The inaugural phase of the SMILE project commenced on 1st October 2023, signifying the initiation of a meticulous planning process for its implementation. The planning workshop was graced by distinguished individuals, including Mr. Zahir Uddin Mohammed Babur Khan, Deputy Director of Govt. Affairs at Chevron Bangladesh, Khondoker Tusherujjaman, CE&SI Manager at Chevron BBU, Mr. Manish Pandey, Director-South Asia at Swisscontact, and Mujibul Hasan, Country Director at Swisscontact Bangladesh.
The workshop had a dual purpose: to update and familiarise the SMILE project team with key aspects of Chevron's operations, such as health and safety guidelines, compliance protocols, communication strategies, branding guidelines, and human rights directives; and to ensure adherence to Swisscontact's Code of Conduct (CoC), NGOAB guidelines, and strategic planning for detailed project implementation and resource allocation.
The agenda of the workshop included recent field visits, the presentation of component-specific findings, identification of opportunities, risks, challenges, and the formulation of mitigation plans. This involved formal presentations, leveraging insights from prior projects, robust discussions, and detailed instructions to ensure the seamless execution of the project. The collaborative nature of the workshop, orchestrated by both Chevron Bangladesh and Swisscontact Bangladesh staff, facilitated an interactive and comprehensive approach to project planning.
Regarded as highly successful, the day-long workshop significantly enhanced the project staff's understanding of objectives, the interconnectivity of project components, and the necessary interventions for achieving targeted outcomes. Importantly, it provided a platform for collaborative brainstorming and strategizing among the participating organisations and local stakeholders.
Mujibul Hasan, Country Director of Swisscontact Bangladesh, commended Chevron for entrusting Swisscontact with another collaborative venture following the successful completion of the Uttoron project phases I & II. Mr. Zahir Uddin Mohammed Babur Khan from Chevron emphasised the importance of technological advancements, citing the establishment of an advanced welding lab through the Uttoron project. Manish Pandey, Director-South Asia at Swisscontact, expressed gratitude for the opportunity, highlighting Swisscontact's enthusiasm based on past successful collaborations with Chevron.
Various speakers, including Mr. Md. Makbul Hossain, Team Leader of the SMILE Project, and representatives from both organisations, delivered comprehensive overviews during the workshop. Topics ranged from health and safety guidelines, compliance protocols, project implementation strategies, communication and branding directives, to human rights and regulatory compliance guidelines, providing a holistic understanding to the assembled audience.
The SMILE project, spanning from 2023 to 2028, is funded by Chevron Bangladesh and implemented by Swisscontact Bangladesh. It targets the immediate needs of communities in five districts of Bangladesh—Habiganj, Moulvibazar, Sylhet, Sunamganj, and Dhaka. The project offers a multi-faceted solution to the educational and socio-economic needs of the target regions. Its theory of change involves identifying deserving students, providing them with scholarships, targeted educational campaigns, coaching support, and enhancing teacher training to improve academic performance. Additionally, the project fosters capacity development by identifying in-demand professions and industries, offering skills development opportunities, and promoting self-employment. It also supports cooperative governance, micro savings, health campaigns, environmental conservation, and emergency relief services.