Photo: Eco Services Ltd
Felix Kipalan shares the story of how he was inspired to start the social enterprise Eco Services Ltd, a mentoring program for environmental science students and graduates in PNG. Supporting young people into the work force is vitally important in PNG where levels of youth unemployment are extremely high.

Napoleon Hill famously said that, ‘you would not have the desire unless you were capable of its achievement’. Everything in life starts with a desire, but the measure and rate at which you achieve your goals depends on the time you spend developing your ideas. It is a desire for change which has driven me, and what began as an idea from my first experiences in the work force has become a fully-fledged social enterprise today.

The planting of a seed

I completed a Bachelor of Earth Sciences Degree at the University of Waikato, New Zealand in 2002 and joined Lihir Gold Mine on Lihir Island, Papua New Guinea in 2003. I began my career as a graduate in the Graduate Development Program, which runs for three years. The Graduate Development Program had a number of shortcomings which frustrated me; planting the seed in my mind of how I could do things better to improve human resources, to improve the experience of new graduates in my sector and build their skills to enhance human capital. Over a period of eight and a half years I worked my way up to the position of Superintendent in 2009, leading the Environment Department and becoming involved in a number of projects that had impacts on other sites owned by Lihir Gold Limited.

The beginning of Eco Services

After eight and a half years at Lihir, I decided to change jobs but as I was about to start work at Lihir Gold Limited’s sister company, Wafi/Golpu project, my father passed away. So I had to leave work and stay at home to sort out his funeral and attend to family and cultural matters.

Whilst attending to my late father’s affairs, I was fortunate to be invited by the petroleum and mining industry to consult on a number of projects. Rather than consult for my personal benefit, I was inspired to serve a greater purpose and so decided to start a social enterprise – which I would later call Eco Services.

Deviating from social norms

It is never easy to deviate from the norms of society, we have all been brought up with a certain way of doing things, and we follow certain rules in life instilled in us since we took our first innocent breath.

The general order of life is; go to school, go to university, get a job, work, retire from working and wait to retire from life. I however believe there is more to life than this.

The making of a social enterprise

I usually tell my Graduates, ‘there are so many issues in the world today, pick one and stick to it’.

I have always been passionate about young people’s development and driven to help others achieve what they want in life. I wanted to create an avenue for young people to share ideas and inspire each other. Entrepreneurship flourishes in places where people can learn from each other.

That’s when the idea of a social enterprise hit me and I haven’t looked back since.

Even though I started the organization with my own money, I had plans in place to make it self-sustaining over the next three to four years. Eco Services Ltd began its operations in 2011. It took us almost three years before we transitioned to a self-sustaining organization, now we can rely on the income generated from our projects.

Graduates in the Eco Services Ltd mentoring program (photo: Eco Services Ltd).

So what is Eco Services Ltd?

Allow me to begin by defining our organization as a social enterprise. We are an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in social and environmental well-being, rather than maximizing profits. We are structured as a non-profit, and take the form of a social business.

The purpose of Eco Services Ltd is to develop the character and competency of our graduates; this is the foundation of our success. We are cultivating a culture of willing and able citizens who can contribute to the responsible sustainable development of our nation in their areas of influence and professions. Some of our core values include Team work and Achievement, Performance and Quality, Integrity and Commitment. Each value has guiding principles and actions to enable us to develop our key capabilities to achieve our organizational and individual goals.

At Eco Services Ltd, we have three central modes of knowledge transfer:

1) Self-Thought (Do-it-Yourself!)

2) Graduates to Graduates

3) Alumni to Graduates

And three sections of operations:

1) Management (administration and high level documentation)

2) Monitoring (field work)

3) Projects (where we generate income to run our operations)

Since our inception in 2011, we have completed 13 projects with various companies and stakeholders including the Mineral Resource Authority, Simberi Gold Mine, Newcrest Mining Ltd, Oil Search PNG Ltd and Child Fund PNG. We also have our alumni employed in various companies and organizations in different sectors in Papua New Guinea and abroad.

The way forward

Today, we have over 30 alumni who are working in various companies across different sectors in PNG and 11 active graduates who will join the workforce by next year. We also have industrial training programs designed especially for third and fourth year university students in Papua New Guinea. To date, there are over 50 young Papua New Guineans who have been directly involved with Eco Services Ltd and the impact these young leaders are having in their communities and workplaces is invaluable!

I had a desire to inspire young Papua New Guineans, now these very people are inspiring others in their communities and pretty much wherever they go.

Eco Services Ltd will continue to grow because I believe in these young people. By grow I don’t necessarily mean we will expand our office space, instead, I am referring to the values and principles we promote.

If you would like more information on the work of Eco Services Ltd visit our Face book page https://www.facebook.com/EcoServices or email us on ecoserviceslimited@gmail.com

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Felix Kipalan - Consultant and Learning Facilitator - Lowy Institute

Felix Kipalan

Consultant and Learning Facilitator

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