Australia-supported Filipinos inspire and empower each other to rise above COVID-19 challenges

Over 150 Australia-supported Filipinos recently gathered virtually to discuss how they can use innovation and their influence to help the Philippines recover from the challenges of COVID-19. With the theme Innovators and Influencers: Making an Impact to Recovery, the 2020 Alumni Network Summit aimed to prepare the mindset of the alumni community for 2021 and inspire them to collaborate with peers in their respective industries to help the country map out its path to healing.

"The Summit's theme is very timely. As we reinforce our health system, restore our economy and rebuild our lives, we need to find innovative solutions to address the numerous challenges of this pandemic at the community, local and national levels," said Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Steven J. Robinson AO.

"Engaging in meaningful conversations among peers in your respective sectors, and collaborating on projects that would benefit your industry is a tremendous opportunity to use your Australian education towards undertaking innovative yet practical solutions to common issues and concerns," the ambassador added.

The Summit brought together Filipino change-makers – innovators and influencers – who shared insights, facilitated discussions, and inspired the alumni to harness innovation and creativity to initiate change.

Australia-educated Filipino Donald Lim, Chief Operations Officer of DITO CME and Chief Innovation Officer of Udenna Corporation, was one of the plenary speakers of the event. He encouraged his fellow alumni to dare to innovate amidst the crisis, turn challenges into opportunities, and appreciate the global alumni network, which allows them to collaborate and work together for more significant impact.

The Summit also witnessed "womenpowerment" in action through its Innovators and Influencers forum featuring three inspiring women who served as panellists: multi-awarded Filipina entrepreneur Cherrie Atilano, CEO and President, AGREA International; millennial entrepreneur and social influencer Ace Gapuz, CEO, Blogapalooza, Inc.; and designer, fashion and lifestyle influencer Marga Nograles, Founder and Managing Director, Kaayo Modern Mindanao.

"The awe-inspiring stories of our innovators and influencers are priceless. They showed their capacity to think out of the box to create an impact, a positive change in the lives of others. I encourage my fellow alumni to keep engaging in activities like this," said Josephine Aleta, Australia Awards alumna and a participant in the event.

Another event participant, Australia Awards alumnus Ronnie Garcia of the University of Mindanao, shared: "The talk of Mr. Donald Lim made a great mark to me as it dealt with relevant and timely discussions coupled with relatable examples and presentations. My key takeaway would be: 'Never let a serious crisis go to waste.' Right now as I work in the academe, I am making use of this circumstance as an opportunity to learn new things like teaching in the new normal. Developing learning materials to address virtual teaching and learning, and pursuing quality, innovative, and transformative education, even online, are a few of the many ways to make a positive impact amidst this pandemic," he said.

Now on its third year, the Alumni Network Summit brings together alumni to learn, share, connect and engage in meaningful conversations that would bring forth positive change for the country. The 2020 Alumni Network Summit is the first virtual run of the annual event. To encourage digital engagement among alumni, it made use of tools such as Howspace, a digital facilitation and social learning platform, as well as Canva, a graphic design platform, founded by Australian-Filipino entrepreneur Melanie Perkins.

The Summit also served as a launchpad of the Australia Alumni Communities Philippines (AACPh), a network that brings together alumni who share the same field or interests. During the event, they were able to meet, albeit virtually, and engage in conversations on how they can make a difference in their industries and contribute to the country's recovery.