June 20, 2023

4 min read

Adaptive Resilience and the Proactive Management of Risk

Kerry Lotzof

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Kerry Lotzof

Certified Project Master (CPM)

What are the Australia Awards?

The Australia Awards is a scholarship and short course program run by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). Every year they invest close to $200 million dollars in training for individuals and groups in 27 developing countries.

The program recognises that tertiary education is a key element in capacity building. Their transformational scholarships and short courses support emerging leaders from developing countries for study, research, and professional development in Australia so they can return home and contribute to their nations’ development, prosperity, and resilience.

The Center x Australia Awards partnership

With our extensive experience working with marginalised and vulnerable communities and mission centred on capacity building, the Australia Awards has been a dream project and ideological fit for us. We’re all about giving people the skills they need to empower themselves and be the change the world needs.

The Australia Awards had worked exclusively with Australian University partners fairly well since its inception, so we were low-key thrilled to be one of the first non-university partners to join such a prestigious program.

The Center for Project Innovation pre-departure delivery team in Papua New Guinea

The challenge

The PNG government identified project management as a vital skills gap that left them dependent on external consultants to identify and guide investment and development in the country.

Our focus was to train a diverse group of emerging leaders to step into project leadership roles in the community. Not to do the work on their behalf but to give them the knowledge, toolkit, and confidence to solve complex problems unique to their environment and manage innovative projects more efficiently.

Our approach

Australia Awards funding enabled us to run three programs for learners from PNG provincial government, upskilling them in project management. Candidates were brought to the capital at Port Moresby for a meet and greet and flown to Australia to undertake our certification program.

In addition to study, mentors took groups on a range of professional and cultural site tours. Students were introduced to project teams traversing a range of industries, including Tas Hydro (infrastructure), Entura (renewables), the University of Tasmania (education), the Antarctic Division (science), as well as several relevant agriculture projects.

Cultural experiences included a ‘Welcome to Country’ event, an introduction to the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community and attending professional sporting fixtures.

AAPNG project management students on the ground as guests of the South Sydney Rabbitohs after another famous victory


Under the Australia Award program, we were able to train almost 100 project managers for PNG. Many of them have since stepped into senior-level roles in the provincial government. Some have also become social entrepreneurs.

There is direct evidence at a community level of the effectiveness of these programs, with project managers now having the skills to positively impact projects in their provinces and communities and share their skills with the teams they join or lead.

For example, under the guidance of newly skilled project managers, the remote port town of Alotau (at the eastern tip of PNG) was able to secure government funding for a new fleet of fishing boats to support their entire town.

It’s at this grassroots level that knowledge and skills can have the biggest immediate positive impact not only on individual candidates but their entire communities.

You’ve probably heard the proverbial wisdom:  Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

We’d like to add that if you teach his daughter (who works in local government) to project manage, they’ll help secure funding for a fishing fleet that brings prosperity to the whole community (and moves the needle on national GDP).

Empowering local leadership creates a long-lasting legacy of self-management for everything from events, weddings, and festivals to broader socio-economic self-governance. It’s powerful stuff and a legacy we’re proud to be part of.

AAPNG project management students on an industry visit to CSIRO laboratories in Tasmania, Australia

Here’s what our client, Australia Awards – PNG, had to say

Trish Sawford, Manager of Professional Development and Partnerships for the Australia Awards:

‘Australia Awards in Papua New Guinea offers short course awards known as Australia Awards Fellowships. These courses are designed to provide skill development and address workforce gaps for the private sector, the public sector and civil society organisations.

The Center for Project Innovation (CPI) delivered one of these courses, and there were initially 23 participants from provincial locations across PNG. All participants were employees of the Government of Papua New Guinea and had varied levels of education and experience prior to going to Australia.

Due to the successful delivery and high-quality implementation, CPI was contracted to deliver a further two courses.

We found CPI to be committed to understanding the organization and Papua New Guinea context when designing and delivering content. They designed materials that were accessible to participants where English was not their first language.

Materials, including background reading and case studies mainstreamed cross-cutting issues such as gender, disability, social inclusion, child protection and the environment. Facilitators used gender-neutral language when delivering course content.

The team quickly built rapport and credibility with program participants… This is important as it is not always necessary to identify ‘best practice’ but good practice in the context of what will be effective and suitable in the resource-constrained environment and complex political environment.

This resulted in learning that could be directly applied with participants enabled to contribute to reforms and improvements to procedures and approaches in the workplace. I have found CPI to be a highly professional organization to work with.

The planning, delivery and associated administration of the program have been outstanding. They are responsive to both Australian and PNG Government priorities and demonstrated a willingness to work with the Australia Awards team to understand and meet expectations.

Beyond the technical delivery and administration, the team has also provided excellent pastoral care to participants. I would not hesitate to recommend CPI to other donors.’

AAPNG project management students on an industry visit with international clean energy consultants Entura.

Could we help make a difference in your community?

We’re always open to opportunities and partnerships that enable us to do capacity building that changes lives and communities. We offer face-to-face workshops and online (mentor-supported) training options accessible anywhere in the English-speaking world with Wi-Fi.

If your role involves capacity building, education, training and development, and you’re wondering where to invest – talk to us.


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