Local staff development: building for the future

OuTrop is an interesting mix of Indonesian and international team members, who support each other to help achieve our research and conservation objectives. Here, our Managing Director, Dr Mark Harrison, talks about developing capacity among local staff and why this is so important for OuTrop.

I’ve been visiting Borneo since 2003 and have had the privilege of working with many Indonesian people, who have impressed me on so many levels. Among others, I’ve met people who have successfully fought their cause against massive opposition, plus people who have had no proper school education but could tell me the name of almost all of the hundreds of trees in the forest, and I’ve been in awe.

In partnership with CIMTROP, we currently employ a team of 15 local research staff, seven permanent local Community Patrol Team members and six local admin/logistics staff, and we expect these numbers to grow as the project continues to develop. Many already coordinate and manage aspects of the project, and have also become trainers themselves. There’s a huge amount of potential within these staff, and Indonesia as a whole, but a relative lack of educational opportunities limits many people’s ability to achieve their full potential.

OuTrop Team at a recent training workshop at our base camp. Photo by Suzanne Turnock/OuTrop

As is so often said, the future of a country’s wildlife rests in the hands of its people, and so if we are to achieve long-term success in our mission to conserve Borneo’s natural resources, then it’s imperative that we focus on developing local staff and students to unlock their – and OuTrop’s – full potential. Local staff training has always been important for OuTrop and will be a major priority over the coming years.

First, we have recently established a new Staff Development Programme, which provides a formal basis for training of key specific and transferable skills, monitoring acquisition of these and establishing individually-tailored training targets. This will be complemented by SWOT analyses completed by local staff members, to engage them in establishing and directing their own training needs. We hope that this will enable continued development to enhance their leadership and scientific potential, and drive the project forward into the future.

Second, we have also established a new bursary system, offering funded internships and studentships to young Indonesian scientists, which we hope will help them in pursuing careers in wildlife research and conservation in Indonesia. This has been a great success to date and is something that we plan to continue expanding in 2015.

Larissa Salaki, an MSc student from Jakarta (Indonesia). Larissa received a studentship and is currently spending six months with OuTrop studying vocalisations in red langur monkeys.

Our international team members are all committed to supporting our mission and Indonesian staff in developing their capacity [meet the newest member of our team here, Jen Hacking, who will be leading on staff development]. Seeing our local staff learn new skills, take responsibility for coordinating key project areas and becoming experts in their own right is hugely rewarding for all at OuTrop, and I personally couldn’t be prouder of them.