“Bridging Leadership” is a management approach that promotes processes that address social inequities. It’s all about leading collaborative action to bring about social change.
The Center for Bridging Leadership (CBL) has its roots in a global research project conducted by the Synergos Institute in 2000. The project brought together practitioners from different parts of the world to articulate this leadership approach through the development of some 20 cases on Bridging Leadership and a paper by Steve Pierce entitled, "Bridging Differences and Building Collaboration: The Critical Role of Leadership".
This inspired Prof. Ernesto Garilao, then of the Asian Institute of Management, to continue the research and application of Bridging Leadership through the Center (formerly called the Center for Bridging Societal Divides). Since then, Bridging Leadership has grown and developed under the CBL.
The Context and Our Mission: Calling the Leaders of our Time
The Philippines is a country beset by complex divides. It is marked by high inequality not solely in terms of income distribution, but also in terms of access to basic social services such as health and education. This situation of high inequality leads to the continuing presence of widespread poverty throughout the country.
The issue of leadership finds itself at the core of weak institutions and continuing societal divides. The complex leadership challenge of our time demands a new breed of leaders, armed with different leadership knowledge, skills, and values that will enable them to effectively handle complexity. This new breed of leaders must enjoy credibility, integrity, and authority recognized by different sectors; understand the complexity of challenges and address the system that creates this output; bring diverse stakeholders to co-own the issue and its solution; and lead the process of coming up with new institutional arrangements and solutions to addressing complex challenges.
Good leadership will be critical to building institutions that promote equity, inclusion, peace, and prosperity. As we confront a Philippines that is increasingly beleaguered by complex divides, it is clear that the way we do leadership in the past is not enough for the uncertain and new problems that we now face.
Our Response: Developing Bridging Leadership for a Society Without Divides
Our mission is to develop Bridging Leaders who will address and diminish societal divides in Mindanao, the Philippines, and the rest of Asia. To achieve this mission, we will:
- validate theoretical assumptions/hypotheses of bridging societal divides to contribute to the theoretical development of Bridging Leadership as an emerging school of thought;
- develop learning materials in the form of cases, teaching notes, framework papers, and the like to document Bridging Leadership experiences;
- share Bridging Leadership-related research and publications to a broad group of academic stakeholders;
- design and offer innovative programs on Bridging Societal Divides;
- develop academic institutional partners to aid the spread of the Center's pursuits both in reach and in depth;
- establish and strengthen a network of alumni that could contribute to the Center's resources, body of knowledge, and activities;
- illustrate the broad range of experiences of bridging societal divides; and
- build the brand of the Center and of Bridging Leadership to generate awareness about both.
Bridging Leadership involves three main segments: building ownership of the response, developing co-ownership with other stakeholders, and together engaging in the co-creation of better, more inclusive societies.
The Bridging Leadership Framework
The bridging leader whose values and principles compel him to make a personal response to address inequities and societal divides recognizes that the complexity of the problem can only be solved by convening the stakeholders to the divide.
Through a process of dialogue and engagement, the stakeholders arrive at a common vision and collective response to the situation.
The stakeholders then adopt a social innovation that leads to the societal outcome, and carries it out through new institutional arrangements. The bridging leader and the coalition of stakeholders ensure that these institutional arrangements have clear and measurable goals with the required capability and resources to demonstrate results. They regularly review their progress vis-à-vis the desired societal outcome and assess the individual and collective roles and accountabilities in the process. Over time, these arrangements become formal processes that lead to a reform-conducive policy environment and responsive programs and services. Other stakeholders are invited to the coalition regularly, and new bridging leaders are developed to sustain the transformation process towards societal equity.
In line with the Institute’s direction to produce cutting-edge research to position AIM as a thought leader in and beyond the ASEAN region, the Center has formulated a five-year research agenda. The research agenda builds a systematic exploration and documentation of the Center’s knowledge and experience using the Bridging Leadership (BL) framework for the past 13 years.
The Center has gathered a wealth of information from the Bridging Leadership programs it has conducted. This brings a two-fold research agenda which aims to (1) validate knowledge on the use of the BL framework and how this has contributed to a person’s (leader’s) work; (2) and evaluate how the BL framework, alongside other leadership approaches, has made an impact on the communities of our Bridging Leaders or graduates of the Center’s fellowship programs.
This agenda presents the research thrust of the Center for the next five years, from July 2016-July 2021. Two areas of concentration have been identified by the Center, namely: (1) a longitudinal study examining and revisiting past BL Fellows and degree-program students and (2) the Leadership Initiative Index (LII). The efforts of both studies will be led by an AIM Faculty member who clearly possesses expertise in each field and a competent research team to fulfill the Center’s objectives of ensuring high-quality research outputs.
World Bank - Mindanao Bridging Leadership Program
The overall objective of this program is to build a cadre of Bridging Leaders in Mindanao who can address issues like peace, education, health, land conflicts, poverty, and poor local governance, among others. It has two key components: Leadership Formation and Institutional Development.
Bridging Leadership Fellows Program
The Bridging Leadership Fellows Program demonstrates a new kind of leadership – bridging leaders who are able to analyze the dimensions of a divide clearly and identify all the stakeholders with whom they can form linkages of understanding and action. They have a vision of transforming the lives of the marginalized by diminishing existing divides. They are the expression of AIM's mission to contribute to the development of Asian societies.
Islamic Leadership Development Program
In May 2008, the Asian Institute of Management-TeaM Energy Center launched the Islamic Leadership Development Program (ILDP). It is steered by the vision to contribute to the development of productive, peaceful, and progressive Muslim communities in the Philippines and South East Asia through a leadership development program that is aligned with the teachings of the Qur'an and the Sunnah.
Future Bridging Leaders Program
The Philippines is a country beset by complex divides, and the high economic growth rates in recent years have not rendered a better quality of life for the country’s poor. Large income gaps among social-economic groups, weak institutions, and unequal access to basic social services and economic opportunities all contribute to a stagnant poverty incidence and other social ills.
The Center believes that effective leadership is key to addressing societal divides. The country has benefited from strong leadership, anti-corruption efforts, and a more transparent and accountable government. However, leading transformative change requires a new kind of leadership.
With the strategic reforms now in place to transform systems and institutions, achieve inclusive growth and ultimately uplift Filipinos’ lives, comes the recognition that all stakeholders must converge and collaborate. The issue of inclusion and giving voice to all stakeholders is thus significant for these initiatives to translate into positive outcomes if sustainable peace and development in the country is to be truly achieved.
The Future Bridging Leaders Program aims to develop youth leaders who will be catalysts for social change. Bridging Leaders are set apart by their systemic view of complex issues, sense of ownership for the same, skills in collaboration and engagement with multi-stakeholders, and their innovative approaches to creating sustainable institutional arrangements.
Public and Customized Programs
In support of the mission of the AIM-TeaM Energy Center to develop Bridging Leaders, it is important that necessary scale and sustainability be reached. Aside from Bridging Leaders who go through the flagship programs of the Center (i.e. BLFP, CRLDP, ILDP, etc.), there is a need to create programs that push the practice and advocacy of Bridging Leadership to a wider audience of development practitioners, managers, and leaders.
The Center's response is to create Public Programs and Customized Courses that address this need. These programs, which run anywhere from a day, a week, or around a month, provide a fundamental orientation to Bridging Leadership and its core concepts and practice. These public programs, while using the core content and process of Bridging Leadership, are adapted to the context and specific needs of the managers and leaders who take them.