Australian Business Volunteers (ABV), in conjunction with Newcrest Mining, recently held an Inspire Event in Lihir. The Inspire events focus on local entrepreneurs sharing their stories of success as they built their own small to medium enterprise. The event, held on the 24th October, showcased the talents of two female entrepreneurs, Nellie Varmari and Raga Leana.

Nellie grew up under the coffee trees in the highlands of the New Guinea Island and is now one of the leading operators in coffee. Raga shared her knowledge from running her own successful SME in clothing, jewellery, and food. Forty-four local budding business owners attended, with three-quarters of the audience being female.

These showcases are a part of the Newcrest Mining and ABV partnership to increase economic development in the region, facilitated through the Apeketon Business Hub.

{During the first half of 2023, supported by the British High Commission in Solomon Islands, ABV has been working with the Nauru Chamber of Commerce (NCC) as part of the implementation of the Nauru Private Sector Development Roadmap to establish the cross-sector Sustainable Tourism Working Group (STWG), made up of private sector, government and community representatives. The STWG has three initial focus areas: community engagement (especially young entrepreneurs), local inbound tour operator development and short-term accommodation development.}

The Nauru Business Hub, established by the Nauru Chamber of Commerce (NCC) and Australian Business Volunteers (ABV), plays a pivotal role in driving locally-led development and connecting Nauru's sustainable tourism sector. The Hub is led by Jennifer Harris, who works closely with Gem Dowiyogo, CEO of Nauru Tourism, Board member of NCC and part of the recently-established Sustainable Tourism Working Group (STWG). Gem shared some highlights from the first-ever Nauru Tourism Expo held in late June, which showcased local tour packages, travel partners, and local arts while fostering community engagement in shaping Nauru’s sustainable tourism sector.

The Expo featured performances from various cultural groups, such as the Dogoropa, Djidere, and traditional sports groups. The Naoero Museum and Heritage also joined the event, extending Expo activities for guests to explore. Community conversations about sustainable tourism practices emphasised the importance of recognising and promoting Nauru's unique culture while preserving authenticity.

The STWG played a crucial role in organising Nauru's first Tourism Expo. The STWG comprises representatives from Nauru Tourism, NCC, private sector, the community, government departments, and influential locals. One such local is the current Miss Nauru, Alex Pitcher, who recognises the importance of preserving Nauru's cultural heritage.

ABV’s Skilled Business Professional (SBP), Eve Moolenburgh, has worked with Jenn and the ABV team to engage Nauru tourism stakeholders to establish the STWG and facilitated workshops during April to develop their vision and focus areas. In Gem's words, Eve "lit the light of ideas" for the Sustainable Tourism Working Group. Their collective vision is:

“Tourism in Nauru will be a youth-led industry which is sustainable for the long term, driven by optimism and momentum, with services and capacity to support tourism delivering cultural experiences and projects, supporting the discovery of Nauru and providing land & sea adventures.”

In consultation with the Board of Nauru Tourism, STWG members are establishing a network of tour guides, primarily young people 18-30 years. This initiative aims to train young guides and emphasise the importance of preserving Nauru's cultural fabric. During Eve’s visits to Nauru in March and April, she and the STWG conducted information sessions to generate interest among individuals who wanted to learn about their culture. "We saw the need to train more people, and that's where we started the call out targeting unemployed young people," says Gem. The idea is to have the first group of certified guides train the next group, creating a sustainable knowledge transfer cycle. For those guides looking to establish a business, Jenn will work with ABV’s SBPs Liane Arno and Matt Stone to include them in a youth-focused support stream as part of the upcoming YES Startup program being delivered through the Nauru Business Hub.

John Short, a member of the STWG, is passionate about Nauru's future and ethically marketing its offerings. In addition to being a business owner, John established a life-saving surf club and during worldwide COVID lockdowns, organised a fundraising event where he live-streamed his paddleboarding journey around Nauru. Furthermore, he identified a shortage of bike rentals in Nauru, which prompted him to establish a mentor group supporting youth enterprise focused on bike rentals. John reached out to an Australian-based group that salvages and restores bikes from the waste stream and received donated bikes to kickstart the project. Through a selection process, identified young people will participate in youth-focused YES Startup training via the Business Hub and receive 12 months mentoring support through John’s YMGE network.

The passionate individuals and organisations involved in Nauru's budding tourism sector have already achieved positive results. There has been an increase in bookings with local tour guides, with large school groups now engaging. The initiative has received support from local ministers, highlighting the community's integral role in shaping and participating in the tourism experience.

Image Credit: Nauru Tourism Corporation

During a recent presentation on fostering trust, collaboration, and transparency for effective board governance, an audience member raised an important question: "But HOW do you build trust?"

This individual shared a frustrating experience with a community organisation where the departure of previous board members and the arrival of new ones led to organisational challenges. The root of the problem stemmed from an egotistical CEO who proved difficult to manage, coupled with board members who possessed business acumen but lacked familiarity with the charity's work.

This exchange intrigued me, prompting me to share some tips on managing this issue and cultivating accountability and trust within the work environment. First and foremost, boards and CEOs must communicate and establish mutual expectations for a successful organisation. CEOs need clearly defined key performance indicators (KPIs) to guide their plans and activities. It is unfair to expect a CEO to guess these expectations, and constantly shifting goalposts create an unhealthy environment for both the CEO and the board. KPIs should encompass cultural and leadership goals, and regular meetings between the board chair and CEO are essential to ensure the CEO's professional development aligns with the organisation's overall trajectory. Balancing support and accountability requires time and commitment from the board.

Thorough board member induction, which includes the CEO describing the core business, is critical to board members understanding of the organisation. Providing opportunities for board members to experience the business first-hand and meet staff from various divisions and programs also helps them immerse themselves in unfamiliar territory. Board papers should offer sufficient detail about the organisation's work to facilitate meaningful engagement with management. Furthermore, facilitating interactions between board members with relevant expertise and management team members can deepen their understanding of the organisation's operations.

These ideas stem from my commitment to accountability and trust, which form the foundation of my leadership approach. Accountability involves following through on commitments and promises. If circumstances prevent the completion of tasks, plans, goals, or outcomes, it is essential to be transparent and accountable for the reasons why. I have witnessed individuals go to great lengths to avoid accountability. When events beyond our control hinder our progress, it is crucial to acknowledge the impact of external factors objectively and transparently. 

Effective accountability requires agreed-upon goals and measurable KPIs. Merely stating "grow the business" without specifying the desired growth, purpose, and timeline is insufficient.

Holding individuals accountable can seem time-consuming in our already busy and over-scheduled world. It is common for leaders to wonder why others can't simply do their jobs. However, in today's fast-paced environment, dedicating time to set goals, establish measurable KPIs, regularly check progress, address obstacles, and support problem-solving is more critical than ever. Individuals who are silently struggling and who may be underperforming or unaware of their responsibilities have the potential to derail crucial aspects of the business. Allowing underperformers to continue unchecked is a surefire way to disengage high-performing staff.

If holding difficult accountability discussions proves challenging, leaders can rely on the expertise of human resource professionals who excel in supporting these conversations. The courage to have the hard conversations, performance manage staff that aren't performing, and fairly support them to achieve the agreed goals is critical for all leaders to demonstrate they can be trusted to do what they say they will. In the scenario our audience member described, encouraging the dysfunctional CEO to make a contribution to another organisation and clearly stating why the working relationship is no longer viable is a process to be managed carefully, transparently and with written instructions and time for feedback between Board and CEO. One final point on achieving KPIs – if staff are behaving unprofessionally or undermining colleagues or positive culture in the workplace to achieve their KPIs "at all costs", then that is as damaging to trust and effectiveness as not achieving the KPIs at all.

Building trust is both a personal and professional endeavour. I often tell my staff, "You bring your whole self to work, so let's ensure we can trust each other personally and professionally." Trust can be challenging to describe solely as a business proposition since, for me, it is an emotional noun tied to one's character as both an individual and a professional.

Trust is built when we do what we say we will do, fulfil our promises, act authentically in our interactions with others, and foster honesty and transparency in our relationships. By embodying these qualities, we can cultivate trust with others in the workplace.

This International Women’s Day, ABV is celebrating the incredible women across Australia and the Asia-Pacific who are driving forward locally-led solutions in their own backyards.

Whether it’s spearheading their own business or establishing local community-led resilience programs, these are the women who are leading the change that our communities and region need to drive forward inclusive economic development and lasting place-based solutions. 

Loise Kondiak, Lihir Papua New Guinea

For over 40 years, ABV has supported women entrepreneurs and small to medium sized women-led businesses across the Asia-Pacific to alleviate poverty and strengthen women’s financial independence.

Gaining expert business mentorship and direct support through ABV’s Apeketon Business Hub in Papua New Guinea during 2021, Loise Kondiak has taken her business from an idea to a meaningful income generator for her and her family. 

With great tenacity, Loise now successfully employs over five local staff, has a mini-bus and is working to expand her business into hosting a coffee and pizza shop for the local community. Her growing business provides education opportunities for her children and employment for the community. 

Christine McKnight, Cobargo Australia 

Since the Black Summer Bushfires of 2019-2020, ABV has focussed its Disaster Resilience and Recovery Programs on walking alongside community to build back better. In the severely affected Bega Valley township of Cobargo, Cobargo Preschool Director, Christine McKnight, has worked closely with ABV’s skilled volunteers to restore the preschool’s playgrounds and buildings. 

Seeing a need to upgrade the building to provide counselling and psychology support for the community, the preschool was awarded a NSW bushfire recovery grant to the value of $275,000. Christine said this was not just vital to offer early education but to provide reassurance to the children whose homes had been damaged. 

“They were able to convey in their own minds that it will happen at home too - something awful will get better."

Christine McKnight, Cobargo Australia

A positive force that Christine continues to drive forward for meaningful disaster recovery. 

Jennifer Fruean, Samoa

Working with ABV’s regional mentoring program, BSP Financial Group’s senior leader, Jennifer Fruean, honed her professional skills to drive forward a vital compliance framework across BSP. 

With a commitment to wider team growth, she then further supported her team with personal leadership development plans and processes to give them the same opportunities that she had received. 

Her team has subsequently had the highest internal staff reporting ratings and Jennifer herself has since been appointed Country Head for Samoa BSP laying the path to staff retention, growth and development across the organisation’s country-wide work. 

The achievements and impact of these women on the communities in which they live and work is unparalleled. May we continue to recognise and celebrate the unsung heroes this International Women’s Day driving forward community-led change.

Presented by ABV and partners Newcrest & Nauru Chamber of Commerce

We are excited to share that our ABV team hosted a webinar about how business hubs support Pacific entrepreneurs to drive change. This session was an opportunity for our team to share stories from PNG and Nauru to showcase how locally-led business hubs are the key to sustainable business growth and development. 

This event focused on following key themes:

If you are interested in learning more, please reach out to our team via the partnership enquiry page on our website.

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