Twenty-three scholars in Australia came together across two workshops held by the Australia Awards Africa program between 18 and 26 October 2023. The Stay Connected Workshops held in Perth and Sydney provided the first opportunity for scholars to meet in person since mobilising during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The workshops were designed to support scholars in building their networking, professional branding, and human skills to enhance their leadership capabilities. For a smooth delivery, the program sought the expertise of Fiona Pakoa as the facilitator. Scholars were asked to reflect on their personal leadership style using tools such as the Myer-Briggs Sixteen Personalities test as well as through reading academic journals related to transformational leadership in Africa. According to scholar, Mwangwana Akombaetwa “the workshops provided me a chance to “self-reflect and get tips on how to approach change.”
While providing tools for human skills development, the workshops guided scholars through the new Reintegration Action Plan (RAP) template. Mwikisa Songolo who travelled to Sydney for the workshop said that although he was initially unsure about his RAP, “attending the workshop gave me insights on how to go about it, to set objectives and identify follow-up activities with the facilitation team”.
Scholars were also reminded of the importance of establishing networks while in Australia to support them as leaders for change on return home after their award. “The sessions made me more conscious of the need to engage with associations here in Australia and begin to re-establish my network back home”, said Mwelwa Sakala from Zambia.
Before concluding the workshops, scholars were able to build their professional brands using LinkedIn, vlogs and elevator pitches. This demonstrated the importance of professional branding and taught scholars how to create eye-catching profiles and develop clear and concise personal statements for use on their LinkedIn profiles and CVs. The scholars had fun with the role-playing exercises and filming of vlogs to develop their presentation and oral communication skills.
Feedback from attendees was overwhelmingly positive, with all appreciating the chance to gain useful tools that will aid them in building their professional brand and assist them in developing networks in Australia. According to George Lungu of Malawi the ability to refine his RAP during the workshop “opened his eyes to what he is expected to do when returning home and the opportunities that are available.”
A condensed version of the Stay Connected Workshop was delivered virtually for scholars who were unable to attend the workshop in person.