Suzannah Jessep's February 2024 CEO Update

Tēnā koutou and warm greetings! Welcome to this first CEO Update for 2024, and a happy lunar New Year to everyone.
A montage of ten photos illustrating some of the events the Foundation has supported over the past year

Photos highlighting some of the events and people the Foundation supported last year

I’d like to begin by expressing my thanks to those who have reached out over the past month to convey their warm wishes.  

It’s an honour to be appointed chief executive of the Foundation and heartening to see so many different people, across New Zealand and Asia, reach out to reaffirm their support and commitment to our shared purpose: growing and deepening Aotearoa New Zealand – Asia relations and equipping New Zealanders to thrive in Asia. It’s clear the Foundation works in an amazing eco-system.  

It is also clear that demand for our work is growing.  

Late last year we published a Year in Review, capturing some of the work led by the Asia New Zealand Foundation. The numbers speak for themselves.  

We set a target of delivering 50 high quality offshore opportunities in Asia. We delivered over 220. We aimed to publish two-to-three high quality pieces of research. We published six. And the Asia Media Centre and corporate websites published almost 300 articles.

We partnered with 19 organisations to deliver events on Asia, reaching audience numbers of over 100,000 people. And we have brought together young leaders and entrepreneurs who, in turn, have made connections across North, South and Southeast Asia.           

Our annual New Zealander's Perceptions of Asia and Asian Peoples research shows that New Zealanders consider Asia to be the second most important region to New Zealand’s future after Australia.

Whether it is demographic growth, technology, political and economic developments, defence and security, community and indigenous connections, arts, sports or environmental change – events taking place in Asia are going to impact us, and we must ensure we’re equipped to take advantage of the opportunities and manage the risks. As CEO, this is what drives me.

Together we have come a long way since 1994, when the Foundation was first established. We have forged rich and dynamic relations across many Asia countries, and – helped by you – we have active connections across a diverse range of communities and sectors.  

As I write, we have 20 young New Zealanders interning at companies and organisations in Asia, gaining invaluable cultural and workplace experience that will serve them well throughout their careers.  

Last year, we expanded our internship programme to include our first sports internship (at the Youth Winter Olympics in South Korea) and have resumed providing internship experiences for new journalists interested in Asia. 

Doing an internship is an immersive experience. It’s not just about the job, but is about culture, people, food, language, outlook and perspective.

It is an experience that benefits both the intern, but also New Zealand society because of the skills and insights that each person brings back with them. The Foundation will be publishing stories from our interns living and working in Asia on its website, so keep an eye out for those! 

The internship programme is just the tip of the iceberg of Foundation’s activities in Asia this year. All our programmes – covering arts, entrepreneurship, leadership, track II expert dialogues, research, sports, media and business – are running at capacity and delivering a huge number of incredible opportunities and insights.

Once again – keep an eye out on our website and social media for what’s coming up. And look out for the Auckland Lantern Festival, which is taking place on 22-25 January.   

A group shot of about 25 interns and handful of staff posing in front of an Asia New Zealand Foundation banner projected onto a screen

The Foundation brought the interns together in Auckland late last year for a briefing on what to expect during their internships

On the 27 February, our Board will be coming together for its first meeting of the year, and we’re honoured to be joined by the Foreign Minister, the Rt Hon Winston Peters, in our Wellington office afterwards. I look forward to reporting the outcomes of this meeting in my next update.  

In March, we launch new research led by Rosabel Tan that explores the different ways and means our artists are connecting into Asia, and how Asia is influencing artistic practice in New Zealand.

We’re also leading a track II experts’ delegation to Taiwan, to learn more about how it is navigating US and China relations and how it assesses its outlook for 2024 post-election.

We have a number of grants being advertised on our website, for experiential learning in Asia, and preparations are underway for more targeted business and entrepreneurship engagement.       

2024 is an auspicious year for the Foundation – it is our 30th anniversary. Recently I met with Hon Philip Burdon who, alongside Sir Don McKinnon, helped to establish our organisation (then called Asia2000).

Philip kindly called into our Wellington office last week, to share his reflections on how far we have come over the last three decades! His over-riding message was one of optimism.

We have a tremendous network of people, each playing their role building New Zealand’s knowledge and capability across Asia. The task now is to continue to scale-up that effort.     

Nga mihi nui, 

Suzannah Jessep