Tuesday, April 14, 2015

“A learning PHL”

We’re a proud people and to be a proud people is universal. And so it’s refreshing that we are reading more and more – and perhaps coming around – that as a nation we have also things to learn?

“The fact that Philippine agriculture had been stagnant for the last three decades and rural poverty remains as a national disgrace is a powerful indictment of how badly we have managed the sector. The world has moved on but unfortunately we seemed to have been unwillingly stuck in a sociological time warp. Obviously it cannot be business as usual. If we were to get out of the rut we are in, we have to change tack. Rolando Dy’s prescription is agribusiness. His book ought to be required reading for the next Secretary of Agriculture.”[Agribusiness and inclusive growth, Dr. Emil Javier, Manila Bulletin, 4th Apr 2015]

“The key message of the book is that we won’t go very far in rural development without a fundamental shift in how we approach development in the countryside. All these years we have approached agriculture from the perspective of a farmer and his family raising crops, livestock, rearing or catching fish and hewing wood and other products from forests. This traditional populist and romantic notion of agriculture as a way of life has dominated how we have organized public higher education, research and extension.

“But what is the alternative? Family farming focuses on the family enterprise, primarily on production. Agribusiness, on the other hand, looks basically broadly in the ‘production, manufacturing, distribution and retailing of food products and services.’

“Agribusiness therefore encompasses not only family farms but also firms in food and beverage processing; those in the manufacture and supply of good seeds, fertilizers, chemical, animal and fish feeds, as well as those engaged in food transport, storage, distribution and retailing (sari-sari stores and supermarkets).”

In other words, it is about an ecosystem. It’s exciting if we can deliver a silver bullet every now and then or demonstrate Pinoy abilidad but development is not a walk in the park. Nor is it about populism. It is about economies of scale with its own demands, i.e., investment, technology, innovation as well as people, product and market development. The parameters that progressive and successful global enterprises have pursued.

“In basic education, there is now wide appreciation among educators that effective learning takes place well beyond the walls of school classrooms. Not only must communities be part of their children’s education; communities and families also stand to learn and benefit from the education process itself. The school is the community, and the community at large is in turn the object and beneficiary of the education system. The community, after all, holds the greatest stake in its citizens’ education.” [Primacy of community, Cielito F. Habito, No Free Lunch, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 7th Apr 2015]

“Based on global experience, the World Bank and other development institutions now swear by community driven development (CDD) as a most effective tool in pursuit of sustainable and inclusive development . . . All these point to what more and more analysts have come to believe: that the community, more than the individual or household, should be the unit of analysis and intervention in development work. Perhaps the time has come for a new paradigm that sees collective outcomes arising not from individuals pursuing their individual greed (a la Adam Smith), but rather, from communities whose members work collectively for the common good.”

In other words, while we are a proud people and equally proud of our focus on family, the common good comes from embracing community – including Mindanao where it appears many remain non-committal to peace? Yet as a predominantly Catholic nation, we are well aware that our faith connotes universality.

Or as Francis puts it, we must be open and welcoming. “From the risen Lord we ask the grace not to succumb to the pride which fuels violence and war, but to have the humble courage of pardon and peace.” [‘Urbi et Urbi’: Official Vatican text of Pope Francis’ Easter message, AP, 6th Apr 2015]

And there's so much learning we must consider given our many daunting challenges. For example, design thinking or human-centered thinking captures how we can better do problem-solving and/or decision-making.
“Design Thinking or DT has five rules: team over individual, agreement, failure-iteration, simplicity, and diversity. [Ricardo A. Lim, Notes on design thinking, Asian Institute of Management, 2015] “First, the unit of DT is the team. The second rule is agreement. A common rule of brainstorming and improvisation is to make and accept offers. When members contribute, especially in the ideation phase, they must observe the ‘yes and’ (vs. ‘no but’) rule, where people do not question ideas and agree to build on others’ ideas further.

“The third rule is failure and iteration. DT requires that prototypes be made fast and crude, and shown to the users for immediate feedback.

“The fourth rule is simplicity. Elegance in DT comes not from designing a complex product, but simple products with repeatable features. Complexity may achieve product desirability, but may be too expensive or technically infeasible to make. DT defaults to simplicity, to assure that a desirable, viable, and feasible product eventually gets created.

“The final rule is diversity. Teams are best stocked with heterogeneous knowledge, skills and life backgrounds. An overly homogeneous group (e.g. all engineers, or all adults, or all men) tend to come to false agreement faster and tend to view issues from a limited perspective. The five rules are necessary but not sufficient conditions for DT to succeed. Ideally team members should be highly motivated, flexible, and tolerant of others; in reality such a mix may not happen all the time.”

Should that give us Pinoys pause or why we can’t pull together as one people and one nation? That is, we expect everyone else to be like us, “an overly homogenous group” – of Catholics yet not committed to universality but parochialism?

If we are to be “a learning PHL” or nation, we have so much on our plate to sort out. And we are the regional laggard for a reason, i.e., that as a nation we have things to learn? Despite “daang matuwid”!

Consider: “The Washington D.C.-based agency, [USTR], in the 444-page report that was released last April 1 . . . devoted seven pages to the Philippines . . .” [PHL not opening up enough – US, Daryll Edisonn D. Saclag, Business World, 8th Apr 2015]

“[T]he agency said corruption in the country remains ‘pervasive’, discouraging American firms from doing business here. ‘Both foreign and domestic investors have expressed concern about the propensity of Philippine courts and regulators to stray beyond matters of legal interpretation into policymaking and about the lack of transparency in judicial and regulatory processes,’ read the report.

“Concerns also have been raised about courts being influenced by bribery and improperly issuing temporary restraining orders to impede legitimate commerce . . . Philippine officials were not available for comment.”

Que sera, sera? Is that why our neighbors attract more FDIs . . . and are more developed . . . and have drastically reduced poverty? And we have a Mindanao problem like we need a hole in the head?

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