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44th MOMENT: The BOX

-------------------------- Allow me to digress from my usual anecdotal theme in my coffee table book into more serious topics for all times and ages: COVID and poverty. I hope to do this until I finish 50 installments to this book and publish a new series of “Into the Villages”, an updated version of “Working with People in the South Pacific” published also as series in the Bicol Mail a couple of years back. -------------------------- “The Box” theory. There are four areas of thought on this often referred to jargon:

In fact, I use them in my lectures on Strategic Planning and Introducing and Managing Change.

1. Thinking outside the box – this refers to the innovators, dreamers, adventurers, people who never stop thinking of new things in life, in business, in their careers, for their families and their communities. There are many of these people, unfortunately many just remain as thinkers.

2. Acting and Living outside of the box - these are people who do not only think and dream but make things happen. Thinking of new ideas is nothing if you do not act on it, do something about it, make it happen, and live through it.

3. Jumping out of the box - these are people who are tired of thinking and suggesting changes, new systems, new concepts that do not happen. Hence, they choose to leave the organization, their towns, country, even their families to find fulfillment somewhere else.

4. Breaking the box – these are people who are tired and drained of thinking but still no change is happening. Some are born with defiant nature; some are born in a despised environment. Others came to this earth ahead of their time. Their way of achieving their dreams is to break their organizations, their families, their communities and their governments.

Fortunately, many of us are products of the first and second theories – because it is where development derives its existence, its power, especially in addressing poverty and in times of emergencies. -------------------------- Let me share with you a recent article and an excerpt from a 1973 book, both of which are written by present and past thinkers on rural economics and community development. -------------------------- “After COVID-19, A Rural Revolution” - Shanu Hinduja,

“After coronavirus, nothing less than a revolution in rural sustainable development can prevent another crisis. Like our ancestors, we must learn to heed the call of the land, the rhythm of the seasons, the social bonds that hold us together. Developed nations and the developing world must value their farmers, healers and teachers. This virus has shaken the very foundations of our societies. How we build on those foundations is up to all of us. In developing countries in particular, where the collapse in commodity prices, tourism and remittances has already had a devastating impact, the virus has exposed a genuine threat to food security through its disruption of international supply chains. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found that the pandemic will significantly increase risks to food security and hinder humanitarian assistance operations. When this virus passes, we will have an opportunity to remake the world. To build sustainable, resilient and harmonious societies, we must begin with the food on our tables – where it comes from, how it reaches us, and what it means to us”. -------------------------- “Small is Beautiful – as if People Matters” - E.F. Schumacher, 1973

“The task, then, is to bring into existence millions of new workplaces in the rural areas and small towns. Schumacher proposed the idea of “smallness within bigness”: a specific form of decentralization. For a large organization to work, according to this economist, it must behave like a related group of small organizations. The real task may be formulated as economic propositions:

1. First, that workplaces have to be created in the areas where the people are living now, and not primarily in metropolitan areas into which they tend to migrate.

2. Second, that these workplaces must be, on average, cheap enough so that they can be created in large numbers without calling for an unattainable level of capital formation and imports.

3. Third, that the production methods employed must be relatively simple, so that the demands for high skills are minimized, not only in the production process itself but also in matters of organization, raw material supply, financial, marketing, and so forth.”

And I dare to add my own thinking and acting on my thoughts - we must develop and, in my case, I have been sharing practical tools and guidelines that marginalized groups use in making their own decisions without jumping out of, or breaking the Box. These are my interpositions and principles which I have converted into tools, methodologies and real projects and activities:

1. One size does not fit all

2. Everything passes through a transition

3. Economics means velocity not volume of money

4. Capital grows not just by “interest” but also by “profit”

5. Poverty is both material and psychological, we have to address both

6. Financing means lending and re-lending, both lenders and borrowers must benefit

7. Capital is not only money it also social, economic, personal, environmental, political

8. Empowerment happens when people can freely make their own choices and implement them

9. Strong societies are formed by strong communities, disciplined and entrepreneurial people

10. Before we doubt the capacity of the poor to pay, we must first give them opportunity to borrow

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