In my address to attendees at the 2022 ICDP/Pacific Connect Ideas Exchange in Sydney I quoted the metaphor ‘when you come to a fork in the road – take it.’ By this I meant there is only one choice – which is to move forward or proceed. This is the overriding view of ICDP and, as we have discovered over the past few months, the view of Pacific Connect Hub Coordinators and the Pacific Connect family.
As you are aware, ICDP announced to our network on 1 July 2022 that the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) had decided not to extend the Pacific Connect Program beyond 30 September 2022. At that time, I took the opportunity to thank our network and partners. I also explained that ICDP would remain active in the Pacific so that we can continue to find ways to connect Australians and Pacific Islanders to strengthen relationships and create new business opportunities.
We can confidently move forward because we stand on a solid platform. A platform built through a long-term investment that has successfully established, grown, and nurtured a network – the Pacific Connect Community or ‘family’ as many of our alumni choose to call it. Indeed, the atmosphere at the recent Ideas Exchange felt more like a family union than a corporate event which is due to the strong emphasis placed on relationship and trust building by our staff, Hub Coordinators, partners and our active and vibrant community members.
ICDP believes that the relationships and goodwill built over the past 5 years are extremely important which is why I am very pleased to announce that ICDP will dedicate ongoing resources to enable continued central management and coordination of its network. Accordingly, we plan to work closely with the Hub Coordinator group with the goal of facilitating and maintaining connections and activities within the network into the future. The ICDP Board will also be actively seeking funding and new partnerships to underpin our key overarching objective to encourage better relationships between Pacific and Australian leaders in government, civil society, and the private sector on common challenges.
It is impossible to look to the future without paying homage to the achievements attained through the Pacific Connect Program. Since inception in 2017, the program can boast a network of over 1100 Pacific Islanders and Australians. ICDP has convened 30 dialogues, 48 workshops and 5 Ideas Exchanges in that time of which 67% of total participants were women and 86% of our female participants were Pacific women. Over 77% of participants were either entrepreneurs or MSMEs and we established 8 Pacific-based Hubs to support in-country delivery of the program across Fiji, PNG, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu and Australia.
During COVID19 we doubled our participation with a successful pivot to online delivery and through the strength of our Hub Coordinators and Community relationships. Our newsletter has gone from 289 subscribers in 2018 to over 1000 subscribers in 2022. The program also generated 27 projects from dialogues and workshops resulting in innovative solutions and ideas to address Pacific challenges including: Less Than Container Load, Shifting Homes, Deeper Sounds, Deeper Connections, and Pacific Tech Academy. To underpin these statistics, please do watch the Impact video to hear directly from Community members where a Pacific voice is prominent. We look forward to working with the network to continue to support these journeys and to create new ones.
I also acknowledge and thank DFAT for taking a risk on a new and small entrant into the international development space five years ago. A great deal has been delivered to Australia and the Pacific as a result of that decision. We have also learnt a lot from the experience and plan to apply the learnings as we move to the next chapter.
Dr Ian Watt AC