KINGSTON, Jamaica - The JMMB Joan Duncan Foundation has answered the call to support the transformation of Jamaica by committing $60 million to Project STAR, a social transformation and renewal programme, led by the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) in partnership with the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).
Keith Duncan, CEO of JMMB Group and co-chair of Project STAR notes, “We want to move ‘everybody fahwud’ so that every individual can tap into his/her greatness. With all hands on deck and an unwavering commitment we can transform our country, one community at a time.”
No stranger to public-private partnerships, Duncan shared, Project STAR has a strategic and targeted intervention aimed at transforming 10 of Jamaica’s under-resourced communities, through a collaborative, evidence-based approach to achieve sustainable violence prevention at the community level.
Through effective partnerships, data driven problem solving and community informed and owned decision making, accurate and timely reporting, and accountable systems of oversight and governance, Project STAR is expected to strengthen social cohesion and resilience of communities; improve strategies and responses to conflict within communities and improve community integration.
Patricia Sutherland, chairman of JMMB Joan Duncan Foundation said, “In my experience, to tackle the issue of violence as a first response to conflicts within a community requires a transformation of the community - physically and through shifting the mindset of the citizens. We know that having strong partnerships and coordination across civil society, government, voluntary groups, private sector and other organised groups is integral and will contribute significantly to the transformation process. It is not a simple process, but we are happy to support Project STAR as they have taken on the task to facilitate the coordinated approach, working with communities to transform themselves.”
Sutherland added that, “With possibility thinking, partnership, passionate leadership and a paradigm shift we can move Jamaica forward. In quoting Keith Duncan, the driver behind Project STAR, ‘we must choose to live in the solution and not the problem’.”
In addition to the financial investment made to this project, the foundation has infused its transformational training, in the form of Conversations for Greatness (CFG) sessions, in the programme, so that all stakeholders at the project and community level can benefit.
The CFG programme, which was introduced in schools in 2015, has reaped positive results in the educational sector, as evidenced by: improved interpersonal dynamics; positive behaviour change; better conflict resolution; increased parental engagement; and improved staff morale in the over 80 schools that were a part of the programme.
Sutherland indicated that the underlying principles shared in CFG are designed to assist individuals on a personal level to enhance their interpersonal relationships, shift their mindset and bolster their personal and professional development.
“We are seeking to replicate these positive outcomes of improved mindset and attitude resulting in affirmative behaviour change. When transformation starts from within, you are amazed at what we can achieve, the possibilities are endless,” Sutherland said.
In keeping with one of the key components of Project STAR, to provide pathways for employment, JMMB Group has provided employment opportunities for more than 40 per cent of the individuals in Cohort 1 of the project, with one-year contracts. These individuals are matched based on their skills, qualifications and experience and have the option for full-time employment with the company, based on vacancies and right-fit.
This is a tangible way of empowering individuals towards economic sustainability for themselves and their families, noted the foundation chairman. These individuals are also recipients of CFG training.
Major General Antony Anderson, Commissioner of Police and co-chair, Project STAR, outlined that he welcomed the partnership thus far, with the private sector and other key stakeholders to roll-out this structured and sustainable initiative over the next five years to further engage the communities, and steer especially youth on the right path.
He added that this complements JCF programmes namely: youth summer camps, domestic abuse interventions, school resource officers and other community policing efforts.
Meanwhile, Saffrey Brown, project director, in lauding the corporate bodies for coming on board noted that the headways achieved through employment, use of psycho-social interventions, violence interruption strategies underpinned by data-driven decision-making since its launch in 2022, has been encouraging.
"Over the past eight months, our work with the community residents, stakeholders and partners has resulted in significant engagement and impact within community ecosystems; cutting across youth, adults and the elderly. With this we have worked towards improving school attendance at the early childhood level, broaden access to social services provided by the government, provide job readiness training and place people in jobs and support the use of sports to build social cohesion among residents,” Brown said.
“Additionally, we have been able to establish community transformation boards in East Downtown Kingston and have, in collaboration with the SDC, begun the community transformation planning process in that areas. Working groups with the government agencies and other private sector partners looking at infrastructure development and data sharing and integrative planning among ministries, departments and agencies have been set up. We are further encouraged by the support from our private sector partners, who have already committed nearly $300 milion to help us deliver the work over the five-year period," Brown continued.
So far, several donors have committed to the initiative including: Sandals Foundation, Scotiabank, Carreras Limited, Musson Foundation, CB Facey Foundation (PanJam), National Commercial Bank, Sagicor Foundation, Sagicor Financial Group, Digicel Foundation, GraceKennedy, Supreme Ventures, Spanish-Jamaican Foundation, Restaurants Associates Limited, Rainforest Caribbean, Barita, Richard and Diana Stewart Foundation, and American Friends of Jamaica.
Project STAR is aiming to raise J$2 billion to deliver the project at a scale, with the desired outcomes, and is looking to have a mixed funding approach to achieve this.