Human Resource Development (HRD) Or Human Development (HD)?


This week, ABS CBN, the country’s leading and largest television station, convened a Forum on the Filipino Future. It invited a diverse range of thought and action leaders to present papers and discuss state of the Philippines and its future. In the first week of January 2005, ABS CBN will present the results of the Forum both in prime time television, which reaches over 10 million viewers, and its magazine, Metro, which reaches almost ½ million readers.

The Forum participants discussed and debated many aspects of social life in the Philippines. Topics examined in detail included poverty, fiscal crisis, crime, corruption, education, adolescent sexuality, cancer, HIV, national governance, the creative economy, moral norms, culture, overseas Filipino workers, business, professionals, health care, globalization, liberalization, US foreign policy, local government, law makers, media, environment and others.

Participants initially thought that it would be difficult to find a common link among all the various topics. However they did find threads which ran through all the different issue they explored. Of these, individual integrity, commitment and leadership came out, again and again, in all the issues covered. Why do we have poor education? Why is our national health declining? Why does government seem irrelevant to the burning needs of many Filipinos? Again and again, the answer, along with structural impediments, was the decline in the quality of teachers, doctors, government officials, and so on.

In effect, one key result of the ABS CBN Forum on the Filipino Future converges with last week’s editorial. If we want to solve burning national and global issues, we cannot simply rely on technical, financial, and legal solutions. We have to closely examine and develop the implicit cultural processes and infrastructure that underlies these issues. And when we speak of culture, we necessarily have to deal with human beings—their identity, worldview, values, attitude and behavior, among others.

Many institutions in government, business, and civil society have an inkling of this. They have set up “Human Resource Development” (HRD) units or departments. But the very use of the term, HRD, belies the lack of understanding of what it will really take to help draw out the tremendous potential that lies in each and every one of us.

The term, “HRD” raises many questions. “Resource”, for example, leads one to ask—Is the human being simply a resource to be developed and then “consumed” by somebody more powerful (the boss)? If so, then HRD just becomes a more subtle version of ownership and slavery of the human spirit. Resource is a word, a language connected with the process of reducing something of potential value into a commodity. Is the human being then, simply a commodity to be enhanced and bought and sold in the marketplace? Who is to “develop” the human being, and for what ends? Are the talents of human beings to be “developed”, just like a mineral resource waiting to be mined and exploited, and with no regard to the deepest aspirations and intentions latent in human beings?
Or, do we, instead, want to support HD, or “human development”. HD starts from a different premise. HD knows that, ultimately, the source of profound and sustainable change can only come from the individual concerned, not an external driver. “Outsiders” can only be there as a source of help, but a kind of assistance permeated with respect for the other and guided by the real needs and latent talents of the individual.

In HD, the institution is open to the reality that the awakened human potential may be quite different from the kind of “resource” they had originally envisioned the human being would be. HRD can be a cover for the unconscious and unspoken fear that true human development can mean unsettling changes in an institution and therefore greater risk. True HD advocates and practitioners take joy in awakening human potential, and consequently human diversity and real communities built by individuals who freely choose to be in that community.

Some may say that we are nitpicking with words, that HRD practitioners mean HD in essence. But, to borrow a truism from Appreciative Inquiry or AI, a powerful method for achieving individual, institutional and societal transformation, “Words Create Worlds”. If we chose “human resource development”, we will build an inner tendency to become exploitative and instrumental in our relations with other human beings.

Once we awaken to the importance of culture and human considerations in the great task of creating sustainable societies, we also need to awaken our sensitivities to the kinds of words we use to describe our intentions. This means also awakening to a deep appreciation of the importance of the language, the words, we use to describe our reality. Our choice of language affects what we see and how we behave.

HRD will no longer do. It is HD which will bring us closer to our vision of changing our country by changing ourselves and helping others, in the language of Gandhi, be the change they want to see in the world.