A Year in Review – Program & Personal Growth
It is quite daunting to try and summarise experiences and learnings in your personal life over the past year, let alone those as an employee in a new not-for-profit start-up entering the Pacific international development space. Fortunately, there is much overlap in terms of my personal learnings and experiences and those as an employee of the International Centre for Democratic Partnerships (ICDP) assisting in the implementation of Pacific Connect – part of the key people to people initiatives in the Australian Government’s agenda to step up Pacific engagement.
From my experiences in working with the Red Cross in Africa, I was well aware that it is naïve to believe that one can seamlessly and confidently apply 30 plus years of various work experience to a new environment, namely the Pacific, with its diverse and rich cultures and complex and different histories. Fortunately, throughout the past year I have met and developed wonderful relationships with many Pacific Island peoples, as well as motivated Australians who genuinely wish to connect, share knowledge and experiences, and work together across industry sectors.
As with my African experience, much of the time I feel that I am the one benefiting the most from these interactions and relationships, rather than what I can impart from my own experience. Starting from an initial visit to Suva, Fiji in October 2017, where it quickly became evident that the Pacific is a busy space of conferences, seminars, meetings and a series of intersecting organisations, networks and connections, I realised that listening, learning and asking were key to finding a place and purpose for a new pilot program in Pacific Connect, as well as for my own understanding of what value I could add.
Since that time ICDP has held a number of meetings, workshops and Dialogues in PNG, Fiji, Samoa, Vanuatu, Tonga and the Solomon Islands, as well as convening the Pacific Connect Forum in Sydney in September which involved participants from these events. These multiple activities have enabled ICDP to develop and expand on a rich network of current and emerging leaders from Australia and the Pacific. At the same time Pacific Connect has found a niche to work within, which enables Australian and Pacific Islanders to develop and build strong, enduring relationships through working on mutual projects under the theme of ‘Australia-Pacific Connections for a Digital Future’.
Through these interactions I have met many innovative entrepreneurs, engaged researchers, generous business people and driven public servants who are initiating and enabling amazing projects that apply technology to support and drive development in the Pacific. How exciting to be part of collaboration and development between Australians and Pacific Islanders on a Virtual Reality/Immersive Storytelling project in Samoa, or a funding proposal concept ‘Every building is a classroom’ in the Solomon Islands. ICDP has been a positive catalyst for a diverse range of projects and a growing and diverse network which is able to continue to connect through membership in the Pacific Connect Community via our Slack, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter sites.
Over the next year, it is anticipated that the Community will continue to expand and evolve as ICDP continues to engage and support interactions and projects through Pacific Connect workshops, Dialogues, the Annual Forum and an active alumni network. Ultimately, the success of a network relies on its people and, with the calibre of people currently engaged, the future of a vibrant Pacific Connect Community is looking bright.
From a personal perspective, it is always humbling to be in the presence of intelligent and driven individuals. To quote from one of my recent blogs: “The energy, enthusiasm and calibre of participants was evident from the new networks and friendships created, and the discussions and potential projects identified to take forward. It was a pleasure to observe and take part in such positive and action-oriented forums.” This perfectly sums up my experience of working in the Pacific and with my colleagues in Australia over the past year. I am glad that I have been able to contribute to the above and can without doubt say that my knowledge and understanding of the Pacific is well and truly enriched. I now very much look forward to connecting with old friends and colleagues, and meeting new ones in the Pacific and in Australia in 2019.
Tina Briggs is the program manager for the International Centre for Democratic Partnerships. She has extensive experience in project management across government, private, and not for profit sectors and has worked in international development with the Kenyan and Botswanan Red Cross.