This underappreciated role is the key to long-term growth



If you switch on the TV to check the news or go online, as more of us do these days, you will not find a shortage of talking heads espousing the virtue of development. This is especially true during election season— when development has buttressed the platform of many a politician.

Despite this ubiquity, I still think there is a need to improve the contemporary understanding of development. Without a strong theoretical foundation, individuals or organizations will be unable to produce the tangible results they strive for.

Some international development agencies, for example, preach development but do not grasp the value of human capital. And then there are companies that need to improve their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs by investing in qualified CSR managers.

Development is like world peace. Everyone wants it but few know how to achieve it in practical terms, especially while taking into account governmental, economic, and societal frameworks. Development is about helping businesses become sustainable as well as strengthening the economy and reducing poverty. To achieve all of that, everyone needs to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

We need to find better solutions in areas such as urban planning, transport management, waste management, labor productivity, access to healthcare and slum management. These are the areas that drive the engine of the economy and pull people out of poverty.

The right stuff
There are certain people who have the right skills and knowledge to address such issues and have made it their life’s mission to tackle them. They are called development managers.

Good development managers need to possess a certain level of selflessness to put the needs of the community above their own, balancing business and society. Even though some people may believe in this mission in the same way a Miss Universe candidate believes in world peace, equal rights, caring for the environment and so on, we need people who are actually willing to put themselves on the line in order to make it happen.

I’ve met such individuals, both in the field and in the classroom. Many of them do not have the financial means to match their dedication. Yet they persevere. You will find them in government and in civil society organizations.

They are under-appreciated — at least, financially — and yet they hold the key to our country’s long-term growth. If they remain under-appreciated for much longer, I’m afraid we may start losing good people.

Love affair
Development means many things in the Philippines. For instance, I noticed that young people use the term “develop” a lot, albeit in a different manner.

They use the colloquialism “magka-developan” (to develop) to describe a budding love affair. I think they may actually have a better grasp of development compared to some so-called experts and I say that because magka-developan implies a process or, at least, phases.

The first phase is when two people first meet or are introduced. Next, there are expressions of interest turning into full-blown “ligawan” (courtship). If it works out, these phases culminate in two people forming a committed relationship.

That’s what development is; a process. Development isn’t just a goal, it’s also a movement, a way of getting there.

Haven for development leaders
At AIM, we have a mission to seek out and develop socially relevant development managers. This mission is driven by a desire to make an impact on business and society.

To do our part as educators, AIM established the Master in Development Management program. MDM, as we call it, gives students the tools to promote greater development in practical terms. We like to describe it as the only Master in Development Management program in a developing country, which opens up all sorts of opportunities for learning.

As mentors, we help budding development managers explore different avenues for spurring development—such as bridging service-delivery gaps in conflict areas and emphasizing the role of government policy in social health insurance as a way to bring the nation closer toward a middle-class economy.

The MDM program helps the country gain a foothold in areas like strategic security management and equity in universal health coverage. On top of this, our alumni and students have created platforms for engaging communities to bolster women leadership, social impact bonds, and community disaster resilience.

The programs under the Institute’s Stephen Zuellig Graduate School of Development Management are flexible and able to give future leaders an appreciation for the diversity of thought in a complex, and often ambiguous, world.

We are committed to training and nurturing the next wave of development leaders. We empower them to achieve their goals; whether that goal is, say, to help refugees a continent away, or to help communities at home.

Let the next generation of development managers show you the way!

Kenneth Hartigan-Go, MD, MD (UK) heads the Stephen Zuellig School of Development Management at the Asian Institute of Management. He received a Doctor of Medicine from the University of the Philippines and the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. E-mail for more information or visit


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