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Year 2014

firewroksStepping into a new year reminds us about the onward movement of life and time. When times are tough, you can’t yell “time out” or hit the pause button. There is no “get out of jail” card like in Monopoly. One must learn to deal with the forward movements that living entails or be swept under the rug of inertia, anonymity, and irrelevance.

2013 has been an absolutely good year for this writer. It was the year I received the Trafficking in Persons Hero Award from US Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington, DC. This was followed up by my own home province of Bulacan bestowing to this humble writer a “Dangal ng Lipi” Award. The third award was from Rappler.com’s “Do More Awards” in partnership with Rexona where yours truly won in the Global Pinoy category. It was an extremely good year.

Thankful  as I shall always be, I do realize that the larger picture was vastly different. Scores of people lost their loved ones and homes in one sweep because of super typhoon Yolanda. Before the year ended, a bus fell from the skyway and landed on a van, leaving behind a trail of casualties. Teachers from the Department of Education are threatened by the implementation of its own rationalization plan. Electricity costs will likely rise to the level of planet Mars. Remember the Zamboanga City seige and the Bohol earthquake? On the migration front, our workers from Saudi Arabia who were unable to correct their work and immigration status are homeward bound, due to Saudization.

2014 is the year of rebuilding, recovery, and reintegration. If we are wise, it ought to be the year, too, of innovation. Much has been said about negativism in relation to public perception on how government and politics have evolved. I dare say that much of that negativism is because we keep seeing the same old patterns, the same old dysfunctional systems and services. Innovation is our way out of this national rut. Yet, innovation requires bold ideas, tough decisions, and a lot of leadership.

We know what the status quo is. How can we make things better?

If I were in government, I would suggest the following steps to create space for innovation in public service:

For every Secretary to invest in a focus group discussion where leaders of various sectors can offer answers to a single question: “What is the best, most practical and doable innovation that we can all work on and achieve in 2014?”

The Department of Science and Technology and the Commission on Higher Education can jointly sponsor an Innovation Expo where Filipino inventors can be paired with college student groups to present an innovative idea or project for change. The winning presentation gets a seed fund from the Philippine government and the private sector.

Traffic is the biggest sucker of time, energy, and productivity in Metro Manila. The presidential communications team can launch a contest on 500 things to do while stuck in traffic in Metro Manila. The Metro Manila Development Authority can use the entries in a variety of ways, including as Memes to be made viral for everyone’s appreciation.

Overseas Filipino workers can be encouraged to use Instagram to take photos of innovative ideas, projects, and campaigns in the countries where they are, so that we in the Philippines can benefit from the best practices in other societies.

Every public official must be taught how to use Twitter and to create Twitter accounts so that they can be easily accessible to the public, and vice-versa. It is quite evident that for most times, government speaks only to itself, disregarding stakeholders who freely converse amongst themselves via social media.

The list offered above may be paltry for some, and I challenge my dear readers to contribute your own ideas on how to make this work. If we don’t start innovating, we would languish in a perpetual stranglehold of incessant sniping and negativism. Innovation is the spirit that makes the passing of time exhilarating. It won’t come easy. Governance and innovation are at the opposite ends of the stick, at least in this republic. Let’s face it. The best ideas are no longer found in government boardrooms. Public officials are bludgeoned to death with metrics, rules, regulations, and threats of undoing when they become so bold as to try to break out of the mold.

2014 will be filled with calamities, for sure. That’s what climate change does. My New Year’s wish is for this year to yield a blitzkrieg of innovative projects, services, and ideas. Now, wouldn’t that be something if we are allowed the space and platform to create and contribute new ideas for the country? Filipinos are the most caring people in the world. That’s a given. This year, let’s show our more daring, fun, and inventive side, that which springs from the child deep within our collective souls.

Happy New Year, everyone! May 2014 be the year when our nation’s dreams and your own personal aspirations come true!

(Follow me on Twitter via www.twitter.com/susanople. Send comments to toots.ople@yahoo.com)