Paddling This Canoe Together: How Learning Inspires the Co-Creation of Solutions for Resilient Development in the Pacific

May 7, 2024

Gov4Res has facilitated peer-to-peer learning and shared learning through a number of different platforms across the Pacific.

Photo: UNDP

Why We Took a Bet on Learning

Studies have shown that peer learning is an effective method of sharing knowledge and experience in adult populations. Learning from the knowledge and experience of others, and participating in well‐informed discussion, are valued above all else. 

Furthermore, it has been shown that these forms of interaction and approaches to learning can favor the construction of knowledge and help to develop reflective skills and a sense of ‘togetherness’ in the group through sharing stories with one another, developing identity through the discussions and through this, enabling the development of community. The findings indicate that the learners are provided with opportunities to consider the strengths and weaknesses of ideas from multiple perspectives.

In the Pacific context, this is particularly relevant, due to the traditional communal nature of societies and the processes and methods of learning that resonate in this context. The Governance for Resilient Development Project (Gov4Res) has adopted peer learning as a core approach, given the need for collective reflecting and problem-solving for shifting ways of working, if resilient development is to be realized. 

Gov4Res has facilitated peer-to-peer learning and shared learning through a number of different platforms. As a result, we have seen evidence of participants co-creating solutions tailored to local contexts and adopting ideas and processes to strengthen the work they are undertaking in the resilience space. We have also taken several lessons into our programming and design, including the need to make learning opportunities fun, as well as informative (by using games); ensuring learning platforms are accessible (through technology); and centering Pacific processes (e.g. Talanoa).

We are mainstreaming learning across four levels: Community, Country, Regional and Internally with the project team. 

Facilitated peer learning has been a core component of the Gov4Res Small Grants Initiative (SGI), with dedicated peer learning workshops held in Fiji, Solomon Islands and Tonga. The sessions were designed to meet local demand for peer-to-peer learning on individual project impacts, challenges and lessons taken from implementing risk-informed community development (RID) projects with a Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) perspective. 

As these were relatively new ideas for most of the grantees we partnered with, this was a critical part of the SGI, to ensure understanding and adoption of risk-informing practices. We also took significant learning from our grantees about how they understand risk-informed development, what this looks like for them in different contexts and sectors and how we can better communicate this idea. 

“This workshop and experience-sharing sessions cement our commitment to creating a platform to discuss and learn from each other. It allows us to put all the good practices and challenges together and work on a way forward to systemic risk-informing all development.”
Ms. Joanne Aihunu, UNDP Solomon Islands Resilience and Sustainable Development Programme Team Leader, Honiara SGI Peer Learning Session

Within these sessions, we intentionally created a space to amplify voices of women Civil Society Organization (CSO) leaders and participants. We also incorporated practical exercises (including a gender power walk) and case studies presented by the project grantees, to enhance understanding of risk integration and gender and social inclusion considerations.  While the sessions were specifically designed for the participation of SGI grantees, they also included other relevant partners including Global Environment Fund (GEF) Small Grants and UNDP colleagues (Solomon Islands) and Government agencies (Tonga), providing a space for others to listen and learn from their civil society colleagues and for grantee organizations to advocate for broader change in funding processes and partnerships to ensure community impacts are being achieved. 

From the project’s perspective, these sessions have provided critical learning on the design of the Small Grants Initiative and how we can make this more effective, if a second phase were to be designed. 


SGI grantee participants sharing lessons learned from project design and implementation during the Fiji SGI Peer Learning Session in June 2022.

Photo: UNDP

Country: Shared Challenges and Insights

At the country level, Gov4Res has facilitated workshops, training sessions, planning forums and dedicated peer learning sessions providing stakeholders with opportunities to share insights, discuss challenges, and co-create solutions tailored to local contexts. 

Country-focused government-level initiatives have brought together policymakers, officials, and technical experts to share knowledge, discuss policy implications and explore strategies for integrating risk considerations into national development agendas. These initiatives not only promote cross-sectoral collaboration but also contribute to the generation and sharing of knowledge, that is beneficial across Government.

“There is an interconnectedness in our survival as countries in the Pacific region, with a need for more sharing of lessons learned across governments in the pacific at all levels – Minister level and technical level. There is a need to recognize the importance of socializing peer to peer learning the Pacific way.”
Mr. Leith Veremaito, Director General, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Vanuatu

Participants at this Vanuatu peer-to-peer learning event had the opportunity to learn about the progress Fiji MRMDDM has made, in risk-informing their community projects and strengthening the project design process.

Photo: UNDP

With partner countries at differing stages of progress, an important approach has been facilitating peer learning between government agencies. A learning event was held in Vanuatu where Gov4Res partnered with the Vanuatu Department of Local Authorities (DLA) and facilitated the participation of the Fiji Ministry of Rural and Maritime Development and Disaster Management (MRMDDM), who have made significant progress in risk-informing their community development projects. The event provided a space for influencing and advocating for risk-informed development where Senior Officials from Fiji Government shared their successes and lessons in strengthening their planning processes, risk-informing their community-based projects and as a result, seeing more quality results. Vanuatu stakeholders were able to discuss how the examples and successes shared could be integrated into similar development work in Vanuatu, building on progress already made in their community profiling and project risk screening processes. 


CSO and Government stakeholders undertaking a “Horizon Scanning for the Pacific” activity at the Regional Finance Convening, June 2023.

Photo: UNDP

Regional: Promoting Collaboration and Shared Solutions

Regional convenings and meetings provide especially important opportunities to reach a much wider audience, to provide a platform for Government partners to shape the discussion and to undertake more creative approaches. Through these events, Gov4Res aims to foster a culture of learning and collaboration, breaking down silos and enhancing resilience at all levels.

In June 2023, Gov4Res hosted a regional event bringing together Government and Civil Society partners and stakeholders. For many, this was the first time that a space had been provided for dedicated reflection and learning, across the government and civil society spaces. The Convening adopted strategic foresight activities, a group game, presentations from participants on specific case-studies; reflections from key thought leaders on topics including strategic partnerships and dedicated country-focused and cross-country discussions. The event also incorporated an action research piece on the project’s GESI impacts. 

At the end of the event, practical actions were identified by participants to strengthen local government and civil society collaboration on return to their home countries. 

The feedback received from participants was that the learning space promoted safe, authentic, honest sharing of experiences on successes and challenges faced implementing risk-informed development. It also provided an important conversation opportunity (that needs to be continued) to link community work more closely with planning and finance decision-making at national and subnational government level.

“Seeking partnership is crucial and drafting proposals together to align objectives to funders/donors and it is equally important that it aligns to national frameworks and national goals. Ownership is also critical in projects when working with partners. Government do not have funds but have the resources.”
Alfred Sokimi, Habitat for Humanity Fiji, Regional Finance Convening, 2023

Regional events, including the Pacific Resilience Meeting (PRM), also serve as important regional for a for dialogue and collaboration on resilience-building efforts. These events open opportunities to advocate and influence a much wider audience, on the benefits of risk-informed development. Some of the key learnings the Gov4Res team have taken away from participating and facilitating panels and sessions within these regional spaces include:

-    The importance of centering national government representatives and Pacific stakeholders, to describe the progress made and where they are prioritizing further systems shifts (rather than hearing from development partners).
-    Presenting technical information in a fun way can create greater engagement, collaboration and understanding of a technical topic.
-    Utilizing Pacific-specific tools and processes, such as a facilitated Talanoa, can help to open up spaces, bring about a different level of discussion and make Pacific stakeholders feel more comfortable in sharing.


Representatives from Tonga, Kiribati and Fiji play the Decision for Decades game, thinking about risk informed planning and investment.

Photo: UNDP

Team Focused: Taking technical deep dives

Finally, the Gov4Res team have also adopted an internal peer learning process, through regular Technical Deep Dives facilitated by the Gov4Res Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) specialist and attended by all technical and operational staff. The project team have adopted a hybrid approach (online and in person) to undertake these sessions, ensuring remote and in-country team members are able to participate. These sessions have been an effective way of sharing field experiences and learnings that have benefited colleagues in similar activities. In 2023, a deep dive session was led by the team’s Finance Specialist who shared her experience with the process for piloting risk-informed community projects in two islands in Kiribati. This session provided an opportunity for dialogue with the Vanuatu project team on what has worked, and the lessons learnt that they could adapt with local government colleagues, as they were simultaneously working on prioritization of projects with local government colleagues in-country. This learning exchange has been effective for sharing lived experience from peers in technical areas to strengthen a similar activity in implementation.  

Furthermore, a recent technical deep dive held in 2024 brought together government representatives from the Aid Management and Resilient Development Division in Tonga, the Climate Finance and Resilience Unit in the Solomon Islands and the Climate Change Division of the Prime Minister’s Office in Fiji. These project partners shared their learning experiences from attending the UNFCCC COP28 in Dubai, supported by the Gov4Res project. This Deep Dive session enabled cross-learning and ideas that could be adapted by peers as well as providing a safe space to share mutual challenges, that may be difficult to share otherwise.

Looking Ahead: ;earning to accelerate the pace of change

As Gov4Res transitions to Phase 2, the significance of peer learning and shared learning platforms becomes even more evident. Our heightened emphasis on learning, advocacy, and knowledge exchange underscores the continued relevance of these mechanisms in driving progress and fostering collaboration for resilient development. By building upon the successes of Phase 1 and leveraging lessons learned Gov4Res is now expanding its MEL to translate collaborative work in risk informing governance systems into learning products to advocate and influence pacific leaders toward a more resilient development approach that would be sustained beyond a project life cycle.