Concept Paper for the Asian School of Transformational Development (ASTRAD)

Project Description

This project seeks to establish an Asian School for Transformational Development (ASTRAD), offering both formal and non-formal courses. It will have two main stakeholding organizations on the ground, namely the Institute for Studies in Asian Church and Culture (ISACC) and the Training and Development Institute (TDI) of the Center for Community Transformation (CCT). They will serve as academic and logistical hub, with partner organizations in the Asia-Pacific region that will serve as users and market base for the trainings and provide a wider pool of resource persons and collaborators.

The formal courses will be MA-level degrees on a) Transformational Development, b) Business and Social Entrepreneurship, and c) Inter-Cultural Studies. There will be core courses on theological, mssiological and social development perspectives that all students in these three specializations will have to take. These will be taught by a core faculty coming from ISACC’s pool of 35 Fellows who are mostly in theology and the social sciences and CCT’s own pool of management and business entrepreneurs. Various experts from the Asia region and beyond will be invited to serve as adjunct faculty.

The students will be in cohorts that come together as a learning community, both face- to-face and online, supervised by faculty. The use of technology for online learning will enable students to not be away from their context for too long and do the course while engaged in their work. As of the moment, ISACC is winding up work on a TransDev course online, commissioned by World Vision-Asia for its staff and partners in the region.

The non-formal courses will be modular seminars on, say, specific topics needed by faith- based organizations, like Integral Mission, project management, fund-raising skills and other capacity-building that addresses the practical training needs of NGOs and their grassroots communities. Participants in these seminars will be streamed into formal degree courses as necessary.

The School will have a strong research component, encouraging reflection and the documentation of grassroots experiences and learnings by student participants. There will be a publications component as well, coming from both the academic work of the students and the writings of faculty. This will serve as empirical resource base for development and missiological thinking that truly grows out of sensitive engagement with the spiritual traditions and cultural contexts of the Asia region.

Brief Background and Rationale

The idea of formally establishing a duly-accredited School evolved out of ISACC’s experience of conducting Transformational Development, a certificate course that runs for two weeks annually and has nurtured development practitioners that now number more than a thousand, scattered across the country and in the Asia region as a whole.

This training course started in the ‘90s in response to the need for inculcating a biblically sound and wholistic mission frame for professionals working in faith-based development organizations (FBOs) in Asia. It helps professionals to translate operationally the implications of Integral Mission in the conduct of their work as organizations.

While many faith-based organizations in past decades have embraced the concept of wholistic mission, very few leaders know how to stream this commitment into their actual operations in terms of programs and processes. Many FBOs have in fact gone astray, into what is now known as ‘mission drift.’

The uniqueness of the course lies in integrating both cultural and spiritual sensitivity into the theory and practice of development. It is intentionally rooted in the cultures of Asia, highly interactive, experience-based and draws resource persons and participants from a variety of disciplines and diverse cultures. It also has in place a wealth of social capital and goodwill all across the region because of its impact on the individuals and organizations that have experienced the course as it has evolved the past two and a half decades.

The course has drawn participants from faith-based organizations working in this country, as well as in places like India, Nepal, Indonesia, China, Cambodia, Hongkong, Japan, Singapore, the US and Norway. It is conducted by a multidisciplinary team of core staff and resource speakers drawn from both universities and seminaries here and abroad.

The course has had quite an impact in helping participants do Integral Mission, based on

initial feedback and ISACC’s continuing mentoring relationship with some former participants.

Customized trainings for development organizations based here and globally has revived interest in the idea of a School, this time with two organizations serving as center and academic hub and in partnership with like-minded organizations in the region.

The time has now come to level up the TRANSDEV certificate course into a degree- granting School, besides continuing to serve the needs of grassroots development practitioners.

The Center for Community Transformation, on the other hand, has been running an MBA course through its Training and Development Institute. It has been training managers and staff of microfinance organizations, both its own staff and other Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) in Africa and the Asia-Pacific region through the collaboration of its global partners.

It is hoped that through the partnership of ISACC and CCT’s TDI, the School will be able to, first of all, train staff of local organizations and increase effectiveness in its various ministries, and later expand its training reach to include other faith-based organizations in the region and beyond.

General Objectives for the School

  1. Build a new generation of Filipino and in general Asian leaders that combine executive skills with servanthood, with a deep understanding of Integral Mission and its implications organizationally;
  2. Provide a venue for renewing vision, energy and fresh learning for career officers of faith-based development organizations;
  3. Serve as a catalyst for the creation of a community of servant-leaders in the region who will mutually support, sharpen and build each other up for more effective and sustained ministry;
  4. Ensure continuity of faith-inspired compassion by sharpening the spiritual and missional sensitivities required for an authentically wholistic ministry for and among the poor.

Course Description

Course objectives:

At the end of the multi-cultural and multi-disciplinal courses, the participants are expected to:

  1. Arrive at an understanding of what it takes to do a truly wholistic and transformative development work in a spiritually-sensitive region;
  2. a general grasp of prevailing development theories and how these have influenced the participants’ own assumptions as organizations and development practitioners;
  3. Have acquired biblical perspectives, spiritual sensitivities and cultural tools necessary for spiritually discerning engagements with grassroots communities and empowering local leadership;
  4. Develop their own framework for critiquing and assessing the level of wholism (‘Spiritual Integration Quotient’ or ‘SIQ’) and detecting mission drift in their work;
  5. Appreciate the role of culture in development and learn how to contextualize and ensure relevance and culture-fit in their development approaches and processes;
  6. Sharpen practical professional skills by exposure to best practices in various ministries and organizations similar to their own;
  7. Experience spiritual refreshment and develop relationships and friendships tat can serve as lifelong sources of mutual learning, encouragement and support.

Course features:

The course is a balanced mix of interventions aimed at deepening the participants’ spiritual life, enriching theological and empirical knowledge, sharpening technical skills, enhancing management and leadership efficacy and fostering relationships and sensitivity across cultures.

In particular, it features:

  1. Biblical reflections/perspectives relevant to understanding poverty, social change, culture and globalization and other topics;
  2. Overview of development theories and approaches;
  3. Ministry-focused best practices, case studies, tutorials, exposure tours for practical learning;
  4. Spiritual meditation exercises for renewing energy and wholeness among highly- stressed development practitioners.

A Multi-Disciplinal, Multi-Cultural Partnership

Aside from the curriculum that is already in place, the courses will also incorporate elements that reflect the competencies and needs of partner organizations involved. CCT will be in charge of developing the Masters in Business and Social Entrepreneurship. ISACC will mostly handle the Masters in Transformational Development and the Masters in Cross-Cultural Studies.

Other organizations who may come into the partnership, like World Vision-Asia, may also provide other inputs, like developing specific courses that have grown out of their development practice and experience in serving children and youth. The Brisbane School of Theology in Australia has also signified interest in partnering with the School in some way.

The School shall be firmly rooted and institutionally embedded locally, even as it seeks to widen its cultural and knowledge base by intentionally building relationships with partner institutions in the region. The School will seek accreditation with the Asia Graduate School of Theology, and also seek wider accreditation as the School grows.

The following are the areas of collaboration and partnership:

Course development and actual conduct of trainings

1. ISACC will be primarily in charge of facilitating the course development and in shaping the academic software of the School;

2. Resource persons/technical inputs shall be invited from the partners according to institutional expertise.

Promotion and recruitment of participants

Participating institutions will jointly publicize and recruit participants from their respective networks, with ISACC serving as hub for communications.

Organizational development

Partners will be invited to help in the organizational development of the School, particularly WTRC.

Campus facility, if needed, shall be mostly in the CCT Tagaytay Development Training Center and ISACC’s Valley of Peace training Center in Puerto Galera, Mindoro.

ISACC will be in charge of overseeing the running of the academic courses and serve as venue for non-residential seminars and courses for participants in Metro Manila.

Other partners will also be invited to pitch in and help in establishing the School, both in its academic expertise and institutional growth.

— Melba Padilla Maggay, Ph.D