In the field: Teaching villagers

Teaching the Barefoot MBA to villagers
Teaching the Barefoot MBA to villagers

E.B. MAGALONA – Thursday’s ‘wow’ was premature. Friday’s field teaching in a small fishing village here demonstrated how far we’ve come in ways we couldn’t have dreamed of even a week ago.

Participants spent Thursday evening and Friday morning preparing the lessons they’d teach to villagers. Some drew pictures. Some wrote out simple math. Some tweaked content, replacing drought with typhoon to make a lesson relevant in a place that would not exist without fish farming.

E.B. Magalona, a fishing village in Negros
E.B. Magalona, a fishing village in Negros

And then we were off. We drove north of Silay through unpaved roads amid fields of sugar cane, arriving in this fishing village just in time for the loan officer’s weekly meeting. We gathered in a small hut as NWTF officers checked the progress of borrowers’ repayment, introduced our group, and eventually gave control to our participants.

We split into 4 groups of 10 to 15 villagers each. In those groups, something magical happened. In the native dialect, our participants patiently explained why they came. Villagers sat with rapt attention as they learned about debt, interest and saving. These were not necessarily new concepts, but presenting them in new light made them easier to grasp – and motivated the villagers to run better businesses, they said. Villagers understood the stories. The examples were immediately relevant to their lives. Asked what could have been better, they grinned. “Nothing.”

Teaching the Barefoot MBA to villagers
Teaching the Barefoot MBA to villagers

Our participants taught lessons we built in a paradigm they hadn’t heard of before Monday, yet their body language suggested comfort usually acquired over months or years. They left empowered to teach additional lessons to their own clients in the months, weeks and even days ahead. They walked away from the week energized by the difference they made for their borrowers just as we walk away energized by the difference we made for them.


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