Transformational Change

Transformational Change

Embracing Transformational Change Towards ASEAN 2015 Integration

(Message delivered during the recognition day of the College of Computer Studies on February 10, 2015.)

When I received the invitation, first thing I did was to look at the date: February 10 at 10AM. Good. I’ll just move my trip.

The second thing I did was to look at the bottom part: signed by Dave E. Marcial, Dean – a friend. How can I say “No”?

Third thing I did was to review the body of the letter. I am to talk to a group of tech-savvy students; 24 of them are this year’s awardees. And I have to confront myself with a giant topic: “CCS: Embracing Transformational Change Towards ASEAN 2015 Integration.”

At that point, I wanted to back out. While circumstances merited my likely availability for this event, I thought there is more to my presence than just talk. I need to talk with sense; talk with an arrow that can pierce through your brain, and, given Valentine’s is just a few days away, your heart as well.

Interestingly, ASEAN 2015 integration is really about that experience. It is more than just a systematic approach to reading an invitation letter. It is not just about who you know, neither is it about what you can do. It is more about bridging what you know with what others want to know.

Very well, although I am deficient when it comes to figures, it is your economics of sorts, your supply and demand chain; absent one, you hardly can achieve development that is sustainable.

Let me be very frank with you. The theme that I am left with no choice but be be cupid for is one that can cause a severely hemorrhagic nosebleed. It is tall and big. It is daunting. It is a challenge that whether we like or not, we really need to thrust ourselves in and be prepared for.

They say that the only constant in this world is “change”. Day in and out, by the millisecond, there is that – change. And even when we refuse to change, the process of refusing to change is hardly consistent. The introspection process that we go through is hardly the same. The factors that might weigh in on our justification to refuse to change somehow vary. And so even the act of not changing, the variables that play out, still takes on some gradient of change.

But transformational change is all about changing not only for the better, not only for the good of your self. It is all about changing for the better and for the good of what you see around you. It is all about knowing what are the issues that surround you, tickling your senses to do something about them, and you finally stepping up to the challenge and acting on them that there is that transformational change.

But change by one is not change at all. I guess that is why it is called “transformation”, for, just as man alone can’t live by bread alone, man alone can’t define and reshape the world alone as well.  However, while it may be true that you alone cannot initiate change that is pervasive, your absence and failure to appreciate what the change is for – even with your physical presence – cannot also breathe any life to what you want this world to become. It can be like your huge fiber optic cable. When something sharp hits it and one line splits, the purpose for which that cable is installed cannot be achieved.  

Transformational change, however, starts with you. As Ghandi said: “Be the change that you want to be.” And times have proven this to be true. Our complaints about how bad our world is and how lousy our government may be are sourced from an inherent realization that there is something that needs to be done, or that things are not working as they should.

Where then are you in that picture? Locate yourself.

Really, if you reflect on psychology, we live to please our selves first. That gives rise to the line: “You are like a child,” you want to get whatever you want whenever you want it. But later we realize from our parents that there is value to sharing a candy with a friend, to later, being there to helping someone understand your lessons in math, to offering a free ride to a neighbor, to volunteering for charity to training out-of-school youth on how to operate a computer and be in touch with the world via social media. Little by little, we evolve outside our own shells and start to find ourselves pulling others out of their own.

That puts us on the “transformation change” track: When we hit that point in life where what we want to do creates that ripple effect; where our goals factor in what we want others to become; when fulfillment in life is also about being able to share a piece of yourself to completing a complicated puzzle of social development.   

And that explains why your friends Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Berners-Lee have made names for themselves. You can say they were probably there for the glamour, or that they were beneficiaries of Cinderella’s fairy god mother’s wand of “wish come true”, or that they actually never thought of others when their projects only started out as a product of sheer curiosity and wild imagination. But while those may be true, their inventions turned out to be among those that generations after generations continue to be benefiting from. At some point in their conceptual plan and project implementation framework, they were much concerned not just in proving themselves right. Theirs was a vision for others. Theirs was a going concern for people. Theirs was a passion to reach out to as many as they can. Each of them saw a longing to create something innovative that would shake the world out of mediocrity and stagnation, of global progress and development that was running at turtle speed. Despite the numerous humiliation, rejection, financial loss, and physical, psychological and emotional pain, they pushed on and ahead.

Theirs were not ideas that automatically sparked Thomas Edison’s light bulb. But their passion, perseverance and commitment to create that change had enough to power up a contagion that inspires would-be technocrats to dream big.

 Why then is this transformational change needed?

In the face of ASEAN 2015 Economic Community integration, you have a region of around 600 million people competing now over the same market. ASEAN 2015 ideally closes up divides, provides equal opportunities, evens out economic development, and makes more robust the labor market.

This is the time when countries in the ASEAN agree to further opening their markets, blurring lines that spell red tapes. Filipinos can now work in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore ideally like how their respective nationalities can. In return, their counterparts can work in the Philippines under the same circumstances as those of Filipinos.

But even the Asian Development Bank (ADB) hints at this being the ideal scenario. Particularly in the labor market, when your work force is not afforded some training tagged as “high standard” as that of our counterparts in the ASEAN region, you can only dream of and hope for soaring employment rates. In fact, worst-case, the reverse could happen. You now have counterparts from richer nations in the ASEAN touted to be better skilled and more educated penetrating the labor market in the Philippines and competing over the same jobs that even at present, Filipinos are fighting tooth and nail over.

The ASEAN region has some 179 million (or 3 for every 5) who are in vulnerable employment – meaning they don’t have stable sources of income. The threat of displacement is looming over them. And as if this is not enough, 92 million have incomes that can hardly pull them out of poverty in their lifetime.

Good news though. The same ADB report discusses how building connectivity is key to attaining the goals of ASEAN community integration of sustained growth and equitable development. It highlights the critical role and the catalytic value of “hard” and “soft” infrastructure. This is especially true with booming sub-regional economic zones across ASEAN.

How then is this translated into an opportunity for you, students in information technology, management information systems, and computer science?

It paints on huge white canvass the opportunities that are in front of you. Note that ADB mentions of “soft” infrastructure. Hard infrastructure can easily be dealt with using flow of money from budget appropriations, foreign investment, and the like. But it is the “soft” that is pivotal. That is you.

You are blessed to be educated, to be receiving training in a field that many Filipinos can hardly afford. But remember that there are also others like you in programs as prestigious as yours in the country and abroad with eagle’s eyes as yours in narrowing down on employment and business opportunities.

Like finding a needing in the haystack, you need to have that shining, glimmering, splendid characteristic that can distinguish you from the rest. You need to develop within yourselves from your encounters with people in the community during service-learning, from your interactions with whoever you bump into, a definition of who you really are in a way that others can relate with you like a household product that becomes part of their life.

Transformational change in the face of ASEAN 2015 is all about you asking yourself questions and finding answers to them while in college on how with what best you have you can share with the community the most.

Connectivity is about an active knowledge of the conditions that prevail in your lifetime, and how you can serve as that tiny strand among the 7 billion that can inspire others to be the same in together finding practical and sustainable solutions, bridging people across cultures, and building communities.

Realistically, given your theme of “CCS: Embracing Transformational Change towards ASEAN 2015 Integration”, you are no different from cupid. Each of you has an arrow. Each of you has in full view your target. Each of you can aim. But before you make a hit, the theme reminds you to know first the purpose. When for Valentine’s the hit can be for people to have each other to date with and enjoy love together, it is in transformational change about making ASEAN 2015 integration one that can truly be about you empowering others to share what best they have with the most of the growing community that they belong.