Adamson University’s School of Good Governance for Social Development
by Raul Agner 5/6/10
A tricycle driver cannot sit as representative in Congress, or so Commission on Elections Chair Jose Melo thinks. The driver, he reasons out, does not possess the necessary knowledge and skills to function effectively as such.
Adamson University’s School of Good Governance for Social Development believes otherwise. With their experiential learnings and given enough time and proper mentoring, tricycle drivers, or any lowly worker for that matter, can be transformed into effective leaders who can truly represent their own kind, yes, even in Congress.
But this is only among the many goals that AdU-SGGSD’s vision hopes to accomplish for at its core is the ultimate aim of nation-building through poverty alleviation.
Fr. Nonong Fajardo, C.M., the Vincentian priest who came to be known as “Fr. Riles” for helping railway squatters get a fair relocation deal from the government, has come full circle. Now the director of Adamson’s Integrated Community Extension Services (ICES) whose outreach arm is the Vincentian Center for Social Responsibility (VCSR), he has tapped the entire University community in organizing the same evictees into a federation of self-sustaining communities with some assistance from government and business. The former informal settlers, some 100,000 families in all, are now housed in sprawling relocation sites known as Northville and Towerville in Bulacan and Southville in Laguna and Cavite. Since relocation in 2004, they have been receiving all sorts of assistance designed to help them build their communities largely through their own efforts.
The latest project that Fr. Nonong has conceived for them is the School of Good Governance for Social Development.
The saga of Northville and Southville residents began with their gradual eviction from the slums along Metro Manila’s railway tracks. This was to give way to the implementation of the Northrail and Southrail Project that would cut across the metropolis from as far north in Pampanga and south in Laguna. In these mass movements, homegrown leaders whose style, engagement methods and processes developed as they journeyed with their communities emerged. That these leaders led their people from homelessness to a formal community setting with some degree of success proves they have both innate and acquired leadership and community-building capabilities. Today in fact, the relocation communities can boast of livelihood, health care, entrepreneurship, finance, sports and many other programs that are securely in place largely on their account. Unfortunately, no one has tapped the richness of this phenomenon which actually holds concepts, processes and solutions that are potential paradigms for freeing people, and the nation as a whole, from the clutches of poverty.
Vision and Mission
The School of Good Governance for Social Development is an attempt to mine this lode of community-centered leadership practices and experiences with the assistance of other stakeholders.
During the past few months, the ICES and VCSR together with the key leaders of the relocation sites had formulated the vision-mission of the School. They came up with this vision: “A school of community-based leaders who facilitate knowledge formation among themselves and their communities in order to deepen and develop with them new directions towards nation-building.” The statement seeks the institutionalization of the skills and learnings of seasoned leaders. Using a systemic approach and marrying institutional leadership approaches with community-tested ways, the end-goal is to solve poverty and bring back the off-tangent democratic venues and processes to their original path where stakeholders participate through informed decision making. The organizational and leadership skills of born leaders will be enhanced and harnessed so that these same resources can be passed on to others who will continue to lead their people towards a more dignified life. The learning process will be horizontal, engaged and community-led, and the leaders themselves will serve as faculty. The Adamson community, as well as other experts in their field of competence, will be there as a support group.
A six-pronged mission statement accompanies the vision: to provide a venue where seasoned community-leaders can share and formulate theories out of their experiences and learnings; to discover new directions and emerging cultural and national patterns out of the experiences of the leaders and other stakeholders; to implement their processed knowledge together with their communities into new paths towards nation-building; to organize all these initiatives and peoples’ movements into a nerve center so that it can be replicated to the other sectors of society; to strategize and pull together all their social and intellectual capital towards higher political engagements; to provide intellectual, managerial and technical skills to our leaders.
AdU-SGGSD started with a one-week trainors’ training-seminar after Easter. Since then, monthly sessions have been conducted to monitor and plan out an improved partnership with their constituents and other stakeholders in the relocation sites like those who are in charge of health, religious life, education, peace and order, the youth, the elderly, the environment, waste management, etc. These sectoral leaders will have monthly sessions for planning, implementation and evaluation. The School, whose physical center is at Adamson University, acts as nerve center for all the activities of the leaders and the communities.
Fr. Nonong says that “SGGSD is one of Adamson’s many concrete responses to poverty alleviation and nation-building. This is leading with a social conscience. This is re-engineering Philippine social structures through democratic processes available for all and with all stakeholders of development.” Adamson University itself has been deeply involved in the relocation communities. It has been sharing its academic, technical and human resources since the VCSR was established in 2007. Volunteer faculty, employees, administrators and students have been conducting seminar-workshops and various activities regularly for the benefit of the residents.
The initial program of the SGGSD is a one year training that leads to a Certificate in Good Governance for Social Development.
The first three months is devoted to Personal Engagement and Values Formation. This broad area takes up Human Rights (Self-Knowledge, Human Rights and Obligations, International Bill of Rights, Philippines Constitution Bill of Rights, Spirituality of Social Development, St. Vincent de Paul) and Capability Building (Facilitating Meetings, Parliamentary Procedures, Resolution Making, Basic Accounting, Basic Computer, Public Speaking. Basic English).
Following this are five months spent for Community Engagement which tackles Issues of Relocation Sites (Education, Youth, Livelihood, Women, Peace and Order, Political Engagement, Health, Waste Management, Elderly, Religious Groups, Urban Development).
Finally, two months are allotted for National and International Engagement which covers two areas: Venues for Peoples’ Participation (Barangay, Local Government Unit, Planning and Budget, Provincial Government, International Commission on Housing and Development, World Urban Forum) and Organizing Political Rights (People’s Organizations, Homeowners Association, Local Housing Board, Provincial level Engagement, National Coalitions and Federations, Party List).
Note that the last item is Party List. This brings us back to Melo’s dilemma of the tricycle driver in Congress. With AdU-SGGSD’s vision and goals coming in crystal clear, it is not really impossible to send a leader from society’s less privileged sector to government institutions like Congress. Not that AdU-SGGSD’s agenda is to eventually engage in politics; but even at this incipient stage, the School is already confirming beyond reasonable doubt that what people like Chairman Melo think cannot be done are doable and possible.
If someday a leader from an impoverished community who was honed in the humble halls of the School of Good Governance for Social Development crosses paths with fellow representatives who trained at University of the Philippines or Asian Institute of Management in the hallowed halls of the Batasang Pambansa, Fr. Atilano “Nonong” Fajardo, C.M. would be the least surprised.
(Individuals and organizations that wish to volunteer, partner with or extend financial support to ICES-VCSR may contact the office at tel.:400-0919 and 524-2011 loc 259).