It's been a full-on few months but yet, quite a reflective time for Catalpa. Here are some of the highlights.
We've just kicked off an exciting new program to further the professional development of agricultural researchers in countries across Asia, the Pacific region, and Africa, thanks to funding from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). ACIAR is the Australian Government’s specialist agricultural research-for-development agency within the Australian aid program.
Over the next three years, we'll be working with The University of Queensland (UQ) to develop ACIAR Learn: an online learning program designed for mobile-first. ACIAR Learn courses will cover a large range of topics related to carrying out successful agricultural research projects. ACIAR Learn will build off Catalpa’s microlearning platform Bero, an easy to use application that supports a range of learning initiatives in countries with low connectivity. ACIAR Learn will work offline after the initial download and be designed in a way that is intuitive even for those new to smartphones.
This is our first time working alongside UQ, one of Australia's top-ranking universities, and we're delighted to be part of this strength-based partnership where we can learn from UQ's leading agricultural research expertise. This is also our first time co-designing with people from so many countries across the globe, which is a super exciting challenge for us!
We are also excited to be launching a new social support program called Jerasaun Foun with the Government of Timor-Leste, and with support from the Australian Government via the Partnership for Human Development.
Jerasaun Foun, meaning 'new generation' in Tetun, is designed to support children at the very start of life. It will provide monthly cash transfers to all pregnant women and parents with children up until the age of six. The program is aiming to reduce poverty and improve maternal and child health, including by preventing malnutrition in early childhood.
Catalpa is working with the Ministry of Social Solidarity and Inclusion to strengthen its oversight of the program and develop a fit-for-purpose information management system that will allow people to register for the payments and transparently track their delivery.
Just over the past few months, we've welcomed 12 new team members from six different countries! They have joined us from Australia, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu.
All the new hires have jumped right in and have already made a huge impact. We are excited to see the shape that this impact takes over time and, of course, to see who joins us next!
With all this growth, it's crucial that we are putting all the right support in place and that our policies are ever-evolving to meet the challenges of our team. Recently, we created two new policies designed to support our staff:
We know that feeding babies is a shared responsibility. Under our new policy, staff of all genders at are allowed to take unlimited breaks to feed infants.
They are encouraged to block out times in their calendar for feeding sessions as a way of ensuring that others will be more thoughtful when assigning meetings or tasks to new parents.
However, there is no expectation that staff will only feed during these times. We promote flexible working arrangements for our staff, which are crucial for parents with infants to thrive at work while taking care of the next generation of change makers.
At Catalpa, we recognise that domestic and family violence is serious and prevalent in the countries in which we work and that unfortunately many of our staff will have some experience with it during their time at Catalpa.
We will wholeheartedly support any staff member who experiences such abuse.
We will do so in a range of ways that may include reducing their workload, providing flexible working arrangements, offering a special category of leave for victims, and providing access to salary advances.
We've been having some discussions recently around how we can more meaningfully support the wellbeing of our staff, both during and after this pandemic.
Following this, we sent a survey around to our staff asking them what their biggest challenges are at work and what we can do to best support them through these.
We're also just about to hire a People and Culture Manager who will work with us to take the findings and use them to shape our company culture going forward.
Got ideas? We'd love your input too! Has your organisation found other ways to create community and support the mental health of your staff?
If you'd like to exchange ideas on ways to improve wellbeing at work, please hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In light of all this looking out, up, and in, we also want to take a moment to do some looking back! While these days there are more than 70 of us at Catalpa, it was just a few years ago that we were a tiny organisation with a handful of people based in Dili, Timor-Leste.
Here are some happy memories we've made together over the years: