Thursday, January 15, 2004

Tiangge of hope

What a respite from all the bickering, grandstanding, and the self-promoting antics of politicians. Read their lips and their body language and what do they say?

Friday last week I waded into a virtual tiangge of hope, a flea market so to speak, brimming with creativeness and, most of all, with energy. That was the two-day ``Panibagong Paraan’’ the first Philippine Development Innovation Marketplace held at the Megatrade Hall of SM Megamall. The theme was ``making services work for the poor’’ and the key word was ``innovativeness’’.

For the first time, non-government and people’s organizations (NGO and PO) and institutions--or to use a more generic name, civil society groups--came together, this time, to sell their ideas. How were their services going to work for the poor?

More than a 117 (of the 121) finalists set up booths to display their vision translated into concrete projects that they hoped the World Bank and other funders/donors would ``buy’’ or be interested to help. I liken this big to-do to a tiangge or flea market because the participants were mostly community-based stakeholders, small in size but big on hope, big in heart. The atmosphere was both exciting and informal, unlike corporate trade fairs where people walk around in suits smelling of expensive cologne and speak business jargon.

From 1,800 applications from all over the country the 121 finalists/exhibitors were drawn. These finalists were selected on the basis of the following criteria: innovativeness, partnership, impact and cost-effectiveness, sustainability and replicability.

This batch of finalists was a representative mix from the urban sector (14 percent), agriculture and rural development (15 percent), biodiversity and climate change (9 percent), community-driven development and social development (14 percent), environment (11 percent), human development (23 percent) and enterprise development (13 percent).

These were spread out not so equally in Luzon (50 percent), Visayas (20 percent) and Mindanao (30 percent).

The 50 or so winners were announced at the end of the fair last Saturday and there was great rejoicing. The finalists had earlier been evaluated and prejudged by 33 jurors, all distinguished in their respective fields.

I was supposed to meet some of the lucky proponents last Monday and get familiar with their winning projects but the call I was waiting for never came. Anyway, the winning projects will be receiving P1 million each. P1 million for a project is not much but it can go a long way depending on the managerial creativity of the proponent. Those who did not make it can still hope to win the generosity of more than a dozen funding agencies that were there. I hope so!

I received the thick summary of proposals and reading just the project titles gave me a high. Reading on about the problems being addressed, beneficiaries, project sites, and the proponents’ way of arguing about the benefits, innovative ways, replicability and sustainability made me realize that there is so much energy out there. Now, if only the government and government officials could match these with their own, this country could really leap forward.

So much foreign aid has been poured into this country. And where are we?. Many funding agencies have turned their eyes to new frontiers. The Philippines is the NGO capital this part of the world. Teachers’ Village in Quezon City is the NGO capital of the Philippines with so many big NGOs maintaining their headquarters there. The street names there are Filipino words for Filipino traits like Masunurin, Malingap, Malakas, etc. One look at a roster of NGOs and their addresses and you’d know so many of them are clustered in the same place and that there are so many of them there. And there are more elsewhere.

Read on and smile. Here’s a sampler of project titles (not proponents). I picked them at random. Many of them are brain-teasers and tongue-twisters and they made me chuckle.

Community-based Peer-to-peer Extension of Reproductive Health Information, Education and Communication in the Que Pa Sa’an Ka Man Areas Around Metro Manila; Basilan Peace in Nature Protocol; My Books: My Pride and Joy for My Country’s Future; Building the Capacities of Church-based and Community-Based Mediators through Mentoring and Documentation of Cases; Creating Grassroots Corporate Ethos to Enhance Barangay Development; BT Ikot Tambayan STAR Children’s Program; Relodge Rice Technology Application for Multiple Rice harvesting from Single Planting; Diversified Farming Technology Utilizing System of Rice Intensification as an Enterprise Development Approach for Small Farmers in Nueva Ecija.

Sustainable Alternatives to Mangrove Destruction in Palawan, Integrating Community-based Economic and Enforcement Strategies for Conservation; Rainwater Harvesting for Drinking Water Supply in Tawi-Tawi; Coconut-based Livelihood Generation using Renewable Energy; Win a Scholarship Through the Collection of Recyclables and Frequently-generated Trash (Wishcraft); Empowering the Poor Through Good Governance; Roving Coco-husk Decorticator for the Poor Coconut Farmers in Less Accessible Areas; Large-Scale Cassava Farming; Strengthening of Access to Justice Systems and Community Development Agenda Formulation in 15 Barangays in Bukidnon.

I hope you didn’t end up befuddled but hopeful.