A record 98 participants from 55 UN agencies and 30 duty stations completed the final session of the successful virtual Junior Professional Officers orientation programme this week. The cohort is UNSSC’s largest in 18-year history of the programme which is traditionally held in collaboration with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA). The learning journey combined self-paced modules, live webinars, moderated online discussions, exciting exchanges with other inspirational UN speakers, trainers and peers as well as famous orchestra conductor and TED talk speaker Itay Talgam.

"I was pleasantly surprised by how efficient and entertaining the virtual course format was; I was prepared for a dry, "death by PowerPoint" format, but I was very wrong! Instead, I enjoyed an ever-changing, interactive, visually stimulating course that really kept me interested and helped me learn during every segment." Hannah Waller JPO in Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, NY, USA

The JPO orientation programme is known for its unique ability to bring together a network of JPOs from across the UN to provide a system-wide perspective as they begin their career journeys at different locations. It equips participants with a common set of knowledge, skills and competencies that are essential for serving in their roles as JPOs in the UN. The 2021 edition employed the latest insights from cognitive neuroscience and adult learning, and offered different interactive methodologies and learning activities. Further to this learning and discussion forums were designed to emphasize the importance of having a growth mindset, and focusing on the application of learning. JPOs were provided with numerous tools for them to be use in the workplace. The JPOs also took part in a range of activities that included individual and group work, networking with current and former JPOs, as well as plenary discussions on interesting topics and themes related to the work of United Nations.

"All the occasions of networking were really stimulating. It was a significant moment of honest exchange and free sharing about not just the JPO Program itself, but the long-term opportunities and possibilities." Giuseppe Marano, Program Associate, Food Security, Rome, Italy

Other significant activities included networking, reflective learning, journaling as well as challenge-based and collaborative activities to foster co-creation. Participants were acquainted with the  UN System Leadership Framework, which seeks to promote a new leadership culture within the UN. The learning is expected to support JPOs to fulfil their roles and develop into leaders who can drive transformational change.

“Four weeks of exceptional discussions with past, current and future UN leaders! Thank you for allowing me to reconnect with the reasons why we are here doing this work", Rachele Megna, Programme Analyst, UN Women, Tirana, Albania

UNSSC is particularly proud of this learning initiative that has been key to advancing their objective of serving as conveners, connecting personnel across the UN system, partners and stakeholders, to foster knowledge sharing and drive action.

 “We at UNSSC get to understand and respond to the needs of the UN system. We partner with organizations, governments, and the private sector to co-create learning solutions addressing defined learning goals. One of the lessons learned from the pandemic was that we have practiced agility and resilience through amplifying the power of e-learning together. The participants’ positive feedback on their virtual learning experiences on the JPO Orientation Programme is solid proof that no matter the setting – online, face-to-face or blended – UNSSC’s learning experiences inspire people to take action, thus putting their learning into practice. I am happy that the JPOs could use this as an opportunity to tap into rich relevant and hopefully memorable learning.” said Learning Portfolio Manager Aida Ghazaryan

The learning offering further cements the institutions work in fulfilling its inter-agency learning mandate through capacity building initiatives for UN staff and relevant partners as well as young UN professionals working towards the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. For UNSSC this has been a significant journey made possible by participating donor countries (Italy, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Finland, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland and the United States for the first time) and a trusted 18-year relationship with UNDESA.

"I also feel like I am now very well equipped to start my new assignment as JPO." Deborah Gribaudo JPO in sustainable development, with DCO Regional Office for the Arab States, Amman, Jordan

There is no doubt that the 2021 JPO cohort has been armed with the knowledge, tools and the mindsets needed to become transformational, principled and inclusive leaders in the United Nations.

"What I loved about this JPO course is that for the first time, I felt in a safe space to ask questions, to share my experiences, my opinions and also fears with colleagues who are embarking on a similar journey. We are all in the same boat. The feedback that I have received from my peers has been heart-warming, and I already feel more confident to start my JPO assignment knowing that we can rely on each other for support. Despite the course being online, it was so well designed and managed that it really felt we were all together for the past four weeks. It was an amazing experience. Thank you." Katrina Frappier, Programme Officer for Vulnerability Analysis & Mapping (VAM), Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit, WFP, Jakarta, Indonesia

UNSSC hopes that the learning initiative will have a last-longing impact on each participant. Every one of them has a different path to take, a different story to write. They will know how to make the most out of their experiences by following their ideals.