The merging of the Office of Research and Publication (ORP) and the Office of Continuing Education and Extension (OCEE) into the Research and Extension for Development Office (REDO) of the College of Social Work and Community Development (CSWCD) was approved by the Board of Regents (BOR) in its November 23, 1989 meeting. To the members of the BOR this meant the streamlining of operations in the unit, thus, maximizing of University resources. But to us, the Extension staff of the OCEE, the endorsement by the BOR was a milestone in the history of the unit.
It was primarily the Extension staff of the OCEE who germinated the idea of integrating the two offices in early 1988. It was in our field practice that we saw the necessity of conducting researches to engender relevant extension initiatives for the sectors who we served. Thus, the need for integrating the two functions became more evident.
Through informal lunch and after office discussions, the idea became more seriously considered and the conceptualization became clearer especially since some of us also handled research projects. We then convinced members of the ORP staff and some faculty about the benefits of this move. The spade work was not easy because of the mixed reactions that we got. However, later that year, we were made to present our concept to the College Policy and Planning Committee (CPPC), citing the experience of the Office as an example of the viability of the concept.
A series of discussions were held at the College level to enable the CPPC to appreciate the perspective that we were promoting. We maintained that addressing social development issues can be proactive and in consideration of the ever changing situation by purposively disseminating and concretely utilizing research results as seen in the extension activities conducted.
Having in mind that the goal of the College was not only to prepare socially responsible students but also assist in promoting the well being of and empowering the marginalized communities that the Unit would be serving, we were quite sure that our work would create a greater impact. Our efforts enhanced knowledge production through information exchange and utilization with partner communities, hence, enlivened the teaching of the students. The knowledge products made by the Office have been used as reference materials by faculty and students for their subject areas and other academic undertakings and by development practitioners.
Our Advocacy for a Change in Viewpoint
REDO may be one of the few offices in the Diliman Campus which operates as a research and extension arm of an academic unit. This aspect in the structure of the CSWCD is noteworthy to mention because most academic units and institutes in the University of the Philippines (UP) are doing either mainly research or extension work. With the merging of the two offices, our advocacies were clearly established: (a) that the members of the research and extension staff would be carrying out both functions and (b) that both functions are equally significant in an educational institution. It was also apparent to us, as I had stated earlier, what the goal of the College is. This was contrary to the viewpoint of many academicians giving higher estimation to research undertakings.
With the mandate of UP to contribute to nation building as part of its social responsibility and a wider space given to carry out its goals and objectives, REDO actively promoted the transformative nature of development. Theories of growth that subscribed to the upliftment of people’s lives, particularly the disadvantaged had been introduced, discussed and analyzed in the light of prevailing conditions and current practices and beliefs. In appreciating all of these factors, (we) the members of the research and extension staff took it upon ourselves to assume a critical stance in order for (us) to come up with programs and projects that would be liberating for partners and beneficiaries. In its involvements, the Office took effort in trying to make innovations in its practices to create an impact in the lives of its partners (Tojos: 2009, p. 306).
In our “new environment”, we experienced a number of setbacks, both internal and institutional. Questions about the support role of the Office as well as the nature and scope of the staff’s responsibilities became more persistent at the levels of the college as well as the campus. In her synthesis paper entitled Towards Strengthening Community Extension Services, Ma. Theresa V. Tungpalan, a former director said:
Historically, the Research and Extension for Development Office (REDO) has long struggled in redefining the traditional mold of what an extension office is, within an academic unit (CSWCD Development Journal:1998, 74).
However, REDO’s strength emanated from the dedication of its staff complement. Some of us developed innovative projects that addressed current issues like gender, aging, disaster, governance, and social exclusion, among others. As I shared in one of the articles that I wrote,
- Our community outreach kept us in touch with reality;
- In working with community groups, direct service workers, local government officials and other stakeholders, our perspectives in development work widened. Our appreciation of development theories was enhanced.
- Our documentation of REDO and CSWCD programs and projects expanded our local collection of teaching and training materials. It also helped systematized our experiences through situation analysis and discoursing, project evaluation and feed backing of research results.
- Our networks expanded as we actively promoted our advocacies. Our active engagement paved the way for multidisciplinary involvements and opportunities for influencing partners to review or consider certain recommended frameworks and strategies (2009, 311).
For me who worked hard to make the merger a reality and who stayed on can say that our efforts did not go to waste. In 2005, REDO was recognized for its innovative program for and with older persons and was awarded the Gawad Chancellor Award para sa natatanging programang ekstensyon.
Many of my batch mates and friends have often asked me why my passion in social development endeavors has not waned. As I examined myself, there were a number of people, event and opportunities that came my way which inspired and motivated me to go in spite of odds and disappointments sometimes.
The dissent in the campus as well as in the larger society during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s had an impact on me not just as a Social Work student but also as a person. I was also blessed with mentors like Prof. Flora Celis Lansang, a faculty of the Department of Social Work, a visionary and an untiring advocate who was ahead of her times in the early seventies. I was privileged to be selected as one of her students to attend the training in organizing and advocacy, together with professionals from other disciplines, when she started the conceptualization and implementation of the fish protein project in Palawan. In the exposure activities, I was then able to appreciate the impact that extension services would create on the lives of poverty stricken communities. To a large extent too, the organizations that I worked for contributed to the development of my personhood as well as my capabilities in the area of social development.
To sum up my practice, I can say that my exposure to various sectors, settings and situations definitely made me a well rounded practitioner and I see these opportunities as blessings in many ways. My being of service even at this point in my life is my way of showing appreciation.
*The Research, Extension and Professional Staff belong to the academic non-teaching sector of the University of the Philippines.
Tojos, Leticia S. Extension Programs: Keeping Academic Institutions in Touch with Reality. Proceedings of the First Asia Pacific Regional Conference on Community Development. Quezon City: UPCSWCD, 2009, pp. 303-313.
Tungpalan, Ma. Theresa V. Towards Strengthening Community Extension Services. CSWCD Development Journal. Quezon City: UPCSWCD, 1988, pp. 74-85.