About TFT Papua

Development as transformation

Education, security, love, participation, creativity, identity, rest, freedom, shelter, clean water, food, energy

Development is an act of love through which we become whole, as human beings. It is the act through which we apply our talents to meet every one of our fundamental needs, both material as well as non-material, without compromising the needs of others and of future generations.

As an act of love, development is a form of spiritual activism. Development is not a technocratic project. Development works when we take the time to listen, dialogue and to reflect on our actions. Development does not work when we come to a community with ready made solutions.

“First see what already exists and what we think works.”

Kristian Sauyai, Sawinggrai village, Raja Ampat

Leading our own development

TFT Papua is mandated to support practical, grassroots solutions to Papua’s complex development problems. These problems stem from an economic model designed to maximise growth through natural resource extraction. Conflict and environmental destruction is now a daily reality for many of our communities in Papua who have lost their land to extractive industry. These problems are now exacerbated by accelerating climate change.

TFT Papua is committed to solving these problems through a focus on human development, starting at village level. This focus on human development responds to the negative stigma inflicted by Papua’s long history of abusive governance and that has profoundly affected the collective psychology of indigenous communities.

This psychology is expressed in how so many in our communities lack confidence in their own abilities. It is compounded by government policies that encourage our communities to sell land for investment, and that have nurtured chronic dependency on subsidised rice and fiscal transfers. People find themselves trapped in deeper and deeper debt.

TFT Papua works to rekindle the creativity and motivation of our indigenous communities, as confident, self-reliant leaders of our own development, on our own land; as effective advocates for our social, economic and democratic rights; and, as guardians of our customary inheritance.

Rekindling our communities

TFT Papua works at the grassroots to rekindle the collective identity and spirituality of our indigenous communities as heirs to our land and sea; our motivation to work together in meeting our fundamental human needs, within ecological limits; and our ability to engage the outside world on our own terms.

TFT Papua is building a new generation of self-sufficient community organisations led by people who:

  • Are grounded in community and in their ancestral land.
  • Possess long-term vision and moral integrity.
  • Uphold values rooted in society justice and democracy.
  • Who are reflective and capable of critical analysis.
  • Who can listen deeply and engage others in dialogue.
  • Who can speak truth to power.

Becoming fully human

The TFT Papua team share a vision of the future that guides and inspires us in our daily work. It is a vision of what it means to be fully human.

“In 2100, we will live freely, proud of our identity and way of life as the people of Papua. We will live in an environment which we own and care for together and from which – with the right technologies – we are able to meet the fundamental needs of each person, sustainably and without depending on others. We will have spiritual and cultural strength that emphasises the sacred connection between people and nature. We will live according to the principal that ‘we relate to nature in the same way as we relate to God’. People will live together harmoniously based on a relationship of mutual service, equality and justice. People will no longer oppress one another based on differences of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.”

Our mission

  1. Ensure continuous action and reflection as an organisation and as an inseparable part of the process of social transformation.
  2. Engage in processes of reflection and critical conscientisation among change agents at village level in order to raise awareness of their economic, political, social and cultural rights; and to exercise these rights in order to manage their own natural resources, renew their social relations, and change the way decisions are made within and between villages.
  3. Support processes by which villages can work together to jointly control, restore and conserve their productive assets.
  4. Strengthen the managerial capacity of community organisations at village level, both customary as well as modern.
  5. Support dialogue between change agents at village level and in government to review and renew how decisions are made, and to safeguard the inheritance of indigenous Papuans so that they can meet their basic needs and protect the environment.

Change begins with yourself

“I want to do everything, I must look and think, and work to do things well”

Communities are the best agents of their own change. We work with communities to walk their own journeys of transformative development.

The holon: TFT Papua’s approach to transformative development
Education through dialogue

TFT Papua’s methodology is rooted in the dialetical pedagogy of Brazilian popular educator Paulo Friere, as well as in the forty years of practice of Training for Transformation which translated Friere’s approach into a set of practical tools for community workers.

Much mainstream education assumes people are empty vessels. We call this ‘banking’ education and, for many people, it can be a humiliating experience.

Source: Hope, A., and Timmel, S., (1999) Training for Transformation: a Handbook for Community Workers, Book 1, page 20. England: Practical Action Publishing.

A dialetical approach works with communities to name the problems they face, and to find practical solutions drawing on their own, shared knowledge and experience – through dialogue. In the words of Paulo Friere, it is hopeful and affirmative.

Rediscovering your own potential

TFT Papua works to liberate communities from chronic dependency on outsiders. Using the motif of head, heart and hands, we work with people to rediscover their potential, to be proud of their indigenous identity and way of life, and to channel their negative emotions into positive actions. We can only be agents of our own development if we believe in our own capabilities.

Reading your reality, finding shared solutions

Critical conscientisation – the ability to critically read your own reality – lies at the heart of TFT Papua’s dialetic approach. Learning to name a problem is the first step in solving it. By analysing a problem’s social, political, economic and ecological root causes, people can then identify solutions they can work on themselves. In this way, TFT Papua supports communities in leading their own processes of enquiry, rather than waiting for others to give them the answer. We also support their solutions with practical skills training.

Learning to work with others

One of the legacies of a long history of colonization is the loss of community solidarity: people trust one another less. Indigenous communities in Papua feel deep longing for a time when people were more reciprocal and interdependent. TFT Papua works with people to recall the values that bind community, to learn the skills to be a community organization in a modern setting, and to form strategic alliances with other actors.

Remembering the past, revisioning the future, reclaiming the present

When communities rediscover their potential and when they find solutions to their most pressing problems, they also find the courage to dream about the future.

Not only do they dream about new things but they also dream about rebuilding what they have lost. Memory work – the practice of collectively recalling and reflecting on the past, of retelling ancestral stories – is one of TFT Papua’s most powerful tools in helping communities reconnect with their land and their identity.

In our experience, memory work gives communities the strength to reclaim their place in decisions that affect their own lives.

Learning through Partnerships

TFT Papua’s partnerships are guided by a set of principles that reflect our commitment to transparency, equality and shared learning, and not to create new forms of dependency.

Community partnerships

Community exchange visit between Numfor and Raja Ampat, March 2022

TFT Papua works directly with grassroots communities, as equal partners in dialogue. TFT Papua’s role is to provide:

  • A safe space for structured dialogue facilitated by qualified adult popular educators.
  • Skills training responding to specific community innovations or advocacy efforts (e.g. financial literacy, environmental monitoring, rights education, revitalizing local food systems, marketing).
  • Regular collective mentoring and reflection.
  • Links to supporting government agencies and research institutions depending on community needs.

In addition, TFT Papua offers opportunities for community exchange to learn from each other, and for community interns to support different areas of TFT Papua’s work and to gain important facilitation and management skills.

Policy Partnerships
Memorandum of Understanding concluded with University of Otto Geisler, Jayapura, January 2021.

TFT Papua has partnered with the University of Otto Geisler in Jayapura to facilitate a policy dialogue on community empowerment in Papua. Together we have established a working group involving representatives from provincial government, civil society and universities to critically review current approaches to community empowerment, and to formulate policy recommendations on how government needs to work differently with indigenous communities.

Partnership Principles

TFT Papua applies four basic principles to all its partnerships:

1. Equality: TFT Papua positions itself as an equal learning partner to its grassroots and other collaborators. TFT Papua facilitates this relationship of equals through dialogue and through regular processes of giving and receiving feedback.
2. Transparency: TFT Papua holds regular consultation with its partners and ensures partners’ full participation in programming and monitoring.
3. Accountability: TFT Papua remains accountable to its partners by providing access to programme and financial reporting and involving them in our annual, and mid-year meetings.
4. Sharing resources: TFT Papua harnesses partners’ sense of ownership and responsibility by ensuring proportional sharing of resources. Partners, including communities, are encouraged to contribute in-kind and, if possible, to raise some of their own funds.
Training programmes

Our facilitation team delivers direct training and mentoring for partner communities to rebuild their motivation and creativity; build democratic and accountable organisations; and advocate a vision for their own development. Training takes place in phases over a period of 12 – 24 months, with regular reflection in between.

In addition to leadership training, we offer financial literacy training where this support communities’ efforts to escape debt and dependency. This include simple book keeping and skills in managing expenditure.

With support from Training for Transformation in Practice, South Africa, TFT Papua offers introductory, intermediary and advanced (diploma) facilitator training to inspire new change agents both among rural communities as well as for people struggling with the development problems of urban areas. The course exposes participants to basic principles and tools for facilitating dialogue in their own communities.

Introductory and intermediary facilitator training takes place each year, and advanced (diploma) training takes place every two years.

Our policies
1. TFT Papua works for the liberation of the marginalized and the oppressed. We stand with communities in their struggle against the many structural injustices that they face in their daily lives, and to build a more equitable and democratic society. We embody this commitment in our partnership principles.
2. Moral integrity is of utmost importance to TFT Papua. Where colonization has dismantled our societal values and has allowed corruption to take root, TFT Papua strives to be an example of accountable governance. We apply strict due diligence to prevent all forms of corruption and abuse of power in our organization, and ensure all decisions are taken in an open and transparent way.
3. TFT Papua is an inclusive organization. We reject all forms of discrimination. That commitment is reflected in our governance. TFT Papua’s decision-making structures accommodate all differences in religion, background, age, gender and ethnicity, and we respect their differing perspectives.

Meet our team

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