Guiding question: How can one use conflict and economic hardship as a catalyst for an emergent economy based on community resilience
Context: Bohol Circumferential Road Project aimed to connect coastal provinces to the produce producing and tourist drawing interior. Although a reputable business man held the sub-contract, distrust and accusations ran high amongst the provincial Barangays (governing towns) because he was considered an outsider from the big island and he was also at odds with the entrenched communist Rebels who controlled the passage to the interior.
Rebels rejected any efforts by authorities to be relocated because their encampment was all they had. To thwart the contractor’s efforts they resorted to acts of sabotage.
The community of the neighbouring barangay feared the Rebels and did not want them to disrupt their lives. Integration efforts was viewed as an encroachment on their livelihoods.
The local Contractor the grew impatient with the Municipality’s “inability to deal with the problem” and threatened to withdraw before going bankrupt.
Force and violence were the likely next step, but that would threaten the safety of the Municipality.
The Rebels did not recognise the current government and held onto their territory as an oasis to practice their community beliefs, but were socially and financially isolated.
What happened: A series of contextual assessments and awareness based experiences revealed key untapped individuals who proved to be crucial for designing a sustainable solution. These were the bridge builders and trusted go-betweens that worked with the seemingly disparate parties who brokered communication and suggestions which lead to dynamic discussions, new relationships, and opportunities. In the absence of blame and projected fear, solutions emerged that were simple and substantial.
A community-based business was created ran by the prominently respected and trusted family of the community; the company employed the communist Rebels to build the new roadway and homes for the relocated interior community. The hired Contractor sub-contracted the new community enterprise with an agreement to equally share any early or on-time bonuses with each employee.
This development was only the beginning; the local business owners of several Barangays decided to offer weekly life-skills classes for their “interior neighbours” and local poor; several Barangays took collections in their local churches to cover the costs and resources to build homes for their new neighbours; local businesses supplied materials for the construction; and a local pastor who had a good relationship with the “interior neighbours” taught local policemen how to interact and communicate with the Rebel community.
The community based company formed in the Municipality worked on two other sections of roadway for the Bohol Circumferential Road Project, using the same business model. Later the company continued with other construction contracts, often completed projects ahead of schedule.
What shifted: As primary stakeholders of the Bohol Circumferential Road Project were able to perceive the rebels as partners rather than a problem to be solved, the imminent conflict and potential violence shifted towards relevance, connection and opportunity. Shared awareness of all those involved and affected allowed the deeper problems of distrust and prejudice to be processed through non-violent communication and resolution which uncovered the pressing needs begging to be met. From that understanding, opportunities for community, economic and social growth were easily identified and enthusiastically executed from both the bottom and top resulting in multiple levels of measurable impact which included a 10% increase in household incomes, increased tourism, 70% increase in the distribution of goods to and 50% increase from further the interior and among others a lasting partnership.
Executed by Alycia Lee of Instigation in partnership with the Municipality of the Buranguay. All pertinent names are withheld due to confidentiality agreement.