International Consortium for Social Development, Asia-Pacific Branch, 2004-2016: President's Recounts, Reflections, and Foreflections.

Author:Pawar, Manohar

The Asia-Pacific branch of the International Consortium for Social Development (ICSDAP) celebrated its twelfth anniversary in 2016. I volunteered my services to the branch as its president from the beginning, and as I plan to pass on this important responsibility to the next leaders, I think it is important to reflect on the creation of the branch, its activities and achievements, and its increasing relevance in the region. What follows in this article is a brief account of how the branch was formed and launched, as well as the process of organizing six conferences and related activities in different parts of the Asia-Pacific region. The article will also include the author's reflections in terms of admissions, weaknesses, strengths, and foreflections (reflections about the future; Pawar, 2015) in terms of strategies and future directions. It is hoped that this documentation and reflective analysis may be of help in motivating leaders to voluntarily assume responsibilities and to continue building the ICSD and its branches, as well as similar organizations/associations.

Birth of the ICSDAP

Having established the European branch on a strong footing, leaders of the ICSD had been contemplating establishing an ICSDAP branch for some time. This noble intention was actualized at the thirteenth symposium of the IUCISD (then known as the Inter-university Consortium for International Social Development), which was held in Mumbai, India, in 2003-2004 under the presidency of Shanti Khinduka and branch development leadership of David Hollister, key founding members of the ICSD since its formation in the early 1970s. This symposium included a special meeting to form the Asia-Pacific branch of the ICSD, chaired by Denzil Saldhana from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, which hosted the symposium. I was one of the participants in that important branch formation meeting. Following some deliberations, Neela Dabir was nominated and appointed as convener of the ICSDAP branch and several provisional members were nominated and appointed to the branch, although others who wanted to become members of the board did not get the chance. The birth of the ICSDAP branch was an occasion of great jubilation.

The Next Step

I did not follow the progress and activities of the ICSDAP branch after its formation. In 2004, I had the opportunity to host Shanti Khinduka, president of the ICSD, at our Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, Australia, which provided important space for both personal and professional interaction and motivated me to learn more about the ICSD and to engage with its activities. In 2005, I participated in the fourteenth ICSD symposium that was held in Recife, Brazil. Neela Dabir informed me that, although standing orders had been developed, no progress had been made and no response had been received from the provisional board members. She invited me to join the board and to help to activate the branch. Branch meetings are held at every symposium, and on her request I convened and attended the ICSDAP branch meeting. A small group of people who were interested in the branch met for an informal discussion about how to move forward. One participant questioned the need to have a branch because there were so many other professional organizations. It was decided to explore the possibility of organizing the first conference in Bangkok with assistance from Yasoo Hagiwara and Miyuki Inaba from Japan. Neela Dabir and Goutham Menon from the United States encouraged me to assume the role of co-convener of the branch and assured me of support for its activities. With the support of this small group of colleagues, I agreed to become co-convener and to activate the branch.

Yasoo Hagiwara initiated a meeting with the faculty of Social Administration, Thammasat University, on October 17, 2005, and he and I traveled to Bangkok with Miyuki Inaba to attend this meeting. A thorough discussion with Apinya Wechayachai, dean of the university, and Jitti Mongkolnchaiarunya and Woothisarn Tanchai, members of the Social Administration faculty, resulted in a plan to organize the first ICSDAP conference in Pattaya, Thailand.

First Biennial Conference of the ICSDAP

The first branch conference, hosted and organized by the faculty of Social Administration, Thammasat University, under the leadership of Jitti Mongkolnchaiarunya, was held at the university's Pattaya learning facility on October 18-20, 2006. The conference was supported by the School of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Centre for Rural Social Research/Institute for Land, Water and Society (CRSR/ILWS), Charles Sturt University, Australia; the faculty of Humanities, Taisho University, Japan; the faculty of Languages and Cultures, Kyushu University Asia Center, Japan; and of course, the ICSD. Because the branch did not have adequate resources to organize the conference, the main strategy was to mobilize like-minded organizations and people who could provide help in kind or in cash. The ICSD provided US$1,000 to organize the conference and other support organizations provided in-kind and cash support. With minimal support from the organizers, Shanti Khinduka agreed to travel to Pattaya to deliver a keynote address. The theme chosen by the host organization for the conference was globalization, development, and human security in the Asia-Pacific region.

As the first conference, it demanded a significant amount of my time to process abstracts and prepare the conference program in coordination with the organizers. The experience of organizing this three-day conference in collaboration and cooperation with several international colleagues was heartening. In additional to several keynote speeches, more than sixty papers were presented, cutting across themes such as poverty, social policy, community development, disasters, children, social work, human security, and millennium development goals. Each day a plenary session and four concurrent sessions were conducted. About 150 participants from nearly twenty countries beyond the Asia-Pacific region participated in the conference. In addition, three excellent field visits were organized. A strong theme emerging at the conference concerned Thailand's policy focus on a self-sufficiency economy. This new policy advocates the country's model for a modest life, resilience, and application of reasoning and knowledge to move ahead.

The conference was not only a great success but it also laid a solid foundation for building the branch that was hoped to play an active role in facilitating implementation of the millennium development goals in the region. The presence of Frank Raymond, president of the ICSD, and Roar Sundby, president of the ICSD European branch, demonstrated support for building the Asia-Pacific branch. Jitti Mongkolnchaiarunya, who is an excellent community organizer, ensured an effective implementation of the plan and a successful conference. In the concluding session, we wanted to thank organizers with a bouquet, but because the branch did not have money, Neela Dabir generously gave $50 or $100 to accomplish this.

According to the regional standing orders, at the meeting of the general body the nominating committee put forward the following members, who were formally elected to the ICSDAP board:

* Manohar Pawar (Australia), president

* Jitti Mongkolnchaiarunya (Thailand), vice president

* Ernest Chew (Hong Kong), secretary

* Miyuki Inaba (Japan), treasurer

* members at large: Neela Dabir (India), Sharlene Furuto (Hawaii), Yasoo Hagiwara (Japan), Bambang Shergi Laksmono (Indonesia), and Victor Viray (Philippines)

At the end of the conference, I was informed that a new promotional laptop was lost from a presentation room, but according to the local laws nothing could be done because it did not have a specific owner. Two participants, Prasant Ghosh (Department of Social Work, Shantiketan, India) and Lee Ick Seop (dean of the School of Social Welfare, Yonsei University, South Korea), were so excited about the conference that they personally expressed interest in hosting the branch conference in future years. As part of their accountability to the branch, the conference organizers reported that this first branch conference resulted in neither a profit nor a loss. In some respects, this was a good achievement, but the branch remained without money to continue its activities.

In addition to the usual conference outcomes, there were some specific results worth mentioning here. First, there were two proposals for publications based on the conference proceedings. One was for an edited book, but it was declined because no publisher came forward and some key papers were not received in publishable form. Another option was a special issue of a journal. In response to an invitation from Murli Desai (former senior visiting fellow, Department of Social Work, National University of Singapore, and former managing editor of the Asia Pacific Journal of Social Work and Development) to guest edit a special issue of the journal, I submitted a proposal for a special issue on disaster intervention (Pawar, 2008) because a number of papers had been presented on this theme. In 2008, a special issue of the journal (vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 3-94) consisting of seven articles was published. Guest editing this special issue by working with a number of authors and developing articles to a publication standard was a herculean task. On the whole, it was a satisfying academic experience--it provided additional insights into helping authors publish and it was a good tangible accomplishment for the ICSDAP as a new branch.

As president of the ICSDAP, I was invited to make a plenary speech on community development in Asia and the Pacific at the biennial conference of the International Association for Community Development, Hong Kong, in 2007. I was not an authority on the suggested topic, either academically or in practice. However, because I liked the topic, I...

To continue reading