The pandemic and its mobility restrictions did not stop some two dozen youths, and surely countless others out there, from doing good and helping uplift the lives of people around them. I got my annual fix of inspiration last week from the presentations of the third cohort of fellows of the Future Bridging Leaders Program (FBLP) of the Asian Institute of Management’s TEaM Energy Center for Bridging Leadership (AIMTEC), whose Board of Advisers I chair. They are pursuing “change projects” falling under the broad themes of social enterprise, environment, health, education, and persons deprived of liberty — all concrete examples of doing good for the common good.“Bridging” here refers to the challenge of bridging societal divides in the social, economic, cultural, environmental, and political realms — and in our country, these divides can be rather wide and deep. Indeed, what the world needs today is bridging leadership that unifies those being led, not further heighten the divides among them as certain prominent leaders have instead been doing. And in a country richly blessed with natural and human endowments such as ours, we need to dream and act as one, rather than row our metaphorical boat in different directions and keep going around in circles, if we are to move forward as a strong nation.
The FBLP was designed to meet this crying need, and is deliberately aimed at our successor generation of leaders, young Filipinos who have the heart and mind to bridge our gaping divides. The AIMTEC describes it as a yearlong leadership development program and social innovation laboratory that is an active response to the need for developing a more engaging and collaborative kind of leadership practice among the youth. Based on the core bridging leadership principles of ownership, co-ownership, and co-creation, the FBLP enhances in Filipino youth their leadership and change management capabilities to spark meaningful and life-uplifting innovations in their communities.
One example is Patrick Manuel and his Pantawid Covid Xchange, an online platform he developed to match COVID-19 pandemic-displaced Metro Manila street vendors and public utility vehicle drivers, to consumers and enterprises in need of their services. In Isabela City in Basilan, Robert Basco is helping local residents set up the FAITH (Food Always In The Home) Floating Garden, a community-managed garden that increases the seaside residents’ access to nutritious vegetables. Similarly, Vermon Timbas embarked on GULAYNIHAN, a community-led urban farming project in Barangay Novaliches in Quezon City. By urging the local residents to set up a collective gulayan or vegetable farm applying the bayanihan community cooperation approach, the initiative helps them sustain household food sufficiency.
Xyla Mercedita Gualberto launched a social marketing campaign, “Run Forest Run,” that urges corporate groups and vital stakeholders to support a PES (payments for ecosystem services) system for watershed management of the Cagayan de Oro River Basin—the need for which has come to the fore with the devastating flooding that recently affected similar river basin areas in Luzon in the wake of two typhoons. Shellemai Roa is piloting “Community-Based Mangrove Management Palawan” in Maasin, Quezon, in Palawan, which seeks to develop and implement a community-based model to manage mangroves in island communities.
Toward better public health, Norhanidah Macatoon is pursuing Project MHarawi (Mental Health for Marawi), which provides free psychosocial support services to Maranao youth, and promotes mental health awareness in the province of Lanao del Sur. In furtherance of education, Sharewin Sapi-an embarked on BALAY OSY (out-of-school-youth), aimed to bridge OSY in E.B. Magalona, Negros Occidental, to work opportunities, helping them go back to school by providing them livelihood skills training. And in the service of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs), young lawyer Ernesto Neri set up Libertas, a program to connect PDLs to paralegal aides and provide rights-literacy training, while also giving them opportunities for social reintegration.
I thank God that many young people are showing us there is hope for the country.
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