A Story in the Ordinary: Pacific Connect Storytelling & Digital Media Virtual Dialogue

In a pioneering event for the International Centre for Democratic Partnerships (ICDP), more than 120 Community and new members came together on 25 June for the Pacific Connect Virtual Dialogue on Storytelling and Digital Media. Storytellers, change makers, business leaders, SME owners, technology experts and academics came together for a half-day talanoa, sharing stories, taking in lessons from the Pacific’s brightest storytelling talent and networking in virtual and physical hubs across seven countries.

With the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic forcing the Pacific Connect programme online, ICDP collaborated with Community member Sarah Mak and her team at Folktale to design and implement the Storytelling Virtual Dialogue, ensuring that many Community members located throughout the Islands could share stories, network and collaborate in Network Hubs as well as virtually with their Australian counterparts. Sixty new and currently active Community members came together in six Network Hubs, located in Apia (6) Port Moresby and Lae (22), Port Vila (9), Suva (14) and Honiara (9).

Prior to the Virtual Dialogue, participants were invited to record short introductions of themselves to the Facebook group, which has over 150 members (with women making up 80%). Understanding participants’ backgrounds and learning from one another’s professional experience in a safe environment is a key part of the Second Track process which underpins all ICDP events, with video ensuring we’re all together even when restrictions are keeping us far apart. These community interactions were complemented by more than 40 minutes’ worth of helpful ‘tips and tricks’ videos from Folktale’s expert videography team. Participants learnt how to frame videos, record with high quality sound, utilise subtitles and much more . It was a highlight enjoyed by many!

With the Facebook group drawing high levels of Community engagement (more than 4 thousand actions in the group!), participants were excited for the half-day talanoa to get underway on the Thursday. Sixty online participants joined the 60 Hub members for five presentations on the power of storytelling by Pacific and Australian filmmakers and storytelling experts, networking sessions and ‘Ask & Offer’ collaborations.

Kalolaine Fainu, a Community member and speaker at previous Brisbane ‘Female Entrepreneurs’ Dialogues, gave an inspiring presentation to the participants on how storytelling can be used as a means of connection. She used her experience as Founder Director of Pasifika Film Fest to advocate for increased Pacific representation in storytelling and the connections that can come through shared talanoa.

Yolonde Entsch shared her presentation on empowering women and communities through digital media, before Wame Valentine shared the concept behind Pacific Island Food Revolution, a digital media initiative funded by the Australian and New Zealand Governments that seeks to celebrate the Pacific’s food heritage and healthy eating. Speaker Karen Javati from Papua New Guinea shared with participants fundamental tips to ensure the power of an individual’s seemingly ordinary story can be converted to an inspiring one that can be shared with a multitude of stakeholders. Rounding out the presentations was Joanna Lester, a sports journalist who created Power Meri, a documentary film that follows the journey of PNG’s first national women’s rugby league team to a world cup competition in Australia, as well as exploring the broader social impact opportunities of sport in Pacific Island nations.

Throughout the day, online participants could interact and network with those in Hubs thanks to a dedicated virtual networking room, in addition to the two dedicated networking session which saw many participants share potential and current project ideas, swap contacts, sew the seeds of long-term relationships, or catch-up with Community members.

The action-packed Virtual Dialogue closed with project development support and an ‘ask and offer’ session, which saw virtual attendees pitch ideas and requests to be answered by members of the Pacific Connect Community. The ‘ask and offer’ begins the second phase of a Pacific Connect Dialogue, during which participants collaborate on projects to form long-term relationships. Initial outcomes from the event include a mentoring and community practice network, screenings of films and interactive media content developed by Community members, and a collective ideas platform. We can’t wait to see how these initiatives move forward!

The team at ICDP was delighted to work with Folktale in delivering this Virtual Dialogue, and we are excited to see how participants utilise lessons learned from this event to shine a light on a ‘story in the ordinary’, as so powerfully told by Karen.