Power and Responsibility

Redefining the Role of the Elite in the 21st Century

 

This essay has been recognized as one of the top 100 essay entries in the 27th Wings of Excellence Award of the 45th St.Gallen Symposium in Switzerland in May 2015. The author, a Leader of Tomorrow in the said symposium, currently pursues a doctorate in International Development (emphasis on East Asia and the Pacific) at the Graduate School of International Development, Nagoya University, Japan.

In January 2015, less than a thousand so-called elite gathered in Davos, Switzerland for the annual World Economic Forum to discuss issues that may have terrible or tremendous impact on the global economy and society. As winter-chills covered the small town, precious wines sparkled in champagne glasses — coupes that interestingly resemble the prevailing state of extreme inequality — perhaps the most paramount issue that perfectly defines the global socio-economic landscape. Amidst this, a dominant assumption lingers: the global wealth inequality predicament is primarily caused by the prevailing power of the elite over the vast majority. I beg to disagree. Flawed presumptions do not only produce erratic answers, but also erratic questions.

Let’s bring in the facts. Recently, it has been reported that the bottom half of the global population own less than 1% of total wealth. In sharp contrast, the richest decile (10%) hold 87% of the world’s wealth, and the top percentile (1%) alone account for 48.2% of global assets.i If not responded to, this 1% will soon hold more net wealth than the other 99% put together.ii Global economic development institutions claim and agree that while extreme poverty has been generally decreasing globallyiii and regionallyiv, income inequality within countries has increased significantly.v Being at the forefront of this quandary, the elite is often the target of much blame.

The elite is a small but relatively superior group of people. They are often characterized as powerful — something that depicts great influence over a vast majority. From ancient societies to contemporary ones, the elite’s power has been based mainly on inheritance (social status, class, privilege), or merit. Classifications vary but corporate and political ones continue to dominate familiar notions of ‘eliteness’. Regardless of other factors, possession of power – by wealth and/or by influence – is considered the single most important feature of the elite.

Apparently, power as a concept carries greater weight than mere influence; It is the relative ability to influence. Accordingly, when x (person or entity) has power, it has the capability to control or manipulate, but only to a certain degree (inabsolute) because it is subject to the authority (global or national) that holds legitimate power. Well, ideally. Supposedly.

Power structure in and among states and societies is as complex as reality. As in most cases, in developed and developing regions, there exists collusion among political and corporate elites; or worse, the latter overpowers the former. The elite’s malevolent exercise of power, spurred by greed, is what drags the society into extreme inequality; It is not power per se that causes so. This is where the dynamics between power and responsibility can respond to how the elite can redefine their roles and agenda-setting. To ideally emerge and transform as significant players in the twenty-first century’s global society, the elite must align its power with responsibility in a way that sows goodwill to and yields opportunities for everyone.

 

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

There goes the axiom. While the first implies strength, the latter requires even greater. Responsibility carries a strong yet broad denotation. Liguistically though, the word may mean three things: a) being trustworthy or reliable (character); b) having one accountable to somebody (relational/ rule following); or c) holding one accountable for something (causal and/or consequential).vi It is imperative for the elite to recognize the essence of responsibility, as it applies to them. Insofar as elite’s possession of power and assumption of responsibility are concerned, all three definitions apply. More concretely, I have identified three action- points through which the elite’s role can be redefined by aligning power with responsibility; and through which they can ACT responsibly: Advocacy, Collaboration, and Transparency.

Advocacy

The business of business is business — Only?

“The pursuit of a (certain social) cause does not have to be the prerogative of charities …nor does a mission to improve the world makes business into a social agency”.vii Most enterprises, even social enterprises, desire profit. Money is an incentive that, when utilized with prudence, can yield tremendous outcomes. In this regard, I posit that while the philanthropic practice of corporate social responsibility (CSR) can be considered noble, it would be more relevant, sensible, and sustainable to advocate for initiatives that do not only contribute fleeting money but more importantly, create opportunities for long term growth. The elite can responsibly wield their power by investing their resources in advocacies that aim to a) reinforce human capital through social entrepeneurship; b) provide initial capital for microfinance and promote financial literacy; and most importantly, c) support social welfare areas particularly education and healthcare. For instance, financial company Bloomberg partnered with CodeNow, a nonprofit organization aimed at teaching technology skills to underprivileged kids; while animation giant Disney united with Code.org to teach kids the basics of programming syntax.

While CSR matters, it is about time to shift toward corporate social innovation (CSI) where advocacy meets the opportunities associated with innovation and technology. IT revolution has to be seized in the twenty-first century. Since the 2000s, companies have begun to adopt a paradigm that recognizes “community needs as opportunities to develop ideas, find, and serve new markets”, and focus on “inventing sophisticated solutions through a hands-on approach.”viii While CSR, by and large, is anchored on charity/ social philanthropy, CSI focuses on R&D — a strategic business investment that aligns profits with social development. In addition, reverse innovation has also been taking ground. It’s a strategy to “develop entry-level, low-cost products for emerging markets, and then repackage them to flow uphill to developed, first-world markets.”ix Apparently, it has provided opportunities and services (General Electric’s healthcare machines, Microsoft’s phone app, among others) benefitting both developed and developing regions.x Indeed, “small-footprint” products and services have kindled a socio-tech revolution.

 

Collaboration

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.”xi

Responsibility is relational too, and is vital to the success of any collaborative undertaking. In collaboration, size doesn’t even matter — only responsible partnership. Collaboration matters — a lot. In fact, others presume that the future and success of businesses will be defined by “co-“ — anything that has to do with partnership. However, given the “big fish eats little fish” history of big-small encounters, small businesses can be understandably leery of powerful big ones.xii Fortunately, technological revolution has changed global trends. Now, even large IT corporations tend to run like startups, and consequently partner with them. Why? Startups have innovation engrained in their cultures.xiii These mostly young risk- takers know their generation’s salient features — socially connected, increasingly mobile, and infotech-driven. Nevertheless, they have to move forward fast without compromising quality; Otherwise, they will be overtaken by competitors. By collaborating with a big partner, they may have greater chances to sustain their competitive advantage. Partnerships between or among startups and large companies prosper because “the collaboration between two good ideas multiplies the result, the possibility of sharing resources and expertise enhances the product, and the combination of technologies, applications, or services increase a solution’s value.”xiv In addition, their needs and strengths are often opposite but complementary — that must be their most significant asset besides human capital. If the trend will prosper, this new big-small ecosystem will tremendously affect a global innovation roadmap. Such team-ups embody the essence of responsibility anchored on reciprocity.

Interestingly, public-private collaborations also abound — usually though, these are between big local companies and public institutions within states. Multinational corporations (MNCs) invest across states mainly for business profits; Development only comes along. But what can be more interesting than a collaboration among the public sector, MNCs, and startups? In order to encourage the creation of MNC-Startup partnerships, Israel’s Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS) has established a dedicated Global Enterprise Collaboration Program.xv This tripartite collaboration among the public sector, MNCs, and small players exemplifies industrial innovation and entrepreneurship that benefit all parties.

 

Transparency and Accountability

There’s no mote, sawdust, or speck that cannot cumber the eye.

Another way to align power with responsibility is by recognizing transparency and accountability. Basically, transparency is the clear disclosure of information, rules, plans, processes and actions.xvi While promoting transparency is important, it has to be coupled with accountability in order to trace the causes of actions, identify the culpable, and impose punishment.

An enormous challenge in upholding transparency is the prevalence of a corrupt system where political and capitalist elites collude. When a supposedly legitimate authority conspires with private entities, it does not only betray its citizens but also drag the society to moral fragmentation and trust deficit. Tax avoidance, while considered legal, is very much open to abuse. Tax evaders, on the other hand, can be held accountable under pertinent laws. In either situation or context, a question of morality hovers.

Apparently, a review of global tax rules is imperative. Oxfam suggests that cracking down on tax avoidance and tax evasion (must go) hand in hand with more progressive taxation.xvii Tax avoidance, in particular, often requires closing the seemingly endless number of loopholes in tax treaties and tax laws one at a time. Accordingly, the G20, as an influential bloc, must be willing to go beyond the OECD-led Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) plans, and work with all countries to fundamentally rewrite global tax rules, tackling the tough issues that especially matter to developing countries.xviii If the moneyed elite yields to progressive taxation efforts anchored on wealth redistribution, they can better prove their sincerity to respond to inequality.

Ideally, stitching integrity and honesty into the system’s fabric is a key response. In reality, it’s been put to the test. A good example is the Norway-based Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), an international standard for openness around the management of revenues from natural resources. Governments disclose how much they receive from extractive companies operating in their country and these companies disclose how much they pay. With 48 countries, the organization epitomizes that a coalition of governments, companies and civil society can responsibly work together in spite of relatively small size.xix

Reforming the rules of the game will not suffice. Moral philosophy also has a role to play in changing the inequality landscape. Crucial is an understanding, recognition, and practice of integrity (telling the truth to oneself) and honesty, (being true to others). One without the other will be deemed futile.

 

Small does and will matter: an affirmative conclusion

In 1973, when affinity with anything big overshadowed the beauty of small, scholar E.F. Schumacher posited that “if structures – economic, political, or social – became too large, they become impersonal and unresponsive to human needs and aspirations.”xx Over forty years later, his assumption has been proven outrightly valid. From innovation to collaboration, microfinance to start-ups, the value of “small” is now being deliberately redefined. Society has also begun to appreciate the beauty of smallness. However, will the small “elite” be also appreciated? Yes — if they choose to have their roles redefined by redefining their agenda-setting.

In this essay, I have defied the notion that elite’s prevalent power is the primary cause of inequality. It is the inappropriate utilization of power, fueled by greed, that causes so. Power can be used otherwise – responsibly, to narrow down inequality by espousing the spread of opportunities. This can be done by advocating programs that can have long term socio- economic impact; collaborating with the public sector and startups to gain mutual/ collective benefits; fostering transparency, and upholding accountability.

Nevertheless, rising over the inequality conundrum is also everybody’s responsibility. Sometimes, one forgets how much he actually has and how little he has to do to make a difference, which in fact is a small step toward big changes. Great things start from small beginnings. There lies the beauty of smallness.

Regardless of size, with collaboration and sharing, what can go wrong? To end, let me rephrase a line from a popular children’s rhyme: “There’s so much that we (can) share; And it’s time we’re aware. It’s a small world after all.”

References:

i Credit Suisse. 2014. Global Wealth Report and Global Wealth Databook. ii Oxfam. 2015. Wealth: Having it all and wanting more. Issue Briefing

iii World Bank. 2015. Policy Research Report 2014: A Measured Approach to Ending Poverty and Boosting Shared Prosperity: Concepts, Data, and the Twin Goals. Washington, DC, United States. Decrease in poverty rate: covered period was between 1990-2011. ! https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/20384/9781464803611.pdf

iv Asian Development Bank. January 23, 2015. Asia and the Pacific Lie at the Epicenter of the Economic Inequality Debate. Accessed on January 28, 2015. Decrease in poverty rate: covered period was between 1990-2010. http://www.adb.org/news/features/asia-and-pacific-lie-epicenter- economic-inequality-debate

v International Labor Organization. 2015. Global Wage Report 2014/15: Wages and income inequality. Geneva. p.19

vi Goodpaster, Kenneth and John Matthews, Jr. 2003. Can a Corporation Have a Conscience. In Harvard Business Review on Corporate Social Responsibility. Harvard Business School Publishing.

vii Handy, Charles. 2003. What’s a Business For? In Harvard Business Review on Corporate Social Responsibility. Harvard Business School Publishing.

viii Kanter, Rosabeth. 2003. From Spare Change to Real Change: The Social Sector as Beta Site for Business Innovation. In Harvard Business Review on Corporate Social Responsibility. Harvard Business School Publishing.

ix Duffy, Jade. 2012. Poverty Profits. In Poverty and Profits: How the private sector is helping to change the fortunes of Asia’s poor. Development Asia. April-June issue. Asian Development Bank

x Jana, Reena. March 11, 2009. Innovation Trickles in a New Direction. http://www.bloomberg.com/

bw/magazine/content/09_12/b4124038287365.htm

xi Ecclesiastes 4:9-10. New International Version

xii Botkin, James and Jana Matthews. 1992. Winning Combinations: The Coming Wave of Entrepreneurial Partnerships Between Large and Small Companies. John Wiley & Sons, New York

xiii 5 big companies that run like start-ups. February 12, 2014. http://www.innocentive.com/blog/

2014/02/12/5-big-companies-that-run-like-startups/

xiv Turiera, Teresa and Susanna Cros. 2013. Co-business: 50 examples of business collaboration. Co-Society.

xv MATIMOP – The Israel Industry Center for R&D: Your Gateway to International Cooperation. http://www.matimop.org.il/about_matimop.html

xvi Transparency International. Global Coalition Against Corruption. http://www.transparency.org xvii Oxfam. 2013. The cost of inequality: how wealth and income extremes hurt us all
xviiiOxfam. 2014 (a). G20 must turn the tide on rising inequality and tackle tax dodging. November xix Please see website for more details: https://eiti.org

xx Schumacher, Ernest. 1973. Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered. (“The title “Small is Beautiful” came from a phrase by his teacher Leopold Kohr).

FINDING AND LIBERATING A LOST GENERATION: Exploring Entrepreneurial Prospects for the Unemployed Youth

A Lost Generation

In spite of ideological and technological developments, which commenced during the most recent phase of globalization, the overlapping generations tagged as “baby boomers” (over 50 years old), Gen-X (30 to 50), and Gen-Y (under 30) have ironically found themselves entrapped by global problems – so complex and enormous – that scholars have perceived an imminent clash of generations. This clash is provoked by disparity in claims, values, and objectives between generations that apparently affect how they respond to global challenges; one of the most pressing of these global endeavors is the rising rates of unemployment across the globe, brought about by a domino effect of the most recent economic recessions. From Asia to the America, Europe to Africa, the scourge of global unemployment continues to afflict today‟s global society. It is estimated that some 74.5 million young people were unemployed in 2013.i Apparently, the weight falls most heavily on Gen-Y. With a burden incredibly heavy and a global environment bleak, scholars now call Gen-Y – specifically the highly educated but jobless cohort – “a lost generation.” Amid this gloomy and thorny nexus between generational clash and unemployment dilemma, the most urgent concern now is to provide the youth with proper prospects for the future.

Finding and Liberating a Lost Generation: Explore Entrepreneurship

Global youth unemployment is not completely chaotic. Weiji (危机), the pinyin Chinese word for crisis is actually a combination of two words: danger and opportunity. I choose to see the imminent generational clash compounded by a global unemployment problem as such – “critical circumstance” – one in which risks can be turned into opportunities, when prospects for generations to learn from each other abound, and when creative measures to combat unemployment spring forth.

Older generation‟s approaches to twentieth century problems may be excellent, but they have to recognize the reality that these measures may not be compatible anymore to today‟s complex challenges. Approaches need not be changed completely. What these overlapping generations need are pragmatic, innovative and optimistic measures that have to be undertaken in a coordinated and holistic manner.

Then it must be entrepreneurship! It‟s pragmatic, innovative, and optimistic. It is fresh.

An entrepreneur, from the French word “entreprende”, is a person who “undertakes, starts or begins on something” – so fitting for the typical jobless but potentially productive youth. Instead of wandering around, why not “begin on something worthwhile” and make a beneficial difference? The youth just have tremendous untapped abilities that need to be explored and utilized for them to genuinely and significantly contribute to social progress and economic development. They‟re dynamic, innovative, socially aware, and most globalized due to information explosion and scientific advances.

In this light, how can the older generations – the present influential and powerful leaders of institutions – make sense of entrepreneurship? How can the young explore it as a prospective and novel solution to unemployment? How can it be a feasible tool for generations to mitigate the scourge of global unemployment which, after all, directly affects their common today. These generations will have to act now to provide the succeeding generations a brighter tomorrow.

How can a lost generation be found and liberated? I present a three-dimensional, entrepreneurship-oriented solution: Educate – Enhance – Empower.

 

1. Educate.

There is prudence in sowing seeds of education to a potentially productive youth.

It is imperative to educate the society about the relevance of entrepreneurship. To ignite and sustain social interest in entrepreneurship, the society must simultaneously find ways to diminish a risk-averse culture, “identified as one of the primary reasons why Europe (is) not generating as many new, fast growing, and (resilient) companies as the US.ii An affirmative propaganda is a key prerequisite to catch youth attention. While joblessness is discouraging; entrepreneurship is exciting! Yes, it‟s not all rosy; it is in fact very risky. However, it can provide risk-takers with opportunities to become more creative and to learn, earn, and connect with people all at the same time. Because today‟s youth are generally adventurous, they‟d love to explore these possibilities. International organizations have boldly advocated this, such as ILO‟s 2012 resolution “Youth Employment Crisis: A Call for Action” and The G20 Young Entrepreneurs‟ Alliance Summit‟s five imperatives for action, which focused on youth entrepreneurship, in order to avoid a lost generation. The Swiss federal government led an example of how it can be done at the national level; its Federal Office of Professional Education and Technology formed the Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI) to promote entrepreneurship (through training, mentoring and financing), among others. GoNegosyo, a Philippine-based civil society initiative, commits to transforming the country into an entrepreneurial nation, drawing out Filipino ingenuity among the youth. Budding entrepreneurial programs in small communities in the Middle East and Africa have also helped young people to progressively walk out of severe poverty.

However, „entrepreneurship education‟ should also be institutionalized, formalized, and constantly assessed to monitor its effectiveness. Entrepreneurial education (EPE) and technical, vocational education, and training (TVET), in which classroom training and actual workplace experience are integrated, are two of the most novel approaches to education today. Interestingly, a merger of the two is found to have yielded tremendous outcomes. With the TVET approach, five countries in Europe have seen youth unemployment rates strikingly below European and global averages. While most European countries had rates in the 20-30% range, Austria‟s rate in the 3rd quarter of 2011 was 7.3%; Germany‟s was 8.6%; the Netherlands 7.6%; Norway 8.8%; and Switzerland 7.2% (Business Europe 2012). A UNESCO 2010 report also emphasized how EPE enhances youth and graduates‟ employment in the private sector and provides young generation with knowledge and skills on how to manage and open small and medium enterprises (SMEs).iii In China, over 10% percent of secondary vocational school graduates opted for self-employment or to establish their own small business in 2010. The considerable percentage of TVET graduates who choose to work independently supports the conclusion that EPE is relevant to TVET. This integration suggests that a combination of entrepreneurial skills and technical/ vocational skills can be a major mechanism in mitigating unemployment, and opening opportunities to develop SMEs. iv As institutions strengthen the integration of entrepreneurial skills to vocational training, they also have to emphasize and reinforce leadership skills in these new entrepreneurs.v This contributes to wiping out a risk-averse culture and at the same time, equips the youth to become prospective leaders who will serve and guide future young start-uppers. Bright and humble generations of leaders have proven that there‟s power to change the course of history when leadership is combined with sincere service.

 

2. Enhance the economy, invest in the youth.

Education fuels the economy. In reciprocity, the economy should support education.

In order to sustain the efforts exerted by professional and vocational training institutions in integrating entrepreneurship in the learning process, economic support will also have to be available. Despite a gloomy global economic climate, the respective national governments of this „start-up generation‟ can still assist the latter through investing in pro-growth macro- economic policies that provide generous attention to EPE and TVET programs. These policies must be geared toward the development of youth entrepreneurship – recognizing the young‟s sheer creativity, tech-savvy feature, and innovation-oriented culture. According to WEF 2011 report, “entrepreneurship thrives in ecosystems in which multiple stakeholders play key roles”.vi This also called for targeted regulatory and investment decisions that provide resources for start-up business formations. Tax credits, loan guarantees, incubation facilities, and related support for small business startups represent a modest but significant fiscal investment.vii

Nevertheless, prudent investment strategy should always be considered: encourage everyone to explore entrepreneurial opportunities, enhance the better some, and incentivize the best few. It is a rule of thumb to identify “the best-fit people to start and grow business. It is the job creation of those enterprises that is really going to make an impact on unemployment.”viii

With the assumption that gasping economies cannot easily assist budding entrepreneurs, international lending institutions will then have to play the crucial role of infusing funds in order to refuel the developing, or even recession-hit economies. Recipient governments now have the responsibility to sustain and multiply the benefits gained from international/ regional bank loans. This must serve as a stimulus for unstable economies, so that exceptionally competent and highly competitive young entrepreneurs will not be adversely affected. For a fact, some of the today‟s biggest global companies, inspiring business ventures, and social network start-ups were conceptualized by young budding entrepreneurs. Countries cannot afford to lose such possibilities by succumbing to financial indebtedness and economic stagnation.

 

3. Empower.

“The challenge for those in positions of authority in existing institutions is to find ways to engage the young generation.”ix

How can governments concretely show its support for youth entrepreneurship? Whether government of a developed or developing country, it needs to promote entrepreneurs as valuable job-makers. One huge difference between older and younger entrepreneurs is that the new generation expects stronger backing from governments.x This implies that it is imperative for governments to support initiatives across areas such as funding, sustenance services, and education. Young entrepreneurs would also love to see a responsible government that guarantees a simpler and SME-friendly business environment. All these measures, when efficiently done, may not only address the lack of decent jobs, but may also encourage more young people to engage in entrepreneurship, and in the process contribute to development.

It is important to sustain these efforts and empower the youth to be active stakeholders themselves. All along, the problems of youth apathy, idleness, and distrust of authorities and institutions are deeply rooted in the negative impression toward government. To change that image and regain the trust and confidence of the youth, governments must prioritize them in its policy agenda. In 2013, only 99 (50%) countries have a youth policy; while a further 56 (28%) were revising their existing or, in a few cases, are developing their first national youth policy.xi But with the continuing surge of unemployment, these policies should be found truly responsive to the said complex problem; particularly by including provisions that promote entrepreneurship among the youth.

 

Conclusion

I just presented a three-dimensional, entrepreneurship-oriented solution to the global problem of unemployment: Educate – Enhance – Empower. Probably, these approaches cannot completely respond to the multi-faceted unemployment challenges in certain countries or regions. After all, there‟s no one-size-fits-all solution to the global unemployment problem. Even entrepreneurship is risky; but it‟s worth exploring as a prospect for the youth amid the gloom of unemployment. Nevertheless, I am convinced that these measures can contribute to the unlocking of opportunities for generations to work, learn, and mature together, and to weather present and future crises. With cooperation, what can go wrong?

The youth grows old but it remains relevant in all ages.

Around AD 62-65, an aging Paul – wrote to young Timothy, “Don‟t let anyone look down on you because you are young…”xii In the nineteenth century, intellectual Jose Rizal affirmed that “the youth is the hope of the nation.” These phrases were both written during periods of severe circumstances, with the aim of emphasizing the innate capabilities present in young people, and affirming their power to overcome these diverse challenges. That remains true in the youth of the present age.

Once upon a time, older generations were also “a lost generation” but never the lost generation; hence they must be able to relate with today‟s youth. They surely understand that finding and liberating a lost generation is no easy task. But it‟s definitely worth every rigorous effort.

The ultimate role of the elder generations is to guide and encourage the young. This is an enduring legacy among generations.

 

References

Badawi, Aboubakr. 2013. TVET and entrepreneurial skills. UNESCO-UNEVOC Revising Global trends in TVET.

Dencker, J.C., Gruber, M., and Shah, S. 2009. “Individual and Opportunity Factors Influencing Job Creation in New Firms,” Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 52, No. 6, 1125-1147.

The Economist, “Les Miserables” July 28, 2012 (http://www.economist.com/node/21559618)

G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance Summit Russia. 2013. Avoiding a Lost Generation. Young Entrepreneurs identify five imperatives for action.

International Labor Organization. 2014. Global Employment Trends: Risks of Jobless Recovery. Geneva. January

Manpower Group. 2012. How Policymakers Can Boost Youth Employment.

Masri, Munther, Mohamed Jemni, Ahmed M. Al-Ghassani, and Aboubakr A. Badawi, 2010. Entrepreneurship Education in the Arab States: Case Studies on the Arab States. Regional Synthesis Report. A Joint Project between UNESCO and StratREAL Foundation, U.K.

World Economic Forum. 2009. “Educating the Next Wave of Entrepreneurs

World Economic Forum. 2014. Global Risks. Ninth Edition. Insight Report. Geneva: World Economic Forum. January

youthpolicy.org

 

Endnotes

i Global Employment Trends 2014
ii The Economist, “Les Miserables” July 28, 2012 (http://www.economist.com/node/21559618)
iii See Munther Masri, Jordan et al., 2010
iv See Badawi, 2013
v See Dencker et al.
vi World Economic Forum (2009), “Educating the Next Wave of Entrepreneurs
vii Manpower (2012), 13.
viii G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance Summit Russia. 2013. Avoiding a Lost Generation. Young Entrepreneurs identify five imperatives for action.
ix World Economic Forum. 2014. Global Risks. Ninth Edition. Insight Report. Geneva: World Economic Forum. January
x G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance Summit Russia. 2013. Avoiding a Lost Generation. Young Entrepreneurs identify five imperatives for action.

xi youthpolicy.org

xii Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12, The Bible New International Version

 

 

LEARNING BEYOND THE CLASSROOM

A promising adventure as an international student

I arrived in Tokyo on a sunny spring day, April 1. Just as the famed sakura (cherry blossoms) had begun to bloom during my first few weeks here, an exciting and promising adventure as an international student have also sprung in the right season.

This is by far the longest time I have been away from home. And while graduate studies-slash-research is my primary goal in moving into this city (though I must admit I fell in love with this fun labyrinth the first time I saw it two years ago), the experience of living independently in a foreign country for the very first time has also brought me loads of surprises, both challenging and rewarding. In this essay, I wish to share my personal experience as an international student – the joy, fun, excitement, and plethora of opportunities for growth, as well as the struggles that go with independence.

First, I’d like to emphasize that learning is a beautiful and enriching experience, though not necessarily always fun and easy. The challenges that push you to and even beyond the classroom’s borders are what makes you a genuinely learnt person. These are the struggles that test one’s vigor and courage to walk over unfamiliar roads, or even do the role of a trailblazer. There is a promising adventure that awaits a student who genuinely thirsts for what I call “an unbound learning”.

Learning the chores is an often overlooked and unappreciated advantage. While learning house chores may not be relevant to a few, it can be true to a some, perhaps, to majority of students living independently in a foreign country for the first time. I don’t come from a well-off family but I must say I had a relatively comfortable and sheltered life back home. I didn’t have to do the usual house chores except the voluntary weekly own room clean-up. Until all of a sudden, I have to learn all these chores in order to “genuinely live comfortably”:cooking, laundry, paying the bills, budgeting, and buying groceries.

In the course of a little over two months, I have learned how to cook my favorite native dish adobo; to do the laundry the correct way; to budget my monthly stipend in a way that values practicality, prioritization, prudence in managing resources; to buy groceries, especially the exciting and challenging quest for the best-quality and most reasonably priced commodities; and to pay monthly rent and utility bills.

Necessity is the mother of invention, so it goes. Let me add to that: it’s the grandmother of independent living, and kin of growth and desire. For instance, it’s both the necessity to learn how to cook and the craving to eat my comfort food that have motivated me to bring out the chef in me. Thanks to youtube cooking videos, I can now satisfy my appetite, definitely with a good mix of oozing gusto, new-found cooking skills. I could have spent roughly $5-7 dollars per meal (considering the cost of living in Tokyo), but I have chosen to challenge myself and stretch that same range of amount for complete and healthy three meals for two days or so. This same set of principles that integrate prudence, practicality, and prioritization, plus the enthusiasm to learn and challenge oneself can also be beneficial when applied to other ‘life chores’ in a real world setting. Certainly, these values are better learnt when you actually experience them than when you read those guidelines in self-help books. Indeed, experience is priceless.

Cultural Exposure and Cross-cultural understanding expose you to new horizons. An international experience provides a student the opportunity to explore the host country’s culture and the people’s way of life. For one, I have discovered more of Japan now than when I first visited it in 2012. The relative length of my stay, or better yet immersion in the Japanese society, makes so much difference in the way I see a foreign society. One might say it would be a totally different experience for an Asian to study in Europe or in the States, and vice versa. I cannot attest to that yet chiefly because in the first place, I haven’t experienced living and studying in Europe yet.

However, I am sure that adaptability level must be a significant factor in one’s decision-making process. From the perspective of a first-time independent foreign student, I believe one really needs to have not just the desire to live abroad, but also a genuine willingness to delve into a different ‘world’ out there.

During my first days in Tokyo, I was both touristy and homey. This global city has lots to offer, from culinary diversity (if you have the bucks) to technology and arts to everyday interaction with both the locals and the gaijin (foreigners, literally outsiders who are ‘inside’ Japan, eh?). However, in less than two months, homesickness struck and I wanted to return to Manila immediately. If I were in Europe, where I first set foot a month after I first lived in Tokyo, I might have wanted to return home after two weeks. I love Europe for its elegance and relative cultural mix-up (sort of melting pot), but the beautiful chaos and oriental dynamism that thrive in Asian cities are something I cannot enjoy student life without. In time, and with the help of cool pals, I have somehow overcome homesickness, I guess. But that’s just me, buddy, and that’s only based on my level of adaptability. You might want to also know the experience of those who have chosen to live in an entirely different socio-cultural environment. My European pals by the way, have found living in this Asian city enjoyable and interesting albeit the initial cultural shocks of course. Simply put, one’s restlessness for adventure and challenge is out of the question; it’s a given factor. It is the adaptability level that one has to weigh deliberately and with utmost consideration. Perhaps, one has to try it for him to find out.

I am also grateful to have been provided a room in an international lodge (you got it right, foreign non-Japanese students are housed here) for at least one year. I guess the most interesting aspect of living with a multi-ethnic environment (particularly, on staying with a bunch of very diverse people of almost 20 nationalities on the same floor) is the cross cultural experience. Probably because of my affinity to culinary arts, I find the usual cooking experience very interesting and enriching as I and my dorm-mates share our respective native dishes during meal time. The casual chat while cooking and enjoying meals also provide a good venue for cross-cultural understanding. Besides these perks, our university’s international students’ office and our neighborhood community occasionally sends invitations to cultural events and friendship activities. Lastly, the diversity of students in some classes adds flavor to the intellectual community as students share their non-sense thoughts and even interesting take on some issues, reflecting their cultural upbringing and ideas.

Change can be beautiful, provided it’s a good one. As I have stated above, learning is not always fun and easy. But it is certainly rewarding, primarily due to the apparent change that goes it with. In a little over two months of living in Tokyo, I have been learning much, and I must say there has been some significant positive change in me: in my way of thinking, in the way I interact with people, and even in the way I see life now.

An overseas student experience can be compared to a fisherman who rows his boat away from the familiar shores into the greater seas with the aim of harvesting more fish. In the same way, a student who longs to learn more must also have the courage to let go of the familiar and row his way to greater heights (more reasonable and achievable goals, not necessarily high achievements, which by the way is very traditional), to broader horizons for research and intellectual growth, and based on a personal experience, to get into a deeper understanding of WHO you live for, and eventually shredding off the thought of merely existing for trivial matters.

During one’s period of struggle, he learns more and becomes more mature.

Challenges are what makes learning beautiful. There is promise in it too.

Aaron G. Laylo is a research student at the University of Tokyo, focusing on international affairs and youth involvement in socio-economic development.

Move on.

Move on.

Today marks one year since I lost my laptop and ipad2 due to robbery incident.

This was my appeal letter which I posted on facebook two days after the devices were stolen. I posted this on my personal blog weeks after.

This was my reflection note which I wrote when I had been trying to recover from the pain and hurt of the loss. God’s grace has certainly sustained me.

There are still times when I remember the loss. But one has to move on. Let go and LET GOD.

Some people become prisoners of the past. This is why they fail to appreciate their present, and sadly, miss opportunities that come their way.

I choose to be happy today. I know God is just. He makes everyone accountable.

I don’t want to think that God punished me. However, I see the loss as a disciplinary action from a loving Father. I know I messed up the year before the devices were stolen. With the influx of success and prosperity in 2012, I must admit I lost track. I must say the loss of the gadgets and the pain that struck me must be God’s painful but kind reminder that only He is the source of everything. And that only He is the sole true source of joy. Material wealth does not last long. They will end as soon as you leave earth. His love remains the moment you find Him, the joy that springs from His love just doesn’t end, but one that you can still experience even after you leave this evanescent life, buddy.

Life is short. Spare no time for worries.

Move on. “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”  Isaiah 43:18-19

Or else, you might miss the awesome unfolding of God’s awesome surprises and awesome plans.

I AM ALIVE. The robber could have killed me to steal my devices. But God covered me by His precious blood. He protected me from harm.

God’s grace suffices. (smile)

Year-Ender Journal: NEVER LOOK BACK.

(18) “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. (19) See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” -God. (in Isaiah 43;18-19)

My 2013 had been kind of passive as a quiet pond, quite thorny as the rose’s stem, and relatively gloomy as the dusk. I guess dusk is a good methophor to represent this year which is just about to end in a few hours.

Imagine that moment when you feel that awkward gloom, when the sunny and warm mood of the afternoon meets the shadowy ambience of the night? That obscure and cold aura. It was initially lonely, awkward, and grey. Soon, this grey turned blue and bluer, and turned darkest blue.

A very long year is (not always) beautiful.

My 2013 must have been the longest year so far, painstakingly long and dotted with lots of waiting and waiting and more waiting.

When I juxtapose 2012 and 2013, I can see the huge contrast. I even tagged my 2012 a Miracle Year – graduated from UP, taught in UP as assistant prof, started in the music ministry, went to countries via a youth program and made lotsa friends. When 2013 rushed in, things turned rather bitter and dry:

My laptop and ipad 2 were stolen from the department room by some random student-looking guy. Together with these units are loads of memorable photos and useful files. Almost all my photos taken in Asia were all gone. Some lectures and AVPs which could have been useful for my students were all gone. Worse than the monetary loss is the pain of losing my brother’s first pricey gift, and my parent’s gift too.

I quit my job in May. I had deep reasons. For the next months until now, I have been jobless.

I enrolled in the PhD program. I quit as one of my professors attacked me personally. I couldn’t accept it. I finished my other course subject, though. It was tough, and I had to write papers until dawn. But it was worth it. The professor was very helpful too. Until now, I consider her a mentor.

I declined to accept some teaching invitations in some good schools, as I dared myself to try other professions but teaching. I sent my applications to other organizations; Some yes others nay. To the yesses, I humbly declined again due to future commitments that might be in conflict with the contract. To other yesses, I had to consider financial matters. In the end, I have found myself jobless. With unemployment comes either rest or slow decline of self-esteem. I experience(d) each. Go figure.

I moved away from a bunch of old mates, due to various factors. I opt not to elaborate because I don’t wish to remember the deceit, pride, and reluctance to commit oneself to well-laid-out responsibilities. A few ones remained. Others were neutral, or rather coward to stand up for what is right. People come, people go. You keep the good ones. I hate wearing masks. I’d rather be real. Besides, when people isolate you, never push yourself in. Leave, but never revenge. “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)

Instead, “Cast all your cares on (God) for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7).
Never ever revenge. If you do, you suffer. If you let God, He will uphold justice.

I have moved on. I have let go and let God, so goes the cliche.

Sprinkles of bliss come in surprises.

2013 was my misty year – foggy, dark, hazy, whatever you call it. But as the fog descended on the calm pond, occasional dews of bliss also sprinkled on me.

Losing my laptop and ipad 2 depressed me for a long time. However, during this period, I had realized that life’s essence can never be measured in material wealth and other ephemeral tangible possessions. It’s wiser to invest in eternity, in God’s Kingdom. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matt 6:19-20). During this period, points for reflection surged in. I have found that comfort one is always assured of, and one certainly feels when he chooses to hold on to God, the source of eternal hope and peace.

The loss was never easy to forget. Occassional flashbacks hit me. But hey, never look back. Never look back.

In summer, my father and brother returned home for vacation. It was the first time after many years that our family had been reunited. The last one was about three years ago. That was a fleeting but blissful moment during that long dry period of my life.

Also in May, I applied to the Japanese Monbukagakusho Research Scholarship. The application was tough and very competitive. In August, when the result of the first screening was released, I was actually surprised. I thought I wouldn’t make it. It’s all by God’s grace. I knew some panel members did not find my proposal interesting and sufficient. They must have found something in it that is promising. In December, I received word from the Japanese Embassy and from the University of Tokyo, arguably Asia’s best, and one of the world’s top institutions for higher education. I will write a separate note about this some time soon. But hey, have you gotten that awesome truth: God’s grace has lead me through, and will lead you through as well. His steadfast love is new every morning. Although not all mornings can be as blissful as you expect it to be, certainly, His grace is present.

My 2013 had been relatively gloomy as the dusk. The gloom of the dusk continued until the darkest of the night.
However, let us be reminded that the brightest stars shine in the darkest nights.
Sure, the stars appeared slowly. I just had to wait patiently.

My 2013 had been quite thorny as the rose’s stem. But hey, life is not always rosy. The rose is a rise because it has thorns. Thorns can be crowns too. Get what I mean?

The year 2013 had been kind of passive as a quiet pond. But again, wait in patience. In time, the Lord will let the stars glisten and the pond will reflect it. This is such an awesome sight, isn’t it?

Never look back. Appreciate the present. Look ahead.

Before the year comes to a close, the Lord again reminds me of this:

(18) “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. (19) See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” -God. (in Isaiah 43;18-19)

Ahhhhhh! such a sweet revelation. THANK YOU LORD!!!!! :)

I’m looking forward to His blessings this 2014. Tomorrow (2014) will be a beautiful day/ year. I hope and pray that you also experience God’s work in your life in ways that will marvel you. Happy New Year, pal.

Asian travels

MY ASIAN TRAVELS

A swift but fun travel from Japan to Brunei. Take a look at the few photos below. Enjoy lah!

At Chiyoda-ku
At Chiyoda-ku

This is in downtown Tokyo, a stone’s throw distant from the Japanese Diet and the Imperial Palace. This must be the cleanest place I’ve been to. Not a trash on the road did I see when I went around.

Harborview Park
Harbor View Park

Yokohama is like the Paris of Japan. It’s very charming. Not a lot of skyscrapers, only a number of old Eurasian buildings. The photo was taken at a hilltop park in one of Tokyo’s ‘ku’ or wards.

Independence Palace
Independence Palace

Formerly Saigon, Ho Chi Minh has more motorcycles more than cars. Traffic was chaotic. The city reminds me of old Manila – charming but a bit disorderly. Some Vietnamese I met were shy.

UNESCO Heritage Site
UNESCO Heritage Site

This is Ayutthaya, a UNESCO Heritage site in Thailand. The site is within the centuries-old city of Ayutthaya. There were a number of souvenir shops around, and you’d feel happy to see elephants as you hop from one park to another. Historic and fun place it is.

Marina Bay Sands area
Marina Bay Sands area

In the background is the Marina Bay Sands building. The place is near the Esplanade and Merlion Park, separated only by the narrow river.

Jakarta
Jakarta

This is at one of the many small stops in Jakarta’s mini-park. Quite the same with former Nayong Pilipino heritage park.

Kampong Ayer (Water Village)
Kampong Ayer (Water Village)

Cool jump shot right? Taken at Brunei’s Water Village.

Rock the Boat Part 2: A Memorable ASIAN Cruise

Hello! This is part 2 of my Rock the Boat series. For the first installment, the application process, check this out. Ok, let’s begin with part 2, 53 Days.

In 2012, I had the opportunity to be part of an international youth program that aims to foster friendship, mutual understanding, and cooperation between and among the youths of Japan and the ten-member ASEAN bloc. It is called the Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Program. One of the many perks of the program is the cruise experience; participants get to board a ship, and experience discussion group programs, solidarity group team-building activities, club activities, and various others. As in most cruises, the ship Fuji Maru (the previous programs had used Nippon Maru, then Fuji Maru, and a new Nippon Maru for this year) docked in various cities in Southeast Asia where participants get to learn about and explore the seemingly similar but interestingly diverse cultures of Southeast Asian countries.

The ship Fuji Maru (which means Fuji Ship) pulled off the anchor in Yokohama,Japan; sailed to Saigon in Vietnam, on to Bangkok in Thailand, southeastward to Singapore, further southeastward to Jakarta (Indonesia), up north to Brunei, and back to Tokyo in Japan.

Finished.

Kidding.

In this essay, I’d like to share with you the fun, excitement, even the occasional sad moments I experienced as one of the over 300 participants of the program.  This is my MEMORABLE BIG BOAT ESSAY STORY OF 2012. It’s just now that I have gotten sufficient time to write about this wonderful trip. Now, are you ready to fly to Japan and sail around the South China Sea? Here we go!

Quezon City, PhilippinesOctober 23. 4am. The Philippine Delegation’s bus drove to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. At 9am, we flew to Japan. It took us roughly four (4) hours. It was my first international trip so I was very excited. Unlike my first airplane trip to Mindanao, I was able to convince the person next to me to switch seats with me so I can get a better view from the plane window. Unfortunately, I can’t share pictures primarily because almost all my photos were saved in my laptop which was stolen (for that story, check this out, (it wasn’t bad at all, I learned these very important things in life).

Yokoso, Japan! We arrived in Tokyo (Narita) past noontime. But it should be a four-hour flight. Unlike in the Philippines, the weather in Japan on that day was kinda cool, not much breeze, but cool (smile). In relative comparison, it was like the weather in Baguio and you can actually smell the freshness of the noontime air. In absolute and quantitative terms, it was close to 12-20 degrees celsius (cute laugh); Ok, 18 or even lower. Anyway, we boarded the bus after helping the very courteous Japanese attendants. We were welcomed by the representatives of the Cabinet Office or IYEO, not sure. Anyway, they were nice and again, very courteous.

It took us an hour before reaching the place where we would be staying for around a couple of days, Hotel New Otani. Guess what? The older folks said that this is one of the most prestigious and luxurious hotels in Japan. No surprise, when we entered the hall, it looked classy and grand indeed. The attendants were very, again, courteous. By now, you can affirm your supposition that the Japanese people are yeah, courteous people. Pardon the redundancy.

(insert in fast forward mode: first night in a cozy bed, in an elegant room, and posh hotel, good sleep, first encounter with the bubbly Thai people, fresh buffet breakfast, and some chitchat; and some reminders)

It was around 12nn but the weather was ideal for a walk around the area. It was fantastic that while we were not served lunch at the hotel, we were given 1000 yen fto eat lunch wherever we want. Isn’t it awesome? I actually thought the money was too big for lunch; but it cost me around 500 yen for lunch for a decent meal.

Just before we looked for a nice food place, Aya a fellow PPY (Philippine PPY; JPY is Japanese PY, Thai is TOY and so on) asked me to take a photo of her. Suddenly, everybody gathered and asked me to take a photo of them too. I was holding cameras, and unfortunately, one camera slipped off my hand. You’re right, it died the camera way. It haunted me. Was it my fault? I believe not. If it were my cam and asked anyone to take a photo of me and he accidentally lost grip of it, I would’t ask for damage. I asked for the favor. Anyway, that’s a different story. (sigh).

(Smile again, let’s go.) Going back to eating, lemme share the funny part: we ate at a Korean restaurant in Japan. What did we know, anyway? It was good meal, thank God. Yeah, we had enough time to stroll around.

TO BE CONTINUED