Talanoa — Collaboration and Community in the yher Pacific Islands Re-Accelerator Program
From concept to creation, start to scale, an entrepreneurs road is paved with relationships — the support of family and friends, the guidance of peers and fellow business owners, the trust of suppliers and loyalty of customers. Whether an independent grocery store or a juggernaut like Apple, the best and biggest brands are centred on their tribe.
Over 12 years, ygap has learnt the importance of community building, designing, testing and refining our programs to connect our entrepreneurs — with our team, with one another and with the wider ecosystem. Today, amidst a global pandemic with diverse and far-reaching consequences, we’re finding the need for connection and community has never been more apparent. And in the Pacific Islands, this resonates all the more.
Given the nascent business environment, there are limited support services or formal networks, and information can be fragmented and/or inaccurate. For women entrepreneurs, this is compounded by a unique set of challenges like deeply entrenched economic, legislative, social and cultural barriers that impede their ability to start and grow their ventures. Pacific Islands culture is deeply rooted in family and community, a complex and intricate network identified, cultivated and maintained through “talanoa”. A traditional word used to reflect a process of inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogue, facilitating the time and space to share ideas, skills and experience through storytelling is crucial.
Community building can take a variety of forms, both online and off. However in an isolated, developing region, where internet and utilities fluctuate according to weather conditions and location, virtual delivery can be significantly challenging. In Fiji, with COVID-19 contained, national travel restrictions lifted and a local team on the ground, our yher Resilience Re-Accelerator program leveraged our local team for a number of activities. This included collaboration with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s ‘Scaling Frontier Innovation‘ initiative, and partnerships with the Pacific Agribusiness Research in Development Initiative and the Fiji Enterprise Engine to deliver an exciting in-person event.
On the personal side of things, the Re-Accelerator has really helped build my confidence — being around the other entrepreneurs, it’s really helped question and validate my thoughts and ideas, increasing my confidence and commitment around the changes I want to make in my business. Jonina, yher Pacific Islands Re-Accelerator Program participant.
Bringing together chefs, food entrepreneurs, agribusinesses and producers, a showcase was held at the Australian High Commissioner’s Residence in Suva, showcasing Fiji’s vibrant food scene, creating conversation and connecting the ecosystem in a celebration of innovation and entrepreneurship.
A smorgasbord of tastings were available — yher Pacific Islands alumni Tasty Island Treats brought their signature healthy chill pops, while Mama’s Mushrooms showcased their pickled mushrooms and tempura mushroom. Other foodpreneurs included KokoMana with chocolate coated ginger, Marama Niu presenting their newly-launched coconut-milk based ice-cream, and Waitika Farm, with a plethora of honey-based products.
This event was held towards the end of the yher Pacific Islands Re-Accelerator Program that included in-person sessions with the ventures in Suva and Lautoka. This included a combination of both 1:1 and cohort sessions which incorporated professional and personal discussion in a safe and open environment. Offering one another guidance, sharing opportunities, identifying synergy and ways to collaborate, celebrating wins and commiserating across challenges; this togetherness helped forge trust, rapport and a cornerstone of resilience for the ventures involved.
Written by yher Pacific Islands Program Manager, Talei Goater.
To learn more about ygap’s work in the Pacific Islands, including the yher Pacific Islands Program, head to www.yherpacificislands.org