There is no understating that this was a year to test personal, professional, community and national resilience. For ICDP and Pacific Connect, it began on a high with our fourth Women in Business Dialogue in Brisbane, then we soon moved to shock and bewilderment as the pandemic became a reality. However, with a bit of help from our wonderful Pacific Connect Community (PCC), we managed to virtually deliver a range of activities in 2020. The circumstances took our theme of ‘Australia-Pacific Connections for a Digital Future’ to a new level and fast-tracked our personal and business use of online communications and business tools (a help in many ways).
Our Community resilience shone through
Whilst COVID19 restrictions presented some challenges to our delivery model, we benefited from enlisting a core group of our Community members to act as Hub Coordinators across the Pacific. Now boasting over 600 Pacific Islanders and Australians in the program, we were able to continue virtually through the Hubs and via a strong support base of members. Lae, Port Moresby, Apia, Suva, Port Vila, Honiara, and Nuku’alofa hosted new and existing members for dialogues and training activities. Six dialogues were held throughout the year, discussing a broad range of subjects including: tech & water, social impact, tech & agriculture, storytelling & digital media, tech & sport, and business scaling & sustainability. We were again proud to play our part in the Australian Government’s regional gender development goals, with female representation at 65%.
The Annual Ideas Exchange also went ahead virtually with strong support from the Hubs. The event assembled 70 Pacific Connect Community participants and 14 from the ICDP network in Australia, Fiji, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu. The program included keynote addresses from members of parliament, business leaders and the ICDP Chair, updates by Pacific Connect Community members in dedicated networking sessions, project presentations and panel discussions.
An expanded workshop delivery program to support the Community members
Resulting from feedback from our members and taking the opportunity to leverage our active community, ICDP facilitated the delivery of several capacity-building trainings/workshops across the Pacific. Samoans participated in Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality training; Tongans joined Learning to Code and Mentoring for Growth workshops; Solomon Islanders participated in Learning to Code training and Introduction to Blockchain; and Digital Media Tips & Tricks were delivered Pacific-wide. ICDP will continue to work with the PCC to explore opportunities for development and delivery of customised workshops that bolster business and technology skills and knowledge in the Pacific.
New Projects and Strengthening & Scaling Existing Projects
The aim of our dialogues is to meaningfully improve Australian-Pacific relationships by enabling discussions and collaborations between = businesses and entrepreneurs across the region. Pacific Islanders and their Aussie counterparts are encouraged to generate practical ideas to take forward as projects. It is gratifying to see new projects generated out of 2020 dialogues and existing projects gain momentum. A big congratulations to the Project Leads and team members behind: Pacific Finds (Pacific-wide), Shifting Homes AR/VR (Samoa), Less Than Container Load (Solomon Islands), Tugeda (Every Building Is A Classroom Solomon Islands), Tekelea (Digital Kiosks Solomon Islands), Lae Innovation Hub (PNG), Technology Roadmap for Farmers (PNG), Soil Health (Fiji), Yumi Wan (Vanuatu), Water Source Mapping Tool (Solomon Islands), Idea Marketplace (Pacific-wide), Fun Tech 4 Kids (PNG), and Sport Database Development (Fiji) for starting and/or progressing their respective projects.
Seeing the fruits of participant-led projects and all associated benefits of working within a project team come to life brings us so much joy. We look forward to seeing further progress and new initiatives in 2021.
Reflections & Looking ahead to 2021
We are proud that Pacific Connect has provided the platform for deeper relationships to grow, in turn creating associated impacts around generation of new businesses, expansion of businesses, implementation of digital and innovative solutions and improved services in the Pacific. Despite limitations this year, there has been growth in the PCC, increased female participation, increased capacity development opportunities, generation of new projects and progress of existing projects.
In 2020, we witnessed the program mature, particularly the PCC with the “whole becoming more than the sum of its parts”. The strength of our network and the willingness of people to ‘lean in’ endured and flourished under unprecedented circumstances.
In many ways we cannot predict what 2021 will bring, but we can be confident in knowing that we have a vibrant and engaged PCC that provides a strong foundation for adapting and expanding the program. We will be looking to Hub Coordinators and the PCC to help drive and curate dialogues and workshops, to formalise networking events and seek opportunities to continue strengthening relationships and advocating to new members. It all looks extremely promising!
From the team at ICDP – Simone, Tina, Benjamin and Ken – we wish to thank each and every one of our Pacific Connect family and our broader network for your support and assistance this year.
Please stay safe and enjoy the holidays, and we look forward to working with you in 2021.