Transforming the Brotherhood

(Here is a summary of the Alpha Phi Omega (APO) Convention and foresight workshop we had a couple of months ago. A full report will be published in the APOLINAC magazine this year.)

1st APOLINAC National Convention Photo courtesy of Mr. Spider Rodas (2015)

What would APOLINAC, as an organization, be like five years from now? What are the disowned and preferred futures of the brotherhood? What might drive the best case scenario or what could push the worst case scenario in 2020? What role could APOLINAC play in a community or society driven by data and technology, creativity and social innovation? What are the hopes and fears of APOLINAC? How can the brotherhood participate in social transformation? How can it lead and learn in a generation informed by globalization, migration and the ASEAN integration? Should APOLINAC adopt new ways of thinking and organizing the brotherhood? Or should it remain an old, conventional fraternal organization as it was twenty years ago?

These were the questions that members, old and young, tried to answer in the 1st APOLINAC convention. Around 50 senior, young professional and student leaders attended the action learning exercises to explore alternative and preferred futures of APO in Laoag and Ilocos Norte. The workshop through collective intelligence charted some possible and plausible futures in the year 2020.

The purpose was to find ways to transform the brotherhood from an “organization that exist only for itself” to a brotherhood engaged in social transformation at the community, local, national and global levels.

Using futures tools and methods, APOLINAC deconstructed its “current reality” to reconstruct “the context and brand of APO” for the next five years. Futures triangle and scenario tools were applied to identify the drivers and issues that will shape the fraternity and their preferred story of the future.

The participants were divided into four groups to discuss, deliberate and imagine its three alternative future APOLINAC environments: the used future, the disowned future and the preferred. The futures triangle mapped the pushes of the present (trends), the pulls of the future (visions and hopes of its members) and weight of history (factors and issues that prohibit the organization to achieve the preferred).

In summary these are the three alternative futures for APOLINAC.

The scenarios are not predictions but rather are plausible future histories of the organization:

1. Wagwagan!
2. Ang Paglalaho
3. Braving the Winds of Change

The USED future: Wagwagan This is the business as usual story of APOLINAC. Driven by the good old days, APOLINAC remains a status quo driven fraternity in the year 2020.

Like any other organizations, APOLINAC is primarily a passive union of the old and some senior members reminiscing the past glories of the 1970s and the 1980s. While there a couple of young professionals in the organization, they would have real difficulty situating themselves in a tradition driven fraternity.

At the organizational level, APOLINAC members are disconnected or disjointed as majority of the members become detached from the “real world”. Membership and recruitment emerge as its greatest challenge and that they could no longer adjust or adapt to a transformed world. The narrative of loyalty persist and commitment are measured by some outmoded indicators. Programs and projects in this scenario are recycled and initiatives are similar to hand-me-down concepts of or from big-brothers. Consumed and exhausted, APOLINAC remained what it was five years ago.

While they were optimistic and inspired by some events in 2015, the weights of history and status quo depleted the organization severely ie funding, membership, initiatives and volunteers.

The wagwagan story illustrates a worn-out, used up and second-hand APOLINAC in 2020.

used future

Figure 1. APOLINAC in a Wagwagan Future Scenario

Indicators for the Wagwagan future story were:

1. Ganoon pa rin ang kwento at walang pagbabago; 2. Maliit ang pondo at walang bagong miyembro; 3. Hazing ay issue pa din at parang may segregation o discrimination ng membership (the culture of hazing continues despite a law prohibiting hazing; hazing is a part of the ideology); 4. APO and its members are passive, inert and unresponsive to community needs and social change; 5. Reactive seniors and recycled projects and initiatives; 6. A disjointed and a disconnected group; 7. Authenticity is problematic; mandates are unfunded; 8. A waning commitment among alumni members due to family and other obligations; 9. Lack of commitment and slow feedback; 10. Superiority of seniors and the inferiority of resident members; 11. Lack of regard to uninintiated members; 12. Dwindling number of resident members.

Ang Paglalaho Is APOLINAC’s disowned future. As the organization disavowed and rejected the call for a transformed APOLINAC in 2014 and refuse to acknowledge the strategies and reforms needed to address the gaps and weaknesses; the recurring problems and the status quo would adversely disrupt the APO society in 2020. This is APOLINAC’s image of survival and departure.

Unresolved issues and some black swan events (surprises) would damage the integrity of the organization, the welfare and safety of its senior and younger members:

1. Corruption and the lack of transparency and accountability; 2. Lack of membership and new recruits; 3. Unsustainable practices and habits that leads to the fragmentation of the organization; 4. Lack of funding and incentive leads to volunteer burn-out and vanishing projects; 5. Death in a hazing incident that leads to criminal cases filed against senior and young leaders and imprisonment; 6. The lack of ethics and a disciplinary board or emphasis on discipline leads to social aggression and violence; 7. Poor organizational management and senior leadership; 8. Lack of social innovation leads to boredom and withdrawal of young and senior members.

Ang paglalaho is the worst case scenario for APOLINAC in 2020.

It is a story of trauma and failure. It is the ultimate future shock of the organization. APOLINAC in this scenario is “rejected” and “disowned” by its members and the society at large.

pag Figure 2. Ang Paglalaho. A memory fading away in 2020?

The Preferred Future: Braving the Winds of Change

This is the story of a transformed APOLINAC in 2020. In fact, this is the preferred future of the organization. Surfing and braving the winds of change, the brotherhood and the sisterhood, re-emerges as the most distinguished, reputable and desirable fraternity and network organization in 2020.

Preferred by many, especially amongst the young professionals, its narrative of transformation and social impacts would attract people, society leaders, resources and networks here and abroad. Braving the winds of change for APOLINAC means “having the personal ability, the self-motivation and the organizational capacity to influence people and persuade the institutions that matter; to fix what must be fixed within the organization and to change and transform our communities for the better.”

2 Figure 3. Braving the Winds of Change: Much of our will is skills and finding strength in numbers

Indicators of a transformed APOLINAC are: 1. Productive, inspired and highly motivated members; 2. APOLINAC invest in highly creative social innovation projects; 3. APOLINAC participates and committed to building resilient individuals and communities; 4. Younger and senior members would channel their energies on social impact investing projects like: creating its own APO Blood Bank; the APO Foundation that offer scholarships to brilliant student members; facilitate a fraternal network and contacts for employment and social opportunities; establishment of an APO office and the utilization of social applications and information and communication technologies to communicate and network, disseminate information, give updates; expand the membership and influence of APOLINAC; 5. APO diversifies its membership and invests on a couple of income-generating projects.The APO Multipurpose Cooperative emerges and provides emergency and salary loans, start-up and business loans and facilities for members among other services that increase member’s access to social opportunities, capital and enterprises; 6. APO maximizes and harnesses the skills, talents, network and influence of its members to drive and transform APOLINAC as a distinguished fraternity and people’s organization in the province of Ilocos Norte; 7. APOLINAC initiates a strong volunteer brigade with complete tools and equipments.

The inner story in this scenario is transforming by building the organization from the inside and out; by  creating new pathways and social capital opportunities for its members and APOLINAC’s immediate community. Moral leadership, surpassing the organization’s limits, finding strength in numbers and designing rewards and demanding accountability is crucial to the future of the organization.

Make the Preferred Future Inevitable

Participants of the workshop knew that APOLINAC needed to change (otherwise the Wagwagan future becomes APOLINAC’s future) and that majority of its senior members acknowledged the promise and leadership role of their younger counterparts to chart the future of the organization. Their creativity and energy could transform the brotherhood beyond what could and might be for APO.

A cafeteria style reform – knowing and picking what works and what not – and surging above simplistic solutions and sharing and helping everyone to become productive and dependable members of the organization and the community is an aspired future.

In the afternoon workshop, participants opted and resolved to make the preferred future inevitable that is by “braving the winds of change” and creating new prospects to transform APOLINAC’s future.

Photo courtesy of APOLINAC 2015
Photo courtesy of APOLINAC (2015)