Facing up to industry and landowners with our research findings
July 1, 2015
It was June 2015 and it was time, time for our Marsden team to come together as a group and time for us to front up to the key stakeholders involved in the tourism research in Fiji as we delivered our preliminary findings and sought their feedback.
Since its inception the intention of this research project was to find a way of sharing our results and recommendations in a manner that would be useful to both the corporates and the communities involved in CCD (Corporate Community Development). Knowing the Pacific contexts we were working in, we wanted to do this face-to-face, and allow time for talanoa (broader discussion) as well as slick powerpoint presentations (nice work Emma Hughes!).
Thus over the course of a week our core team of 5 found ourselves doing the following: visiting 3 landowning communities, presenting a sevusevu, and then discussing our findings; running a tourism forum on Denarau island attended by 35 people, many of them from the tourism industry; co-organising a tourism and community development symposium at the University of the South Pacific in Suva; and having a fascinating discussion with the GM of Namosi Joint Venture (we had to squeeze the mining side of the research in somewhere!) where we heard about the lengths they have gone to in order to understand culture and seek to build good relationships with the people of the Namosi area, which is where a large mining operation may go ahead sometime in the next decade.
We particularly appreciated the opportunity to acknowledge the extent of the input that different participants had brought to the study, from communities, to industry, to government and non-governmental organisations; and the readiness for constructive engagement among these participants in discussions throughout the week. We also very much enjoyed the warm welcome we received wherever we went and of course the opportunity to sample some delicious Pacific fare at our meetings.
Some of the parallels between our two apparently quite different industries – tourism and mining – came through strongly in the different forums, vindicating the comparative approach that the project is built upon. So for example, when community members were lamenting the lack of real, sustained interaction and engagement by management from the tourism resorts with the surrounding communities, it echoed the lack of meaningful relationships between mining companies and communities in Papua New Guinea that fieldwork there had highlighted.
Issues around localised procurement, the value of preferential ‘host community’ employment, and the need for effective engagement and collboration with government bodies came through within stakeholder discussions as being necessary for effective Corporate Community Development. Likewise, other important themes across both mining and tourism host communities include the need for companies to honour their existing contractural commitments to local communities, and to expand their mindset beyond corporate self-interest with a little bit of charity on the side to realise a more socially ‘responsible’ role in relation to supporting community wellbeing.
We were also encouraged to see that our presentations catalysed some ideas about ways of advancing the community development efforts of corporates working in Fiji. In particular, there was a real appetite for learning about best practice evident within the tourism industry and some enthusiasm for the idea of holding an annual tourism forum at which companies could share ideas of good practice in CSR, employment and procurement. There was also interest in how better integration of government, industry, community and NGO engagement could occur in planning CCD initiatives.
So, after 5 busy days (and a long delay on the way home courtesy of Fiji Airways) we have left Fiji with sense of accomplishment, and with renewed motivation to continue the data analysis and writing, and the dissemination of this research. Keep an eye on this blog – there will be more updates to come!