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Ramon Magsaysay Award Winner Dr. Alip Felicitated

Nirmala Garimella
10/27/2009

“Women are the best participants in the world of microcredit” according to Dr. Jaime Aristotle Alip, Founder & Managing Director, CARD MRI, Philippines and a Ramon Magsaysay award winner”. That is why, 22 years ago he put his faith in the women in Philippines and founded CARD or Centre for Agriculture and Rural Development.  Dr Alip was speaking at the home of Anuradha & Prashanth Palakurthi, CEO, Reflexis Inc where he was felicitated by his gracious hosts and were joined by various local well wishers. The occasion was Dr Alip visit to the United States and the collaborative project initiative with the Southern New Hampshire University.

 Boston based guests, Prof David Vogan, Prof of Mathematics at MIT, Marc Pollick, Founder and Chairman of Giving Back Foundation, Bhargav Marepally, Founder CEO of GSS America and Bhaskar Panigrahi, CEO of Cambridge Technology Enterprises Ltd also attended. Philippines Guests who were present that evening were Dr. Rosalina O' Fuentes, Dean, SAIDI School of OD & President, SAIDI Foundation and Ms. Marghieth Garcia, South East Asia Program Director, SCED.

CARD is based on the premise that the people who need the loans are those without any access to banks and other basic services. What started on a small scale is now the country largest financial institution much of which is owned and managed by the very people who took loans from it. Most of them are women who own small businesses like stores, vegetable carts or handicrafts. The first loan is paid over 6 months to a year and no questions are asked. When this is paid a bigger loan is given. Today many of them are covered by some sort of insurance so in the case of a natural calamity or death there is immediate help from CARD.

 I spoke to Dr Puneetha Palakurthi, Assistant Professor in the International Masters Program who has been associated with CARD for some time. She teaches project management, research and evaluation of development projects at SNHU. I asked her to tell us more on what the program is and the partnership with CARD.

Extremely modest on her own role in initiating this venture, it is evident that she is passionate about the work that is being done. As she herself admits “I think it is my passion and belief that these kinds of capacity building programs should be really accessible and feasible for the practitioners working on the ground.  So, there has to be a partnership model between the excellent academia of the western world blended with hands-on cutting edge practices of the developing world to make the curriculum truly enriching for the development sector”.

 

 Background on how it began- In 2004, I went to the Philippines to work on an Impact Assessment of a local MFI (CEV - an affiliate of World Vision) when I met Dr and Mrs. Alip. One evening as we were  discussing the capacity building needs of the MF sector in the Philippines, Dr. Alip was describing his vision for the future and how a capacity building program should be (limited residential nature, more practice based  rather than focusing on the theory and practitioner oriented rather than academic oriented etc.) We (School of CED at SNHU) run such a program in USA and hence it was very heartwarming to see that a leading practitioner would have similar ideas about this.  I eagerly told him about our program and naturally he was intrigued (it seems he was offered a scholarship to attend this program in 1986 - the year he started CARD.) I got back and mentioned to our Dean Michael Swack the interest of CARD to partner with us to start a program in the Philippines. Aris and I exchanged lot of ideas on how a program should be made feasible for the real practitioners (who can't spend time away from their office/ field) to attend. Later, the tsunami happened and the school responded by offering an international program (May, 2005) with limited residency requirement (6 and half weeks per year) and completely project based curriculum. Aris was very interested in it and sent his son (Julius Alip) who continues to work in CARD BDS Unit now. Then there was no looking back. Every year Aris sends 3 - 4 staff from CARD-MRI to come to US for MS in ICED.

 

What is the Program - Each student is expected to complete 39 credits to graduate and must complete a project and write a thesis based on that project. It is a hybrid program with 4 terms (13 months) of which the first and last terms would require the students to come to the campus for 6 and half weeks. In between for two terms the students would do a real life project in their communities and take online courses with a continuous mentorship on the projects.

 

Partnership - As we got a handle on this program, we took CARD upon its offer to partner with us to start a satellite program in the Philippines. That is when the SAIDI School of OD joined the partnership to provide the academic anchor in the Philippines. SNHU, CARD Development Institute and SAIDI School of OD have partnered to offer an MS in ICED with Microfinance specialization- MoU was signed in 2007 for an initial period of 3 years. SAIDI School of OD provides the academic platform and its expertise in Organizational Development, CARD Development Institute offers its expertise in Microfinance management and our school offers the courses in project management, financial management and the CED theories. This program is accredited by NEASC and the degree is offered by SNHU. Students will come to the SAIDI campus for 6 and half weeks in May- July (attend F2F courses and do project design) and then do online two terms and then finally come for another 6 and half weeks to attend F2F classes and present their project results (evaluation) and finally submit the thesis to graduate.

 

The first cohort was started with 13 students in July 2008. CARD sponsored 9 out of those 13 first groups of students. This group has successfully graduated on August 27, 2009.  Aris was the commencement speaker of course. The second cohort started in July 2009 has 16 students (14 sponsored by CARD.)

 

Her role- I like to think of myself as a catalyst. I saw the opportunity and worked real hard to make it happen. I helped streamline the processes internally and provide the support when it needed most. I provided the support in recruitment, marketing, admissions and scholarships etc etc for almost two years now. I even recruited the staff on the ground, identified and selected local adjunct faculty (very well known NGO practitioners.)

 

 As with any other initiative there were lots of birthing problems - especially the finance. I was the administrator for the program without any salary, and even taught 5 courses (over my teaching load) without any remuneration. Though I personally take lot of pride in it, I do realize that this is a real team effort. Without the help of my colleagues and partners this wouldn't have been possible.This year with a cohort of 16 students, I feel that this would become a strong and self reliant program with enough dedication and support from all the partners involved. For me this is the time to explore the new ideas of the world!  



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