Development Entrepreneurship Mentoring Conference 2023: Australian Ambassador Calls on “Reform Warriors” to be the Voice of the Vulnerable

November 22, 2023 — With support from the Australian Embassy in the Philippines, The Asia Foundation’s Coalitions for Change (CfC) program, hosted a three-day Development Entrepreneurship (DE) Mentoring Conference in Pasig City, Philippines. The conference marked the culmination of a six-month collaboration between 24 learners (mentees) and ten experienced policy reformers (mentors) a part of the DE Mentoring Program. Through the initiative, mentees received guidance from mentors to identify and pursue policy reform ideas using DE principles. Key policy reforms discussed included universal health care for vulnerable groups, transportation system reforms in local governments, the establishment of safe spaces for LGBTQ individuals, promotion of mental health care at the level of barangays, and making it easier for households to connect to the power grid.

In her keynote speech, Australian Ambassador to the Philippines HK Yu commended the achievements of the mentoring program and the mentees, referring to them as fellow reform warriors. “We exist because we want to make a difference for the better. We exist because we want to be the voice of those who are vulnerable, neglected, and forgotten by society,” she told the mentees.

She also pointed out unique aspects of this policy reform learning activity, citing the elements of mentoring and being part of a network of reformers. “Let that wonderful energy permeate from you to all those around you. Become a huge web of reform warriors who care for each other and provide a safety net for those who may need a bit of grit or confidence when they get knocked down,” Ambassador Yu encouraged.

Sam Chittick, the Foundation’s country representative in the Philippines, congratulated the mentees on their progress and policy wins and recognized CfC’s invaluable partnership with the Australian Government through its Mentoring Program. “Each of you are a realization of The Asia Foundation’s mission of improving lives and expanding opportunities across Asia and the Pacific. Many people hold desires to make the world a better place, but fewer take the active step forward to transform that desire into action.”

He also recognized the invaluable partnership of the Australian Government with CfC and its Mentoring Program. “A running theme for our DE activities is that we are better when we work together. We are one in our desire to promote a stable and prosperous Philippines,” Chittick added.

A large group, comprised of mentors and mentees take a group photo in a conference room with a bright light above them.

The 3rd Cohort of the Development Entrepreneurship Mentoring Program.

The Mentoring Conference also featured breakout sessions, workshops, and a commencement ceremony for the 24 mentees under its third cohort. Mentors and mentees alike reflected on their experiences and successes in the program, including how DE principles can address diverse issues and how it has helped them feel empowered to advocate for policy change and secure funding for their initiatives. Mia Aranas, senior science research specialist at DOST-PCAARRD and a mentee from the first batch, described how the DE Mentoring Program enabled them to perform their policy advocacy function and increase their funding by millions.

“DE has provided us with the tools, experience, and the opportunity to get our hands dirty. We incorporated all those DE tools in the proposals we co-developed with our partners. This resulted in new projects and advocacies, translating to around 40 million pesos (1.1 million AUD). Before that year, we didn’t have any advocacy projects. I am very thankful to the Australian Government, The Asia Foundation, and CfC for partnering with us in transforming scientists and researchers into reformers,” Mia shared.

This recent cohort comprises development professionals from the academe, faith-based organizations, local and international non-government organizations, private corporations, and the government. The range of policy reforms they are working on includes:

  • Revised Children’s Code and revised GAD Ordinance of 2023
  • Operationalizing anti-political dynasty of the Bangsamoro Electoral Code
  • Local policy to support the implementation of Universal Health Care (UHC) for vulnerable groups
  • Stopping the illegal collection of undersized sandfish
  • Inclusion of medical and health aspects as basis for parole
  • Reforming transportation systems in LGUs
  • Declaring major rivers of Mt. Talinis as critical watersheds
  • Single-use plastic ban in Zamboanga
  • Safe Space ordinance in Iligan City
  • Accelerating LGU competitiveness with online economic data
  • LGU assistance for single parents
  • Setting up skilled breastfeeding service delivery network in LGUs and the private sector
  • Integrating gender data into disaster risk reduction and climate change management
  • Social protection for fishers
  • Navigating systematic change for non-profits
  • Promoting barangay-level mental health care and response
  • Connecting households to electric service
  • Developing reform in the Persons with Disabilities (PWD) sector
  • Recognizing the rights of nature
  • Improving Internal Organizational Processes the DE Way

The mentees shared some common lessons gleaned from their experience, including how to practice the DE principle of “Just Start” despite their limited time and resources and, to persevere with “Grit” to break down barriers and overcome challenges tenaciously. Mentees acknowledged the invaluable support of the Australian Government and The Asia Foundation during their mentoring journey.

“Hugot, gigil, pohon… these are the three Filipino words that I will try to use to synthesize my experience in this mentoring journey. Words that encapsulate our Filipino-ness, or our sensibilities as Filipinos. It’s this core that is connected deeply to our soul that explains so much about our experiences, background, pains, and our heartaches. DE allowed us to see this journey with kinder eyes. DE allowed us to be human because DE does not judge,” Levi Jun Miscala of Iligan Safespace, said.

The mentees are committed to pursuing their policy reforms and the conference provided a venue to widen their network and explore common reform interests.

For more information, email: [email protected].

The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives and expanding opportunities across Asia and the Pacific. Informed by 70 years of experience and deep local knowledge, our work is focused on governance, climate action, gender equality, education and leadership, inclusive growth, and international cooperation. We work in more than 20 countries through our 17 permanent country offices and programs across Asia and the Pacific, supported by a headquarters in San Francisco and an office in Washington, DC. Our funding comes from a diverse array of bilateral and multilateral development agencies, foundations, corporations, and individuals.

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Related programs: Good Governance, Law and Justice
Related topics: Coalitions for Change

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