By Catherine Norwood
Jill Briggs is the managing director of Affectus, which runs the NSILP program for the FRDC, and she and her team have been working to establish a support network, bringing people together to help each other through the coronavirus upheaval.
The Affectus team has been facilitating NSILP for the FRDC for 20 years and runs similar programs for other primary industries, including the wine and horticulture sectors. The alumni network across these programs is extensive.
One initiative underway is a standing invitation to all Affectus program alumni to join a virtual session for Thursday evening drinks every fortnight via Zoom – from 6.30pm to 7.30pm.
Jill Briggs says the first event on 26 March, attended by more than 30 graduates, showed how shell-shocked some people were feeling about the new restrictions and COVID-19 threat. It was hard, at that time, to even look beyond what would happen tomorrow.
“There’s been a huge loss of income and market position for some businesses – not just exporters, but also those relying on high-end restaurants to buy their products – whether that’s Abalone, specialty vegetables or wine. And there’s not much space on the shelves to allow high-end products to simply pivot into domestic retail markets.
“It has been a brutal lesson about the complexities of supply chains for a lot of people, and not just in the seafood sector.”
Jill Briggs says a few people reported accessing new markets, and others recognised they were gaining time to share with their young families.
However, there were also shared stories of the struggle to stay in business and to keep highly skilled staff when there is no work on offer.
While the number of attendees has varied over the weeks, Jill Briggs says the fortnightly sessions have provided a much-needed touchpoint.
For those who were selected to take part in the 2020 program, the Affectus team is also holding a series of Zoom gatherings until the future looks more settled.
“I also want to remind people they do have knowledge, skills and networks they can draw on to help them through this time,” Jill Briggs says. To highlight this, she has published a series of leadership articles via LinkedIn and is also providing, through her company website, a dedicated ‘Lockdown Leadership’ space with resources, opportunities for remote social interaction and other assistance (see www.affectusaus.com.au).
“The Affectus team is committed to being as helpful as we possibly could be during this time of challenge,” says Jill Briggs.
The Affectus drinks nights coming up will be on 21 May and 4 June, continuing fortnightly.
“People do have to BYO,” she says.