INTOUCH : A diaspora to die for?

New Zealanders may lament the brain drain of skilled Kiwis offshore, but how this country goes about staying in touch with them is being seen as success story by others.
The mix of worldwide skill shortages and more globally mobile workforce has prompted countries to take much more interest in maintaining links with their diaspora – those nationals who live and work in other countries. And as the recently appointed CEO of the Kiwi Expats Association (KEA) Ivan Moss discovered at conference on the theme in Mexico City – we’re doing OK.
“We were invited because KEA has achieved three things that really matter with its diaspora. First we have such large network. It’s now 25,000 and growing. Second, its composition is educated, successful and in the most economically valuable demographic ­ the 30-50 age group.
“The third element is the reciprocity of the relationship. We give ex-pats the opportunity to help other New Zealanders and the venture mentor network is good example of that but we also acknowledge and recognise them for what they’ve achieved through things like the World Class Leaders Awards.” The profile of New Zealand’s diaspora is hugely different from that of Mexico. We have around three quarters of million Kiwis overseas; Mexico has diaspora of 30 million mostly in the US and their remittances represent the second biggest contributor to Mexico’s GDP. However, less than two percent of them are well-educated professionals.
One of the issues in managing the Mexican diaspora is protecting those skilled people from the number of people who want their help. And while New Zealand’s situation is very different – small economy/large talented diaspora – it does highlight the need to ensure they don’t get squeezed, says Moss.
“Most of them want to help but we have to treat that with respect so it’s about asking them to give their time in ways that are really valuable.” To this end, KEA is now establishing regional manager roles in London, Shanghai, the US and Melbourne. It’s also preparing to recognise the World Class Leaders with nominations for the 2008 awards closing this month.
Planning is also underway for World Class NZ Summit designed to engage our world-class Kiwis in issues affecting New Zealand’s economic future.

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