After hours of immersive adventure, we finally reached our ultimate destination,Escolta Street, to regroup, refresh and reflect. After all, SalikLakbay is supposed to be both a collaborative journey to empathize with the grassroots communities and an inward journey of self-reflection, thus the need to articulate personal reflections on the adventure. The following are the key insights that came out from the collective reflections:
Rootedness in empathy. We know and learn that innovation should be rooted in empathy. But an innovation that comes from “lived empathy” raises that to the next level. Acknowledging the innovativeness of grassroots innovators shifts the dynamics between traditional producers and consumers of innovation. Anil Gupta, the founder of the Honey Bee Network in India, explains this well: Rather than looking at inhabitants of poor regions collectively as a sink for aid and advice, we need to recognize their contributions formally as a source of inventions and innovations.
Resilient creativity. Former ALabPH Comms Consultant, AC Dimatatac, is not new to the Quiapo experience, she explained. She has visited the place countless times when she was honing her skills as a photography student. But she was always amazed at finding new things every time she visited. Describing her experience in a nutshell, “What struck me most is that Filipinos are very resourceful. I think it’s an innate ability to be creative and resilient by maximizing what we have and create something that everyone can use.”
Informal Ecosystem. Francis Capistrano first noticed the informal ecosystem in Quiapo when he asked technicians how they learned: “They would always say I’d learn on my own or someone taught me through apprenticeship. There also exists a form of hierarchy and a loose network of hackers where they know who’s good at what.” Francis also recounts that there is no notion of competition but more of cooperation — Or, as he says: “Coopetition.”
Collaborative Building. The idea of collaboration where one person builds on the improvements of another is something that Irina Velasco, the Head of Exploration of the UNDP PH Accelerator Lab, observed in Quiapo. She realized that “Not everyone sells everything, and each shop tends to specialize in specific parts to not directly compete with each other. There is also a sharing of knowledge and information and they readily share when they discover something new.”
Sharing Economy. Yi Wu and Lin Liu, both UNDP Philippines interns, compared the ecosystem in Quiapo as having elements of an informal sharing economy. Lin finds the piso-gadget as a creative way to make money while allowing other people to play the expensive gadget. This ecosystem, however, has a dark side to it as Yi observes: “This ecosystem seems to make people be stuck by making them get used to it.” She added that “They should be exposed to the external community and be connected with other parts of Manila to learn new skill sets and help them grow in the process.”