Scholar Profile - Rob Haggett PDF Print E-mail
Rob Haggett


Program Officer at Good Return

Awarded a scholarship for the 2015 Successful Conflict Management Workshop, facilitated by the Australian Scholarships Foundation, Victoria University and Corrs Chambers Westgarth

What sort of work does your organisation do?

Good Return is an initiative of World Education Australia Limited (WEAL), an Australian Aid accredited international development agency and a member of the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID).

Our mission is through responsible micro-finance and skills development we enable the poor to improve their incomes and change their lives sustainably. Our primary approach is to build the institutional capacity of partner agencies (MFIs) and networks. As such, our program activities are based around the three legs of: Responsible and Inclusive Finance, Micro-lending, and Training and Capability Development.

Describe a typical day's work.

In my role, I am a technical advisor to micro-finance institutions across the Asia-Pacific (including Nepal, Fiji, Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines), helping them deliver a double bottom line strategy (financial and social) to provide socially focused and client-centric services to their customers, many of whom live on less than $2.50 per day.

I lead a project in Borneo, partnering with one of Indonesia’s largest credit unions to improve livelihoods for smallholder palm oil farmers in a sustainable way, particularly in regard to the environment. This role demands international collaboration across a number of disciplines, including value chain consultants, training specialists, environmental advocates and finance managers, engaging with the private sector, local government and NGOs to promote best agricultural practice in a region at risk from deforestation and environmental degradation.

I am also providing project management support to a digital finance project in partnership with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in the Solomon Islands. The aim is to undertake research to better understand the constraints and opportunities for remote smallholder coconut communities to utilise digital banking products.

What are some of the key learnings from the Successful Conflict Management Workshop?

This course was insightful for me in a number of ways. It helped me to identify different personality traits and how interactions between these can influence the way in which people work. The facilitators also presented a model to help mediate conflict, explaining the benefits of following a process to achieve the best outcomes. I found it particularly useful that we were given the opportunity to practice this approach in a non-judgmental learning environment. This gave me the added confidence to build and apply these learnt skills.

How has it impacted / changed / benefited your role and your organisation as a whole?

Having a model and process to work with to resolve conflict is very useful in my work, especially as conflict situations can often involve emotion and irrational behaviour making it difficult to mediate the parties involved.  I am now able to distinguish between healthy disagreement and conflict when I liaise with stakeholders and colleagues whilst also understanding how to harness different perspectives that people bring to a team.  In my role managing a sustainable palm oil project in Indonesia, this is particularly salient to ensure all viewpoints are sufficiently considered during the implementation of the program. Specifically, I have learnt that it is important to identify and confront issues early on before they escalate and not to shy away from difficult situations.

How did you come to be working in the not-for-profit sector?

My move to Australia came when I agreed to join a friend on a well-earned holiday. En route, I stopped in Rio de Janeiro to visit a family friend who worked in social services, helping communities in the favelas. Never before had I encountered such acute poverty, and on boarding the plane to Sydney, I started to reconsider my long-term career objectives. I concluded that my future career path lay in non-profit, a sector in which I had no previous experience.

To gain an initial foothold I started volunteering full-time for an array of NGOs, including Amnesty International and Habitat for Humanity, where my experience in project management and the built environment eventually secured me a position, cementing my current career focus. I also continued my volunteering role at Amnesty International as a committee member for the NSW Women’s Network, a group that advocates for women’s rights though community engagement.  Following a 6-month internship at Oxfam in 2013, I was offered a permanent salaried position at Good Return.

What do you feel is most needed to sustain and build the impact of the not-for-profit sector?

For me, I think what is needed are similar attributes to any other sector. People are the focus of any organisation and we need to invest and respect the values and inputs of those people in order to leverage the best of them. When we understand how our work adds progress and value to the bigger picture, the better our sense of achievement. Transparency and effective commination is a key in facilitating this. My work involves numerous stakeholders all over the world and it is sometimes difficult for different parties to see the value add they contribute to the overall project and each other. In order to promote this, I try to be as transparent as possible to my team members, focusing on communicating both the successes and challenges we face. I have found this to be particularly important for staff working in remote, isolated locations.

What is something interesting / unique / unusual about you?

I used to work in the music industry for EMI at Abbey Road Studios. I once had the fortunate opportunity to record Eric Clapton playing guitar on a Brian Wilson (of the Beach Boys) song. It made 5 years of 100 hour weeks all worthwhile!

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"People are the focus of any organisation and we need to invest and respect the values and inputs of those people in order to leverage the best of them."


Rob has ten years of project management experience, with over 3 years working for the international development sector in Australia, Nepal, Cambodia, Indonesia, Fiji and the Philippines. He has worked at Good Return since 2013.

In early 2015, ASF awarded Rob a scholarship to attend the Successful Conflict Management Workshop run by Victoria University and supported by Corrs Chambers Westgarth.


Annual revenue / size:

Medium - $250,000 - $5m pa

Segment of NFP sector:

International Development

Operating in: