The Philippines is considered to have among the richest and most vibrant civil society organizations (CSOs) in the world. These CSOs are the non-governmental organizations (NGOs), people’s organizations (POs) and mass and sectoral movements (labor, youth, women, etc.). From protests to partnerships, CSOs have committed themselves to the tasks of development, protection and promotion of people’s rights and welfare, with particular preference for the poor and marginalized. These tasks entail both small changes and reform of the structures or the system. In these tasks, sustainability is key.
The sustainability of CSOs, as they themselves recognize, is challenged, among others, by the dearth of skilled second liners and the ‘fragmentation’ of progressive movements. This shallow bench of skilled second liners can be attributed to the lack of capacity building programs for its members, among many other factors.
The practice of ‘sink-or-swim’ learning or ‘organizing-on-the-go’ (among progressive and activist organizations which make up mass movements and political groups) has worked to activate and capacitate people to address a host of urgent issues, but it has its limits. The country is also faced with the current reality of having far fewer young people going into community organizing work, which used to be where NGO leaders were developed.
Often, as organizations expand, or when seasoned PO/NGO leaders are pulled out of their organic groups to assume other responsibilities, the organizations are left to the care of young, often inexperienced successors. Unfortunately, this often comes with the absence of a thorough, programmatic, coordinated and measured intervention for leadership development. On the other hand, continuous ‘de-fragmentation’ or the splitting-up of mass movements happen as older generations of leaders take more and more political baggage while having less opportunity to sit, talk, and collaborate.
Within its mandate as a political-education foundation, one area in which FES can assist its partners as well as the general public interested in progressive leadership development is to provide training and capacity-building to potential leaders and “next-generation” or second-line cadres who can perform both organizational and political tasks. This means investing in developing the skills and abilities of individuals that are inclined to undertake activism, or those that are poised to soon be in decision-making positions in FES partner organizations.
The Academy of Political Management (APM) was conceptualized with these considerations in mind. It recognizes that in order to advance reforms that form part of the necessary ingredients for social democratic ideals, the organizations that espouse good governance, political and electoral reforms, social protection, among others, must themselves be sustainable. It recognizes the need to deepen the bench by developing skilled second liners and using them to bridge the divide between progressive movements by creating a venue for structured capacity building, shared learning, and collaborations.