The Bergen Initiative:
Connecting overseas scholarship to practical needs
in the Western Solomons
Members of the University of Bergen’s research group Bergen Pacific Studies Research Group (BPS), with their international network of collaborating scholars at other institutions in the USA, UK, Australia, Japan and Europe, seek to offer knowledge and understanding gained through field research in western Solomons in ways that help people there to address their development needs. This is seen as a practical way of responding to the generosity of Solomon Islander hosts over the years, to strengthening the bonds that have developed between researchers and people of western Solomons, and to find ways of providing locally appropriate expertise for addressing long-term development challenges.
The “Bergen Initiative” is a private scholarly initiative outside the usual range of development assistance. It is an offer of access to a body of experience that is not readily available to Solomon Islanders through formal development assistance.
As a first step a representative of the BPS, Dr. Graham Baines, held informal discussions with a range of individuals in Gizo and Honiara in July 2007. His task was to assess the situation and needs in the Western Province, report on what issues were being dealt with and what were the gaps that the Bergen Pacific Studies Group and its network of collaborating scholars might address. Meanwhile Group members started compiling a directory of overseas research expertise on western Solomons, to facilitate connections between that expertise and local practical needs. BPS Group leader, Professor Edvard Hviding, visited Honiara and Gizo in connection with a mission for UNESCO during August- September 2007 and followed up the initial discussions. In meetings with Hon. Alex Lokopio, the then Premier of Western Province, it was decided that a key priority would be the creation of an on-line database of research expertise and publications concerning Western Province. Since extended to include other provinces of “western Solomons”, Choiseul and Santa Isabel, a large number of overseas and Solomon Islander scholars with research experience in those provinces are now included in the Western Solomons Research Database.