The Knowledge for Development Center (KDC), in partnership with the Ateneo School of Government (ASoG), recently launched the Youth Leaders for Knowledge and Development (YLKD), a year-long program that brings together 100 of the country's most outstanding young Filipino leaders from all over the country.
Knowledge for Development Centers (KDCs) are knowledge sharing partnerships between the World Bank and knowledge institutions in the Philippines. KDCs are information centers and hubs for dialogues and partnerships for development. The Ateneo School of Government (ASoG) is a professional school for leadership and public service in the Philippines.
The YLKD program seeks to promote youth empowerment and networking by providing avenues for young leaders to take part in discussions about development through monthly kapihans (coffee sessions) and direct interaction with role models of good governance, transparency, and accountability.
The launch, held at the Alumni House of the University of the Philippines, was attended by around 50 Manila-based students and young professionals who were selected by a screening panel from among 300 applicants. The others who were selected to be a part of the program are based in other parts of the country.
In his introductory remarks, Mr. Harvey Keh, Director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship at ASoG, told the participants: "The youth have just as much potential as local government leaders to be creative and to contribute to solutions to our country’s problems. Thus, the YLKD program hopes to cultivate the innovative ideas of young minds and help bring the youth closer to transforming their ideas into reality.”
The challenge is good governance
In a speech, World Bank Governance Specialist Mr. Matthew Stephens presented some challenges and opportunities that await youth leaders. He pointed out that despite the fact that the country is blessed with abundant natural and human resources, development remains a huge challenge because of weak governance. This, he stressed, is where good leadership is crucial. "At the heart of good governance is good leadership," Mr. Stephens said. "The role that you play in society now can be absolutely fundamental to leadership in the future."
Words from the wise
The keynote speaker, Ms. Grace Padaca, a 2008 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Government Service, shared with the participants the challenges she had to face when she decided she could no longer be passive in the face of the squandering of government resources by local officials in her province. Despite being physically handicapped since childhood due to polio, she ran for governor of Isabela, the second largest province in the Philippines.
But winning the May 2007 elections did not guarantee a “happily ever after” story for Ms. Padaca. As governor, she stood her ground to abolish corrupt practices which, she said, came in different guises. For instance, her experience in politics has taught her that it is not only money that corrupts, but also kindness.
Ms. Padaca, who is one of the founders of the KayaNatin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership, said: “Sadly, when we talk about good governance, the first thing that comes to people’s minds is anti-corruption. We are still in the stage where we are trying to correct things so we can finally even begin to think about real development.”
To the participants, she stressed: "We ask you to care more. Continue understanding what is happening in the country, to help those who don't have the experience. After all, the lessons we learn are the foundation on which we build our actions.”
A wider network
Dean Antonio La Viña of ASoG told the youth leaders that through the YLKD program, they will have an expanded network beyond their schools, relatives, and friends. He also reminded them that problems cannot be resolved overnight with the election of an upright leader.
“You can’t accumulate problems and expect the President to come up with a definitive solution in one day,” Dean La Viña said. “The YLKD program is a way of being proactive, of addressing problems using the talents and skills of each before they outrun us and become too difficult to solve.”
During the open forum, the participants were given the chance to ask questions and share their thoughts about how they can help the country. They then broke up into small groups to get to know each other better and to explore the different areas of development where they can apply their innovative ideas.
One group brainstormed about how best to "popularize" transparency so that even ordinary people will not be afraid to voice out anomalies wherever they are encountered. Another talked about creating a portal that contains a complete list of government programs, organizations, and even the specific agenda of government officials, so that different issues can be handled more speedily and efficiently.
Based on the lively discussions that took place, the next few months should be an expanding and enriching experience for the country’s youth leaders.
Leon Flores, president of a national youth organization called Aksyon Kabataan (Youth Action), described in simple terms what the participants can gain from the YLKD program. “Stephen Covey’s book ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ compels us to ‘sharpen the saw’ as a seventh habit. YLKD aids me in living out this habit," he said. "Joining [the program] is my way of taking advantage of an opportunity to learn fresh ideas, appreciate diverse perspectives, and meet new partners for change.