Last 15 January 2019, Joji served as plenary speaker at the Learning Conference 2019 which was held at the Mary Hill Retreat Center, Taytay, Rizal. This conference was organized by the Asian School of Development and Cross-Cultural Studies (ASDECS) in partnership with Kabalikat para sa Maunlad na Buhay, Inc. (KMBI). The conference theme was “Conspiracy of the Wise Builders” — it’s about building sustainable, regenerating, and transformational communities.
Joji’s main idea was that “Inclusive Development is a practical application of a love-energized harmony with creation.” First, she pointed out that “God’s love energizes economic-ecological transformation” (John 3:16; Col. 1:19-20). Second, she explained that “we are invited by a loving God into a Creator-steward partnership in creation-care” (Gen. 1:28; 2:15). Third, Joji emphasized that “our stewardship of the creation ought to be a healing touch to God’s creation” (Ps. 24:1; Rev. 22:1-5).
She then challenged her listeners with two questions:
- “How would you love and honor the Creator-God who invited you into a partnership in creation-care?”
- “What practical economic-ecological course of action—conventional business, social business, inclusive development—would you initiate to help in the healing of God’s creation?”
Afterwards, she shared the story of Coffee for Peace, Inc. to her listeners and how this social business is making an impact in various conflicted areas in the Philippines.
BRIEF STORY OF COFFEE FOR PEACE
Coffee for Peace, Inc. (CFP) was established on April 15, 2008 in Davao City. The idea began in 2006 when the founders helped to facilitate an informal conflict mediation, with their whole Mindanao-based peacebuilding network, between certain Migrant and Bangsamoro farming communities. The two groups were involved in an armed conflict for the ownership of several rice fields ready for harvest, regardless of who planted the rice or who really owned the land. Instead of shooting each other, the leaders of the two parties-in-conflict were invited for a dialogue over coffee. Since then, the two communities avoided killing each other. They started inviting other surrounding communities to have coffee together — for peace.
CFP started as an Income Generating Program (IGP) of the PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI) —a Mennonite peacebuilding movement in the Philippines that exists —
- to train and multiply effective Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) Team Leaders;
- to support the leaders in organizing and nurturing their respective PAR Teams;
- to establish contextually-relevant PAR Communities; and,
- to develop a network of PAR Communities.
However, due to the organic social involvement of CFP, it became a separate business entity with the following mission:
- To protect and enhance the environment
- To walk with the farmers as they strive to improve their lives
- To support the peacebuilders on the field.
Coffee for Peace has been training farmers on Arabica production, the principles of fair trade, trading policies and pricing, for the past 8 years. Aside from working in Mindanao, CFP has also trained coffee farmers in the Cordillera Region and is looking forward to train more in the different provinces of northern Philippines.
The planning and structure of this conference was quite creative. During the opening session, the first evening, a time was given “to present the overview of the conference – its objectives as well as its unique features.” The brochure advertized that “a unique feature of this conference was a time for the participants to personalize their conference bags by painting it, and a time to fill up their SnapShot-information regarding the participants’ key engagements and basic personal details.” And it happened exactly how it was described in the promotional literature. It was unique and exciting indeed!
I also liked when Ka Boyet Ongkiko, the Conference Director, introduced the use of Open Space Technology (OST) — that is, a whole session when a time and space were allotted for participants to share their personal agenda and allow for communal concerns to surface. The use of OST hopes to capture the common and relevant concerns of the transformational development practitioners as well as identify important issues related to the Social Entrepreneurship and community transformation, and then formulate initial actions to be taken. “If we’ll pursue Human Systems dynamics,” according to Ka Boyet, well observe “that informal groups have the capacity to self-organize, no facilitator will be assigned.” He further suggests that, in OST, “each group will be responsible as to how deep they would want to engage, and what objectives they will set to be accomplished.”
I’m grateful that I was also invited to co-facilitate a seminar so Joji and I can enjoy this conference together — the awesome place, good food, comfortable room, rest from field challenges, and the interaction with interesting participants.