05 July 2006

From the center, on the ground

A SHORT 8-minute workshop yesterday captured the whole essence of what we have experienced over the last two days. It came on the heels of community visits to Sandwell, a metropolitan borough of six towns to the east of Birmingham, with a combined population of 300,000. The workshop sought to compare Monday's events in London ("the center") and our interactions with key local institutions in Sandwell ("the ground").

My writing pad contained the following points:

  • From the center: a consolidated perspective, focus on the "big picture," a wholesale approach to problems expressed in cold statistics, vs. narrower focus and retail approach on the ground.
  • The emphasis on working laterally with fellow central governments (obviously for the sake of efficiency) vs. smaller scale action featuring a diversity of local institutions (e.g. local authorities, NGOs, interest groups, professional guilds and individual citizens).
  • Bias towards big buzzwords (like social exclusion, social justice, the Millennium Development Goals) vs. gut issues that assume a human face (instead of the "cold statistic"), which allow ordinary people and communities to relate with them much better.

That exercise allowed me to step back, reflect and appreciate how these two worlds behave and operate. Bridging them, I think, is key to actualizing the governance reforms I envision for the public education sector in the Philippines.

UPDATE: Our "digital exclusion" should ease significantly over the next two days, as the activities lined up will take place here. There are substantially more, and infinitely better, PC units around.