By: Isabel Keng
Disclaimer: The views are those of the author's alone and do not represent the views of UNA-Canada.
All I have to say is that it has been an incredible journey as a Junior Professional Consultant with the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) Country Office of Papua New Guinea (PNG). Doing my Master of Public Administration program while working with UNCDF did require a strict balance of shifting minds between school and work. However, seeing how I can apply skills learnt in school to support Micro, Small, Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in PNG gain access to services through program coordination was nothing but rejuvenating.
Working with the UNCDF team on the Agri-MSME Challenge Fund was an exciting experience. I got to hear proposals and ideas about varying practices in improving business processes in agriculture. I witnessed the many brilliant ideas and innovative services proposed by the local companies, and I am inspired by their passion, inventiveness and entrepreneurship. During the Challenge Fund Bootcamp, it was also particularly inspiring to hear from global leaders and mentorship to local companies refining their projects. It reminds me that the work of alleviating poverty and inequality lies in the interconnectedness of our humanity. Working alongside locals from all backgrounds and international partners such as the European Union (EU) and the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) is refreshing to hear from differing viewpoints and evaluate from all perspectives.
JPC Isabel with UNCDF colleagues and participants in the Agri-MSME Information Session
In my position, I conduct secondary research on the agricultural sector in rural Sepik and the informal and formal economies for women enterprises in PNG to provide context for our challenge fund proposals. I also provide support to project partners (MSMEs) during the development of project appraisal documents for submission to the Investment Committee. UNCDF has specified template formats with stringent reporting requirements in their performance-based grant agreements. My role is to provide clarity on the needed financial documentation to ensure proposals are presented concisely and clearly.
Isabel is working to support the country office in their aims to achieve the goals of SDG 8 & 10
Despite the short time I have been a JPC, I've learned the many roles UNCDF plays in addressing global development. Local MSMEs are integral in employment, economic growth, innovation, and delivering essential goods and services that allow communities to grow and thrive. However, they are often underfunded. Working with the team, I observe the ways in which UNCDF works directly with communities to provide crucial market linkages with key partners such as banks, telco's, government agencies, and donors to facilitate enhanced connectivity in the financial ecosystem.
Finally, I feel incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to work with a team that is so dedicated to advancing the participation of the under-served in the country, specifically women, youth and small businesses in the emerging digital economy. It is also a life-changing privilege and lesson for me to listen, think, and act in serving global communities.