Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA) and Live and Learn Environmental Education International have celebrated the signing of a Pacific wide partnership agreement. The partnership will place New Zealand volunteers into Live & Learn’s Pacific programme in Fiji, Vanuatu, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, and Kiribati. We each bring our strengths to the partnership - VSA in sending volunteers and capacity building, and Live & Learn’s extensive networks and community-based experience in the Pacific and South East Asia. The partnership has a strong focus on capturing and sharing knowledge and learning across our programmes.
The partnership was launched via a joint knowledge and learning event with Live & Learn, VSA and the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade about knowledge and learning, partnerships and localisation. Stephen Goodman, Chief Executive of VSA, opened the discussion and talked about the power of partnerships to deliver sustainable development.
“As we all know the Pacific is facing challenges with climate and environmental impacts, and inequalities both and no individual or single organisation is going to address these alone. It’s about working together, and our own founding President Sir Edmund Hillary strongly believed and demonstrated throughout his life work, that partnerships between like-minded people is the only way that real change and impact will be achieved.”
Doris Susau, Director of Live & Learn Fiji, spoke about partnerships as a way of supporting localisation, and of the need to ensure that communities are at the centre of creating solutions. She emphasized that communities need to be part of the feedback and learning process, and that international organisations should focus on to reinforcing and strengthening local knowledge, not replacing it.
When asked what the one piece of advice she had for New Zealand organisations on localisation, she said “You need to trust locally based organisations. We can do it – you just need to trust us.” In the panel discussion that followed, Christian Nielsen, Executive Director of Live & Learn International acknowledged that the simplest things are often the most important, starting with listening: “We know that the most effective way to learn and build knowledge is to listen. We know this, but we find it very difficult to do – we get stuck in process, reports and evaluation, but we forget to listen, which is the most valuable and transformative activity of all.”
Christian also spoke about barriers to localisation, and identified one of these as the need to balance compliance and risk management with localisation and impact, and the difficulty of doing this in a risk averse funding environment. He challenged the idea of Pacific communities as vulnerable, and suggested international organisations should utilise the knowledge and strength already present in communities that can build resilience. By putting Pacific communities at the centre, not getting lost in our own strategic plans, and investing in women and girls, we have a far greater chance of success.
What will the knowledge and learning partnership deliver?
Together, we will deliver joint knowledge and learning products and events focusing on innovative approaches towards meeting development challenges. We will create knowledge and learning flows to benefit both organisations specifically relating to:
- Climate Change resilience
- Humanitarian Response
- Water, Sanitation and Hygiene
- Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
- Empowerment of Women, including preventing gender-based violence
This mechanism will initially consider the urgency of addressing two critical issues: climate change and gender-based violence. Knowledge and learning activities may include:
- Peer learning networks that allow and foster a culture of learning
- Every volunteer assignment will have a learning and knowledge outcome, and a reflection and review element. We will develop a process for sharing and implementing the learning among our network
- Where systems and forums already exist, we will identify and use them, and where they do not, we can develop them.
- We will share our learning and reports online and face to face.
- Reviews will assess the activity, what was learnt, and recommend what can be done differently in the future.
- Targeted professional development, workshops, and volunteer placements to build new skills and knowledge as required.
- We will focus on developing storytelling skills, across a variety of formats
- We will explore different technologies to capture and share knowledge.