Municipal Level-Democratic Dialogue Towards Empowerment and Genuine Community Development: The Municipal Talakayan Experience

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Ana Leah Cuizon

Abstract

The “Municipal Talakayan” (Talakayan for brevity), translated in the Visayan Dialect as “Panaghisgutay” is an internal evaluation tool which brings together the local stakeholders (Municipal Inter-Agency Committee, Barangay Captains, Civil Society Organization representatives and community volunteers/ members) to a municipal level democratic dialogue. It is both a diagnostic and capacity-building tool. As a diagnostic tool, it assesses the level of and changes in the development of the municipality of the broader development context and existing local process. As a capacity-building tool, it enhances awareness and understanding of the roles and responsibilities of all the stakeholders in local development and governance. The goal of the Talakayan which is to build local capacities is best achieved through knowledge generation, sharing and collaborative self-assessment among stakeholders. Building of local capacities in turn is attained through empowerment. Empowerment is defined as a person’s capacity to make effective choices; the capacity to transform choices into desired actions and outcomes (Alsop and Heinsohn).
The stakeholders generally receive the talakayan activity with positive feedback however, there are some concerns and challenges as drawn out from its participants especially from the first talakayan run. To these participants, the objectives of the talakayan are attained, namely: raise awareness of the people on the development initiatives of the municipality, provide an avenue for dialogue of all stakeholders, and proper use of data for planning and policy formulation. Nonetheless, talakayan is deemed as an activity of lesser priority by the LGU.
In gist, the talakayan is regarded as an effective means of providing an avenue for gathering the various stakeholders and for public dialogue but that in itself does not necessarily translate to empowerment. For sure, the process of empowerment is strengthened through the conduct of the talakayan as perceived by all the stakeholders, but the actual state of empowerment is yet to be achieved.

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