Dr. Y.C. James Yen, Funder of Rural Reconstruction Movement

RRN subscribes to the philosophy and principles of the International Rural Reconstruction Movement. The Rural Reconstruction ethics and philosophy are encapsulated in the following credo: 

Go to the People/Live among Them/ Learn from Them

The peasants, no matter how poor or illiterate, “do not lack brains, only (the) opportunity” to release and make use of their “brainmines” for their own development. Therefore, there are many things that even the best-trained and most academically prepared development worker can learn from them. In fact, it may be necessary to “re-educate the educated”. in other words, the college-educated worker may have to first “unlearn” – to get rid of not-so-relevant academic “baggage” and prejudices – and then to “re-learn” by imbibing the practical, native wisdom of the peasants, the wisdom that is referred to in current development literature as “indigenous knowledge”.

However, to be able to truly learn from the peasants, one must ‘go to them and live among them”, because much of what one can learn from them can best be learned by participating in their day-to-day activities in an intensive and continuous basis. To simply “blow in and blow out” like a casual visitor is not enough; at best one’s learning from such a transient stay among the peasants can only be superficial.

More importantly, by going to the peasants and living among them, the development workers can truly emphasise with their problems and difficulties by experiencing those same problems and difficulties themselves. This, in turn, can only strengthen the solidarity between the development workers and the peasants, and the commitment of the workers to help the peasants release their potential powers for self-development.

The peasants, no matter how poor or illiterate, “do not lack brains, only (the) opportunity” to release and make use of their “brainmines” for their own development. Therefore, there are many things that even the best-trained and most academically prepared development worker can learn from them. In fact, it may be necessary to “re-educate the educated”. in other words, the college-educated worker may have to first “unlearn” – to get rid of not-so-relevant academic “baggage” and prejudices – and then to “re-learn” by imbibing the practical, native wisdom of the peasants, the wisdom that is referred to in current development literature as “indigenous knowledge”.

However, to be able to truly learn from the peasants, one must ‘go to them and live among them”, because much of what one can learn from them can best be learned by participating in their day-to-day activities in an intensive and continuous basis. To simply “blow in and blow out” like a casual visitor is not enough; at best one’s learning from such a transient stay among the peasants can only be superficial.

More importantly, by going to the peasants and living among them, the development workers can truly emphasize with their problems and difficulties by experiencing those same problems and difficulties themselves. This, in turn, can only strengthen the solidarity between the development workers and the peasants, and the commitment of the workers to help the peasants release their potential powers for self-development.

Plan with Them, Work with Them

These lines underscore the participatory nature of Rural Reconstruction, where the relationship is not one between “benefactors” and “beneficiaries”, nor one between “providers” and “receivers” of development goods and services, but one between Partners – where both development workers and peasants have a contribution to make towards planning and implementing solutions to the peasants’ problems. In other words, it is neither the development workers planning and working for the peasants, nor the peasants planning and working just themselves. It is the peasants and development workers planning and working with one another in the spirit of genuine partnership.

Start with what they know/ Build on what they have

One of the most valid and compelling development concepts is that of appropriate technology. There is hardly a development organization today that does not espouse or promote the transfer and application of appropriate technology to address the peasants’ problems. However, only a few realize that what makes technology truly “appropriate” to the peasants is when the developers of such technology “start with what the peasants know and build on what they have”. In this way, the peasants find it easier to adopt or adapt the technology because it is not “alien” to them. Thus, the technology does not only become truly appropriate and relevant, but sustainable as well.

Teach by Showing, Learn by Doing

In addition to ensuring that technology is appropriate and relevant to people’s needs and situation, it is also important to ensure that the transfer of technology is done in the most effective way. For illiterate or semi-literate peasants, the most effective way is to “teach by showing” and to let them “learn by doing”. In the modern educational parlance, these are what are referred to, respectively, as “demonstration teaching” and “experiential learning” or “on-the-job training”.A corollary principle to this one is “science simplification” or the need to simplify scientific knowledge as much as possible to bring them within the reach of the peasants. This is where innovative communication strategies (such as the use of familiar and analogous agricultural concepts and phenomena to explain unfamiliar human reproduction and family planning concepts), become useful.

Not a Showcase but a Pattern

This line of the Credo enjoins the development workers to make sure that in whatever they do, they should ensure the institutionalisation or sustainability and replicability of their efforts. Otherwise, they may remain as beautiful “showcase” that are either too complex, too expensive, or impractical to replicate elsewhere. Hence, one of the guidelines that Dr. Yen bequeathed to us is to make sure that our development programs and projects are Simple, Practical, and Economical, so that they can easily be Duplicated (S.P.E.D.) wherever they may be needed.

Not Odds and Ends but a System/Not Piecemeal but Integrated Approach

In these lines are expressed the need to address the interlocking basic problems of the peasants – illiteracy, poverty, disease and civic inertia – in a systemic and integrated way because “the solution of one problem depends on the solution of the others”.Thus, Rural Reconstruction has an “integrated, four-fold approach” to development, consisting of interrelated projects and activities in the fields of Education, Livelihood, Health and Self-Government.

Not to Conform but to Transform

The word “reconstruction” was derived from the Chinese phrase “gai tsao”, which means “to change and build”. Hence, Rural Reconstruction espouses the transformation of “sick societies” into “healthy societies”, not only in the physical sense, but also in the social, political and economic sense. Rural Reconstruction also promotes the transformation of negative and counter-developmental values (such as overspending on feasts and non-productive items) into positive, development-oriented ones (such as investing one’s surplus earnings wisely in education, health services, and additional income-producing activities).

However, Rural Reconstruction respects and supports the conservation and propagation of traditional practices, structures and other aspects of culture that have positive values, such as traditional cooperative societies through which people collectively address their needs, or traditional arts that enhance nationalism, patriotism and cooperativism.

Not Relief but Release


Source: The Philosophy, Principles and Practice of Rural Reconstruction, International Institute of Rural Reconstruction, Silang, Cavite, Philippines (1991)