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Education vis-à-vis development

It’s just today that I realized how busy I had been for the past three weeks when I visited my blogs. I made it a point to update my blogs at least once a week to raise my Alexa rank. Alexa is a quick and easy way to estimate how popular your site is compared to other sites. Ratings start from 1 to 20,000,000 and even beyond. The lower the number, the better your rating is. That  has become my self imposed challenge  to test my reflexes without necessarily stressing myself.  Assessing the backlog vis-à-vis  my limits, I decided to repost my previous blogs according to their value and relevance. The following article, first published as What Education Should Be on Blogcritics two years ago, suits this particular blog.

It’s graduation season, particularly here in the Philippines. A time for jubilation of graduates and respective families. Also, a time to reflect on concepts of education and corresponding issues on the state of our educational systems.

Education as a basic right

There is a widespread global acceptance of the principle that education is a fundamental human right. This has been enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Education is therefore an essential public service. Every state or country is mandated to deliver such and take full responsibility for the good and welfare of its citizens. Gone were the ancient days when the chosen few were destined to be rulers, officers of the army, engineers, lords, teachers and priests through education. At the expense of the vast majority of peasants, laborers and serfs and their generation being deprived of such privilege.

Education as an agent of change

It has been said that the heart of education is the education of the heart. As such, education is an agent of change: change of values, as well as structures. An educated person is one who has undergone the process of transformation. From a passive spectator of the events taking place in society, an educated person has become an active participant in the affairs of his/her community.

Education and Development

Education, inevitably, leads to development. A skilled and knowledgeable citizen is a key to development. Since education produces new knowledge, ability and skills in continuous improvement in all aspects, the growth of national product is inevitable. But the contribution of education does not stop there. As Fritz Machlup noted, in his book Education and Economic Growth, “it has been taken for granted that education would increase respect for law and order and promote a climate conducive to peaceful social, political and economic development.”

As a basic right, education is supposedly an equalizer that provides opportunities for change in persons, as well as structures, thereby transforming a passive individual into an agent of societal change and subsequent development of a nation.

Such assumptions on what education should be present a bright picture of the kind of world we ought to live in. Considering the century-long progress in respective educational systems, we expect to see results, such as wrldwide literacy and subsequent development in all aspects of life.

Sadly, the present realities prove otherwise. In many instances, education continues to be a sieve which tends to separate the chaff from the grain. The expected transformation does not take place. Exploitative structures leave educated persons either perpetrators or powerless victims of systems. Katarina Tomaševski, first UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, made a compilation global report before her death.

This first global report on laws and practice in 170 countries exposes the discrepancy. What has been proclaimed as free and compulsory education is deliberately betrayed. The problem is not necessarily due to the proverbial “insufficient public resources,” but the politics involved—either the lack of political will to effect the change or the interplay of complex factors and processes dominating the world system.

The next question is why? What is the root cause of the gap between what education should be and what it is now? Activists are quick to explain the culprit: a colonial, commercialized educational system being perpetuated globally. However, others dismiss this as mere sloganeering expected from radicals. What do you think?


How appreciative Inquiry works in the Department of Social work

Inspired by the outcome of the Strategic Plan in the Convention Baptist Ministers Association, I tried to replicate the experience in the Department of Social Work, Central Philippine University. I was still the chairman of the Department at that time. Doing similar process, involving students, faculty and alumni we have formulated the vision-mission of the Department and subsequent thrusts.

Using the guide questions, as it were, we started the first activity of the 4-D cycle, i.e. Discover. Sharing what we perceived as best practices and positive experiences, we also specified what we valued most in the organization. Then, we proceeded to the next step – Dreams for the association in coming three to five years. From the product of the first two stages, we were led to the next step. i.e. Design. Here, we spent some time in consolidating our answers into provocative statements. In each stage, answers were written in Meta cards, posted on the board and clustered later after discussion.

We situated the vision-mission statement in the context of the new international definition of Social Work and the strategic plan of the University. The statement was a product of tedious but participatory process involving faculty, students, alumni of the Department.

VISION: A Balanced Education founded on person’s worth and dignity enhancing the total well-being towards Self actualization and Transformation of society (BEST)

MISSION : To carry out a program characterized by Spirituality and Excellence which enhances Relationship and Volunteerism towards Integrated development through Collective and Experiential learning (SERVICE)

The following are agreed thrusts:
VOCATION: A Department that exemplifies the Christian Spirituality in the context of Asian and Pilipino culture with faculty and staff serving as models.

PROFESSIONAL GROWTH: Highly qualified faculty members, with at least MSW degree, constantly working at improving their craft and able to draw the best in students to effectively and efficiently interact with the changing environment

: Center of academic excellence in Visayas with multi-oriented courses that are responsive to a changing society with strong research foundation and documentation-publication services on experiential learning.

HUMAN DIGNITY: Center of advocacy and alternative development programs and services for the enhancement of human worth and dignity making people value their humanity and thereby contributing towards building a better world.

POSITIVE RELATIONSHIP: A community which fosters positive and enabling relationship between and among students, faculty and staff resulting to a productive development endeavors.

INSTITUTIONAL GROWTH: Increase in number of students representing all strata of society with strong conviction for excellence and commitment in holistic development as professional social workers.

Unfortunately, I was not able to supervise the implementation of the last stage i.e. Deliver like that of the CBMA. Exigencies of service compelled me to serve as director of the University Outreach Center. However, I brought the same process in the outreach program and again spearheaded the Strategic Plan. In resuming my previous position, brought about by the leave of absence of my successor, I have the opportunity to refresh the academic community with our endeavors and continue the stage which I missed earlier in the strategic plan courtesy of the appreciative Inquiry.

How the Appreciative Inquiry works in our organization

Our experience can attest to the relevance of the Appreciative Inquiry. In the previous post I mentioned about the lecture of Bro. Andrew Escuban, area manager of the Share An Opportunity (SAO) at that time, to the board of trustees of the Convention Baptist Ministers Association (CBMA). We requested him to facilitate the initial stages in our Strategic Planning session after the lecture as we tried to internalize the concept, principles, process. Using the guide questions, we started the first activity of the 4-D cycle, i.e. Discover. We shared the best practices and positive experiences including what we valued most in the organization. Answers were written in meta cards, posted on the board and clustered later after discussion. It was an inspiring experience as there were no wrong answers.

Then, we proceeded to the next step – Dream for the association in coming three to five years. Similar process in stage one was done after each has done respective share. From the product of the first two stages, we were led to the next step. i.e. Design. Here, we spent some time in consolidating our answers into provocative statements. It was on this stage when we decided to end the session and scheduled another meeting to resume the process. This is another plus factor for the Appreciative Inquiry. It is flexible and not so taxing or burdensome. We enjoyed the process.

Having internalized the process, we took responsibility of the succeeding sessions and repeated the process in expanded group involving the committee members and chapter presidents. We also incorporated the inputs from consultations and informal talks with pastors. Until finally, we have presented the draft plan to the general assembly before the formulation of the final vision- mission statement and thrusts of the association. An in unconventional way, I formulated acronyms for an easy recall of the aforementioned areas.

For the first time in history or second time if records deceived us, we have set a direction for our organization. We know it is not the ideal but it is the best we ever have. Thereafter, we made breakthroughs as the members support become constant for they have shared ownership of the vision-mission and thrust as these represent their aspirations.

Approved during the May 2005 Assembly, the following vision-mission statement was affirmed during the 2008 General Assembly

Vision: An organization committed to God’s calling of fostering mutual relationship and Solidarity towards Holistic ministry, Abundant life and Responsible stewardship (SHARE).

Mission: Holistic Enhancement of the Life of Pastors (HELP) characterized by exemplary obedience to Mission, ever conscious of their Identity as servants of God, skillful in Networking and partnership for Integral and integrated Services among themselves and towards Total ministry with Enabling skills in Resource generation and other mobilization endeavors (MINISTER).

MINISTER also serves as the paradigm framework of the Association’s program thrusts, as follows: Ministerial identity; Institute, Networking, Integrated services, Spirituality, Team work, Entrepreneurship, Resource management.

Under the slogan SHARE, HELP, MINISTER, our association has soared to unprecedented heights. Summing up the vision-mission statement and paradigm thrusts, the slogan captured the ideas, needs, aspirations, of pastors. It has provided the direction of the association which broke the cyclic tradition and set the foundation for continuity.

Next post: How Appreciative Inquiry works in the Department of Social Work.

Appreciative Inquiry: A contagious participatory approach

We were supposed to wrap up our Social Planning and Program Development class with a workshop on Appreciative Inquiry this morning. My students in Master of Science in Social Work class were quite excited to experience the workshop to culminate our study of the Generic Tools in Social Planning and Program Development. In the past meetings, I have assigned them to report on certain tools used by many development planners and practitioners both locally and internationally e.g. Problem-solving and Decision-Making, Force Field Analysis, Project-Oriented Planning, Logical Framework Analysis. It could have been my turn to facilitate their hands on experience on Participatory Development Planning thru Appreciative Inquiry. But the inclement weather condition forced us to adhere to the long weekend schedule we tried to break. Earlier, Central Philippine University decided to give its personnel and students a long week-end due to the 74th Charter Day of the city of Iloilo in August 25 and non-working holidays national holidays on August 29 and 30 to commemorate the National Heroes’ day and end of Ramadan, respectively.

While I welcome this breather, I do not want to spoil my preparation. Hence, this blog on Appreciative Inquiry or AI. It is the most recognized name describing the powerful new paradigm for strength-based organizational transformation and has been recognized as the most innovative approach in organizational development in the last decade. A participatory approach, it involves as many people as possible in the change process. AI has been considered a body of work that focuses on developing an organization’s positive core to inspire collaborative action that serves the whole system. What is? Com defines it as a change management approach that focuses on identifying what is working well, analyzing why it is working well and then doing more of it.

My first encounter with AI was through a good friend and partner in development, Bro. Andrew Escuban, who excitedly shared his new discovery fresh from a national seminar he attended. He was still the Area Manager of Share An Opportunity in Panay-Guimaras and Romblon at that time. Amused by the approach, I invited him to give lecture and facilitate the first stage of the Strategic Plan of our association. I was then serving my first term as national president of the Convention Baptist Ministers Association and discovered we did not have any vision-mission statement. Since then, I become a disciple and advocate of the Appreciative Inquiry.

The approach was developed by David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva in the 1980s. From the website of the Appreciative Inquiry Commons we find this interesting story: “As a young 24 year old doctoral student David Cooperrider was involved doing a conventional diagnosis or an organizational analysis of “what’s wrong with the human side of the Organization?.” In gathering his data, he becomes amazed by the level of positive cooperation, innovation and egalitarian governance he sees in the organization. Suresh Srivastva, Cooperrider’s advisor notices David’s excitement and suggests going further with the excitement-making it the focus. Having been influenced by earlier writings by Schweitzer on the idea of “reverence for life”, David obtains permission from the Clinic’s Chairman Dr. William Kiser to focus totally on a life-centric analysis of the factors contributing to the highly effective functioning of the Clinic when it was at its best. Everything else was ignored. The Cleveland clinic became the first large site where a conscious decision to use an inquiry focusing on life-giving factors forms the basis for an organizational analysis.

The term “Appreciative Inquiry” was first written about in an analytic footnote in the feedback report of “emergent themes” by David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva for the Board of Governors of the Cleveland Clinic. The report created such a powerful and positive stir that the Board called for ways to use this method with the whole group practice. The momentum set the stage for David Cooperrider’s seminal dissertation, the first, and as yet, one of the best articulations of the theory and practice of Appreciative Inquiry.

Richard Seel, an ordained minister in the Church of England and a freelance writer and magazine editor offers a concise introduction to the theory and practice of AI in his Introduction to Appreciative Inquiry. He started to trace the reason why change initiatives does not pick up. Either, people are not involved or such initiative bring up so many negative feelings. Appreciative Inquiry takes a different approach. It explores the positive aspects in organization and uses that as a foundation for future development. A life-affirming approach Appreciative Inquiry builds on what is positive in organizational life. It seeks out stories of success and tries to ignore stories of failure.

There are two models of Appreciative Inquiry e.g. 4-D and 4-I. Seel outlines these models, as follows:

People talk to one another, usually via structured interviews, to discover the times when the organization is at its best. These stories are told as richly as possible and from them people start to discover the ‘positive core’ of the organization, what gives life to it when it is at its best. People start to appreciate themselves and their colleagues and some quite significant transformations start to occur.

The dream phase is often run as a large group conference where a cross-section of the organization is encouraged to imagine and co-create the future. They are encouraged to envision the organization as if the peak moments discovered in the ‘discover’ phase were the norm rather than the exception. “What would things be like if…?” Working in small groups, they try to put as much ‘flesh’ as possible on their visions as possible. These are then ‘creatively presented’ to the rest of the group and worked on further.

In the early days of Appreciative Inquiry the design phase was delegated to a small team which was empowered to go away and design ways of creating the organization dreamed in the dream conference(s). Although this still happens, Gervase Busche has found that transformational change is more likely to occur if the design phase is undertaken by as wide a group as possible. In this collaborative design approach the group first derive a design possibilities map, which contains, in three concentric circles, the dream for the organization, the key relationships which have an impact on the dream, and key organizational design elements which will be needed to deliver the dream.

The final phase is to deliver the dream and the new design. Because the term ‘deliver’ has a rather mechanical feel to it, many AI workers now prefer the term ‘Destiny’ which continues the future-facing theme. Whichever term is chosen, the final phase is one of experimentation and improvisation, sometimes described as ‘organizational jazz’.

The 4-I model

The 4-D cycle is not the only way of thinking about the process of Appreciative Inquiry. Some writers have offered another way of looking at the process, the 4-I model.

In this phase the principles of AI are introduced; project teams are formed; the overall project focus is decided; preliminary project details are decided.

Use the generic interviews; develop customized interview protocol; train interviewers; conduct appreciative interviews as widely as possible throughout the organization.

Collate and share the key themes from the interviews; develop provocative propositions which give a grounded vision of the desired future; validate propositions with as many people in the organization as possible.

Involve the maximum number of people in conversations which engage with the proposed new ways of organizing; implement the changes; review change in an appreciative way.

Social Workers: No time for celebration?

It’s Social Work Week in the Philippines. The celebration commemorates the anniversary of the Republic Act 4373, otherwise known as the Social Work Law. The passage of the Social Work Law on June 19, 1965 has regulated the practice of social work and the operation of social welfare agencies in the Philippines. Subsequently, it has created a new interest in social work and in the field of social welfare. Incidentally, the date falls on the birthday of the Philippine national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal.

After the forum on “Social Work and the Current Social Protection Concerns and Demands” to culminate the celebration of the 7th Social Work Week in Iloilo, I cannot help but reflect on the past celebrations. Locally, this year’s activities pale in comparison to the first 5 years of celebration. In the national level, there appears to be a lull.

Going over my memoirs, courtesy of yahoo, I found some highlights in the exchanges of communication thru web. Paragraphs in italics are excerpts from messages on the paswi_national@yahoo groups.com. Details can be viewed by clicking the link. The chronology of events started with the backgrounder of the position paper submitted to the national body during the Chapter Presidents Assembly on July 29, 2005

Some weeks after the National Convention of PASWI and NASWEI in Baguio City and Zamboanga City, respectively, a series of joint meetings and regional consultations were held in Iloilo City for updating especially for those who were not able to attend the two conventions. In a particular meeting, the paradigm shift on policy advocacy was given emphasis which led participants (mostly NASWEI member schools) to exhaustively look for ways and means in pooling resources to deliberately and systematically promote the Social Work profession and its significant role in effecting social transformation. In the process, we found out that this year is the 40th year of the Social Work Law. So, we thought of making the occasion a good opportunity to unite in promoting our profession.

With such discovery, we were very excited to think of activities to maximize the celebration. We thought of coming up with a resolution requesting President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to declare June 13-19 as Social Work Week in Western Visayas, as it will be within our area of influence. It gained strong support from other social work-led organizations and alliances in the region, as well as government officials and NGO leaders in the Regional Development Council. However, the Regional Development Council, which endorsed our resolution, opted for the national declaration as the Social Work Law is national in scope. Hence, the declaration should benefit other provinces in various regions.

Getting the clue from people in the authority, we informed both the PASWI and NASWEI National board through e-mail of this discovery and subsequent move to solicit support either thru endorsement of the resolution or making a national resolution related to the regional resolution. (For the PASWI, my first communication was sent to the Chairman of the Board as early as 2nd week of March, copy furnished to other members latter. Eventually, I communicated with the National President). We also ask for the support of DSWD Secretary. After some follow up, we were informed that the Office of the President has forwarded the request to the DSWD Central Office for comment. Consequently, the Execom acted favorably on the resolution and waited for the endorsement from PASWI National leadership. Last April 7, the national board decided to endorse the resolution only to retract it later.

The following issues were raised by the PASWI National Board when it flip flops in its endorsement of the Social Work Week: lack of knowledge of the Board regarding the DSWD-PASWI 2003 pending request to change the November Social Welfare Week to Social Welfare and Development Month; the perceived confusion that may come up in the future should Social Work Week be declared in June; and the absence of proper protocol. These were resolved later and PASWI National called for the national celebration sans former PGMA declaration.

In 2006, PASWI continued the celebration with the following call from the national president.

In 2007, the new president reiterated the organization’s commitment for the celebration. However, due to election time and advocacy for the Magna Carta for Public Social Workers, the celebration was not given much focus.

Excerpts from the memorandum of the PASWI President highlights the 2009 celebration with the conduct of the Philippine World Social Work Day.

However,there appears to be a lull in the national celebration for 2010-2011. This is not necessarily due to the lack of interest on the part of social workers. For social workers are always in the forefront of national welfare celebrations for respective sectors they serve. Is it because social workers spend so much time in serving others, that they do not have time left for celebration?

If so, there is a need for support system to bridge the gap. Our experience for the past seven years of celebration show the significant role of social workers in the academe. As mentioned earlier, the move was initiated by social workers in the academe, particularly member schools of the National Association for Social Work Education, Inc. (NASWEI) in Western Visayas. Since then, the local and regional celebrations have been spearheaded by social work educators. Perhaps because they have more time to spare than direct practitioners in various settings. Speaking of social work education, I find the following links interesting: Guide to Online Schools for online degree in social work classes and courses towards an online social work degree

Ruptured Rapture Prediction

Article first published as Ruptured Rapture Prediction on Blogcritics.

No, I am not referring to the much-publicized prediction of engineer-turned-evangelist Harold Camping, which flopped last Saturday. Neither do I intend to rub salt in the wounded spirit of his followers who spent hard-earned resources for the cause. While some ridiculed them, I still have high regard for people who dared to give all for a cause. Fanatic, naive, misled, misguided, blinded, or whatever adjectives we wish to use to describe them, they have done their share for the love of the gospel. Who knows, perhaps there were hearts renewed, lives changed through their perceived naïveté or fanaticism. Even just seeds planted, or souls led to the doorstep of salvation which later will enter into the gates of heaven.

I can still recall the prelude to my conversion. How I responded to the altar call of an evangelist after he preached the gospel and warned us of the urgency of making the decision at that moment. Seconds later would be too late. It was motivated, as it is for some, by fear of the apocalypse and eschatological perils of the unsaved, factual or exaggerated. Regardless of the motivation, that was instrumental to the real conversion and transformation which follow after a long, painful process.

Yes, I am writing on a different subject, although not totally unrelated. A different ruptured rapture experience. Ironically, I refer to myself – the quenched excitement for my 57th birthday celebration. Having been under medication for a health condition for more than a year, I had high hopes of receiving my long-requested gift from God – full recovery for my birthday celebration on May 27.

Such expectation is not without basis. Conditions have been favorable for its realization. There is considerable progress no matter how slow. I have been faithful in taking my medication, except when resources were occasionally drained. Religiously I watch my diet, and perform my daily walking exercise and other health-related activities with few lapses. My inner self has been subdued to wait patiently for the Lord. Negative thoughts are controlled, other mental baggage and emotions unloaded, liberally forgiving even the seemingly unforgivable.

Like a student trying hard to maintain passing grades until graduation, I had been expecting to get the reward on my birthday. But two weeks before the expected day, the progress was reversed. Triggered by a negligible lapse, I almost returned to the start when my blood pressure shot up. The progress and hopes almost came to naught.

The expected rapture-like experience was ruptured. Hurt, I geared for an argument with God in the early morning of my birthday. However, flashbacks of past memories dominated my thoughts. The pictures of my mother’s story concerning the circumstances of my birth played before me, followed by my father’s image – then my brothers and our only sister, and soon my wife, kids, and significant people who have influenced my life – until my mind was flooded with beautiful memories of past events and people I have worked with in development work and pastoral ministry, my colleagues in social work, and even those people I hurt and those who have wronged me, sans the ill feelings.

Overwhelmed by the grace of God for making me survive any storm in life, I almost cried. Subdued, I could only say, “Thank you for everything. And sorry for my unbelief, for my doubt, for complaining, for failing to fully appreciate what you have done to me. At times, blaming you. How glad I would be to receive complete healing as a birthday gift. If not, however, I know you will give it to me in the fullness of time.”

After meditation and breakfast, I was inspired to draft this article. I alternately worked on it, responded to birthday greetings on social networks, and read news online. At times, I checked updates on Harold Camping’s followers’ reaction to their ruptured rapture prediction. There appears to be a similarity in our experience: the peril of confining God in our human timetable.

The Unlimited Christ

The Christendom has capped its Lenten observance last Sunday with a bang- the Resurrection! But the perennial bias on Passion and Death is glaring. As it were, little emphasis is given to the resurrection which is supposedly the cornerstone of faith. The passion, and subsequent death of Jesus, has been misconstrued as the key to salvation and living. Apart from Christmas, it is the most celebrated event in Christianity. No wonder, days after the celebration believers appear to go back to Passion scenario in their living. The power of the resurrected Christ has not engulfed the lifestyle of many followers. Indeed, the vestiges of the colonial past with the embedment of the virtue of suffering in the psyche of the people.

It should be emphasized that the cross is only part of the womb- to- the- tomb painful experiences of Jesus. The passion and death is the culmination of all his sufferings. Hence, the old rugged cross is not the only thing we must cherish and exchange someday with a crown. Our salvation is not the product of the suffering of Jesus just on the cross. It is the totality of the life of Jesus, exemplifying the love of God for humanity, capped by the resurrection.

From conception, he has already foretaste the cruel world system. The intrigues his earthly family encounters due to the controversial pregnancy prior to marriage. At birth, he has been exposed to vulnerable condition of the poorest of the poor, being born in a manager. His childhood experience is colored with the uncertain life of refugees to escape the persecution. Likewise, he has to adjust to the internal struggle in family relationship, as well as the immediate social environment as he keeps up the ideal living, even going against the norms.

Prior to his public ministry, he has to undergo the process of immersion. Living in a depressed community, he has seen the hypocrisy of leaders in the socio-cultural, economic and political structures. Their wanton disregard of the avowed mission to serve the people as ordained by God. How corruption and abuse of power has encroached the ideal immunity of the religious establishment. How religion has been used for business and profit. Yes, he has witness how leaders enrich themselves at the expense of the people they are supposed to develop.

Jesus also knows the struggle of well meaning people in the government and other sectors including revolutionary forces in effecting change. Their two pronged vulnerabilities- stereotype from victims and antagonism from the mainstream perpetrators. Aware of their conviction, he includes some of them in the core of his disciples, mainly composed of representatives from the basic masses.

It is in this context that our observance of religious events or even public holiday should be done in the totality of the life of the honoree. It’s unfortunate that Christians have become selective in remembering the life of Jesus. The other aspects of Jesus life are seemingly neglected, especially his manhood. Some sociologists and theologians view this as manifestation of cultural distortion or vested interests. We love to think of the baby Jesus and Crucified Christ. Their images evoke compassion. More importantly, less threatening as they reflect innocence and helplessness. But we are uncomfortable of the adult Jesus who confronts everyone without fear or favor, even turning the tables of those who make business out of religion. It seems, we want to evade the Jesus who challenges us to follow his example in service.

As one clergy observes, almost all church members can easily recite John 3:16. Indeed, it is comforting to know that God loves us so much to the extent of giving His only Son for us. But many do not know what is 1 John 3:16. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

Many Christians limit themselves to be mere recipients of the love of God. No wonder they fail to experience the power of the Resurrected Christ. The unlimited power which sustains the faithful followers who dare to follow his model of service at all costs.