The East-West Center is piloting a new model for professional development of women leaders in the Pacific. Starting in Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands, these Community Leadership Incubators employ group support, mentoring, and training in leadership skills, focusing on advancing the careers of local women leaders who are known for “getting things done” but who are often overlooked or marginalized.

The Community Leadership Incubator takes an “online and on-island” approach by combining small groups on each island guided by an advisor with the larger, virtual groups across all islands participating in the program. The six-month syllabus combines four-day workshops for participants on each island with monthly online meetings of the full group.

Training the trainers

The program began in 2016 with a series of train-the-trainer workshops offered over two years in Majuro, Kosrae, Pohnpei, Ebeye, Yap, Chuuk, and Palau. Seven participants from these workshops became advisors in Community Leadership Incubators. Each advisor formed a group of three to six women leaders on her island, adapted curriculum and tools provided by the team at the East-West Center, and offered project development and leadership training to her group as well as individual and collective coaching.
Participants in a train-the-trainers workshop on Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia.

These face-to-face workshops and monthly online meetings provide background reading on leadership, tools, strategy discussions, and talks by inspirational women leaders from the region. Participants then use and share the tools, often within their own organizations. This model ensures that skills such as systems thinking, scenario building, value articulation, generative writing, and personal action planning were adapted for local contexts and reached a larger audience beyond English-speakers or typical leadership training attendees.

Workshop members have spearheaded projects including documenting breadfruit trees and training for a Water for Life program on Yap, providing a camp for Girls Leading our World (GLOW) on Kosrae, participating in The Last Straw Campaign on Chuuk, and distribution of Days for GirlsTM menstrual kits on Ebeye. In May 2019, the program advisors came together in Honolulu for a summit to share their ideas and experiences, meet with local women activists in Hawai’i, and develop ideas for building on the achievements of the program.

Advisors Summit participants in Honolulu with Dr. Maxime Burkett of the Institute for Climate and Peace.