Eighteen participants from around the Pacific and from Europe came together at Tanoa Plaza, Suva, where the course was opened by Professor Graham Hassall, Director of the Pacific Institute of Advanced Studies in Democracy and Governance (PIAS-DG) at USP. The participants began the two-week course with sessions on the background of BRIDGE and the teaching methodology behind it, before being challenged to facilitate a BRIDGE activity themselves. Working in pairs, each presented an activity from each of the first nine BRIDGE version 1 modules – everyone enthusiastically took part and presented some great activities.
Participants were then asked to write a BRIDGE activity themselves, again in pairs, which was then passed on to another pair to present. Lots of creativity, enjoyable role plays, a great debate and some thought-provoking brainstorming followed. The course ended with a discussion about implementing BRIDGE in their home countries/regions, and regional groups came up with summaries and possible plans to present to their home organisations. USP’s Professor Ron Duncan (Executive Director of PIAS-DG), and Richelle Tickle from AusAID (First Secretary Development Cooperation), were on hand on the final day to present accreditation certificates to the deserving participants. Everyone agreed that it was a challenging, enriching and enjoyable fortnight, and many friendships and networks were made.
The participants who attended the course were all excellent, with some standout facilitators in evidence who will be valuable resources for BRIDGE in the future. PIANZEA participants came from American Samoa, the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, New Zealand, Niue, Samoa, the Solomon Islands and Tonga, with member states sending in well-qualified delegates with a variety of electoral administration experience. Participants from the UK, Portugal and Australia were also welcomed to the course and brought a valuable international perspective to the Pacific course.
Of course, facilitator training couldn’t go ahead without already accredited facilitators to lead, and the course was fortunate to have four great trainers – Jeannette Bolenga from PIAS-DG at USP, Gyan Deo from the Fiji Elections Office, Francis Iro from the Solomon Islands and Michael Clancy from the AEC. For Gyan, Francis and Michael, it was the first time they were facilitating a TtF and all four facilitators did a great job – evaluations from the participants were overwhelmingly positive. The facilitators were supported by administrators Melanie Chan (AEC) and Luisa Mavoa (USP).