creates the change and the growing of roots inside of them”. For many, the timing of the Award comes at a crucial age as our rangatahi figure out who they are. “If we all live out what’s important to us, this world would be a really cool place”.   

Our founder, HRH, Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh envisioned the scheme as a “do-it-yourself growing up kit”. The Duke was a lifelong advocate for young people. Here at the Award, we witness the crucial role it has had in supporting young people to survive and thrive despite the world today’s challenges, and Dan is thriving.