Date released
24 May 2018

Developing leadership skills and career development for agricultural scientists and policymakers are two key themes of ACIAR’s renewed capacity building program. Under the new Ten-Year Strategy, ACIAR’s approach to capacity building launches a number of new initiatives.

'Our flagship programs, the John Allwright and John Dillon Fellowships are being enhanced,’ explains ACIAR’s General Manager, Outreach and Capacity Building, Eleanor Dean.

‘Future post-graduate students completing their Masters and PhD studies as John Allwright fellows will be required to undertake a ‘balanced researcher’ course, equipping them with so-called “soft skills” such as leadership, communication, financial management and a better understanding of gender issues.

‘We are just starting the process of developing this program and plan to start delivering it in the first semester of 2019.

From 2018 the John Dillon Fellowship program will be shortened to four weeks in Australia – following widespread feedback that the six-week program was too long. Participants will start the program in their home country and finish the program on their return. It is also now more integrated, rather than a series of distinct short courses, and has a full-time program leader to help the participants draw together the learnings.

General Manager, Outreach and Capacity Building, Eleanor Dean (middle) with the 2018 cohort of John Dillon Fellows.
General Manager, Outreach and Capacity Building, Eleanor Dean (middle) with the 2018 cohort of John Dillon Fellows.


A second round of the John Dillon Fellowship will run in the second half of 2018. It will target small groups of colleagues from the same organisation.

The new program will be similar to the John Dillon Fellowship in its focus on leadership, project and policy development and communication, but will target small groups of colleagues from the same organisation.

‘The idea is that by learning and sharing experiences together, it will be easier to take new ideas back to the workplace and implement them by supporting each other to do things differently,’ said Ms Dean. ‘We still have some work to do designing the new course and the criteria for selecting participants, but look forward to the first annual cohort completing the program before the end of this year.

‘We are also excited about another new capacity building initiative underway, targeting women scientists in Asia and the Pacific. This is a long-term project and we are looking closely at the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) fellowships as a model.’

Over two years AWARD includes a mentoring component and training in both leadership and science skills. ACIAR is sponsoring two women scientists from Bangladesh to complete the program. Feedback from these participants will inform how ACIAR may be able to run something similar in Asia and the Pacific.

ACIAR is also developing an Australian researcher program designed to encourage the next generation of agricultural scientists.

‘We’ve already piloted an internship program for Masters of Business Administration students to work on an ACIAR project for a few months and we intend to explore this model further to see if it could be applied to other disciplines,’ said Ms Dean. ‘This complements our work supporting volunteers to increase the engagement of Australians in agricultural development in our region, while developing innovative approaches and partnerships.’

In partnership with the Crawford Fund, ACIAR also supports the Researchers in Agriculture for International Development network of young scientists who share knowledge and information about opportunities in the sector. A communication strategy targeting Australian agriculture students will also be delivered in 2018.

Ms Dean said ACIAR’s relationship with the Crawford Fund continues to go from strength to strength. ‘We are working together to find ways to increase the alignment of training needs and capacity building activities across the two organisations. Last year the two organisations entered into our first memorandum of understanding which sets out our plans for working together on mutual goals.

‘This is an exciting time to be contributing to ACIAR’s ongoing growth as Australia’s lead research agency for development,’ Ms Dean said.