Berita Harian (“BH”) carried an interesting debate on the CLF Convention on Dec 1st 2012. BH had translated and featured my blog piece, Returning the Concepts of “Community” and Leadership to CLF in an article here . BH also featured a response by Mendaki’s CEO and head of the CLF Secretariat.
The thrust of the response by Mendaki’s CEO can be summarized as follows:
- CLF is a long term process with many “stops” and “stations” along the way;
- There was some discussion that took place during CLF Convention (though she acknowledged not everything could be discussed); and
- There is a review process of CLF’s programs, which will involve CLF partners. This will take place in 2013 and 2014.
Let me address these points in turn.
It is a given that the CLF journey is long and involves many stops.
But it is precisely because it is a long journey that makes it important for CLF to take stock where it is in that long journey. It adds nothing to the argument to assert that the CLF journey is a long one.
And 10 years is an appropriate “stop” for the community to assess how CLF has travelled.
More importantly, CLF needs to assess whether it is still headed in the right direction.
In a long journey, veering just a little off at the start of the journey could make one lost in the wilderness in the span of 10 years.
I now turn to the issue as to whether the CLF session was, in fact, a “Convention”.
It would be a mischaracterization to state that there was meaningful engagement at the “Convention”. Setting aside barely 15-20 minutes for questions and answers at the end of three segments of panel discussions hardly allows for any meaningful engagement, let alone the ownership of very important issues by the Community.
If there had been a real commitment to let the Community have ownership of issues, breakout sessions could have been organized. This would make better use of the time of community leaders and participants who were present.
More fundamentally, the scope of the issues for discussion do not allow for a meaningful discussion of what CLF has achieved (or not) over the last 10 years.
Instead, discussions (limited as they are) tend to focus on micro issues, i.e. at the program level.
There appears to be a shyness or reluctance to discuss how the programs could contribute to the bigger picture of the vision/mission and aspirations of the MMC.
It was not surprising that an MMO leader remarked to me at the “Convention” that he was not surprised that some MMO leaders preferred not to attend CLF events but to send their staff to attend instead.
Turning to the issue of the review process, the CLF Secretariat, to its credit, recognizes the importance of a review process.
However, it has chosen to report back to the community only in 2014. It would have been apt for the review to take place at the 10 year mark.
Also, one wonders why the CLF require two full years to complete the review process? It was reported at the “Convention” that the review had already started in 2012. Surely, we can afford to be more ambitious in planning the timeline.
Since Mendaki’s CEO (and head of the CLF Secretariat) has welcomed constructive comments, here are my suggestions on what the review process should include:
- Foremost, the composition of the CLF Review Committee must be changed. It is chaired by the Mendaki CEO and has 5 Vice Chairpersons (all of whom are Mendaki employees). It is unclear why there is a need for 5 vice-chairpersons. The chairperson should be someone independent of Mendaki (as CLF Secretariat) to ensure a truly objective approach on the CLF program.
- The review should study and set out data showing the state of the community now (e.g. in education, personal and household income, employment, social issues) compared to where it was 10 years ago when CLF was formed;
- A review as to how the MMC fares compared with other communities in these metrics;
- An analysis of whether the rate of progress (or otherwise ) of the MMC has increased (or not) since the formation of CLF. In other words, it may be useful to study the metrics in the last 10 years pre-CLF, and then compare it to the 10 years post-CLF;
- An analysis of whether the rate of progress (or otherwise) of the MMC is attributable to national efforts, as opposed to CLF efforts. One example of how this can be done can be found in Farhan Ali’s statistical analysis of the educational performance of Malay students over the last 20 years, where he concluded that 90% of the educational trends of Malay students are actually consistent with national trends;
- Map out whether CLF programs are duplicated by programs offered at the national level or by other VWOs/MMOs;
- An analysis as to whether CLF’s programs are consistent with the Vision/Mission of CLF.
- Recommendation whether specific programs should be continued, modified, or ceased in light of other providers (e.g. at the national level);
- A detailed breakdown of all expenditure given out at the program level, including areas where the CLF has taken over the role of providing funding to organization from government agencies (e.g. the then MCYS), and the reasons why there was a need for CLF to replace government agencies as the disbursing party;
- Publicly disclose the number of meetings done by the Exco and attendance of Exco members.
Most importantly, the review should look at the leadership structure of the CLF. As the name suggests, CLF should be owned by the Community.
As such, the Review should look at the need to open up membership of the Exco beyond that of the PAP Malay MPs, and involve representatives from MMOs, or members from within (or even outside) the MMC who can contribute in their personal capacities. Finite tenure of appointments should be set to balance continuity against change. The Chairmanship of the CLF can be rotated amongst Community Leaders.
This opening up of the leadership of the CLF will bring about more Community ownership, accountability and transparency to the CLF.
Take the politics out of CLF – and let it have its purity of purpose.
But to do so, we must have the courage to effect change. Lest, the CLF risks spiralling into a Complete Loss of Focus.