The Participatory Development Training Center (PADETC) is a private, non-profit institution dedicated to helping Lao people solve their own problems in ways that are economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable and just. PADETC has evolved from twenty years of innovative work in agricultural and participatory community development in the rural areas of the Lao PDR, and was officially established in late 1996 under the Department of Private Education of the Ministry of Education as an independent Training Center.
The 20th century has given all societies a major boost in economic and technological advancement, but these gains have also come at great social and environmental costs. At the on-set of the 21st century, concern of our rising carbon foot-print and ever-widening social-economic gaps have pushed development practitioners and policy makers to promote a more level playing field at the global level. There is general consensus of the need to shift the course of development to a more sustainable pathway.
PADETC has always affirmed that societal development needs to be balanced equally addressing people’s economic, social/cultural, environmental and spiritual needs in a holistic and humanistic way. Through its twenty years of development experience, PADETC further finds that change of development mindset would require engagement of the young, with change starting early and through formal and non-formal channels of education. For PADETC, the term education goes beyond schooling and covers a broad range of experience-based learning in and outside school.
For this reason, PADETC’s work has focused on a wide-range of innovative development activities engaging and empowering mainly young people and focusing largely on holistic education, sustainable and integrated agriculture, micro-enterprise development, youth leadership development and socially-engaged Buddhism for ethical behaviour. Its main approach is building demonstrative models at the field level with participation from local practitioners (government functionaries; schools; communities; clergy; and especially young people themselves). Once the models proved feasible and practical, then they are promoted for up-scaling with central government agencies, and international development partners (INGOs, Bilateral and UN agencies).
PADETC as an indigenous organization also always tries to respond strategically to the development changes of the country. For this reason, after more than 10 years of engaging in development practices at community and school level, in 2009 PADETC started to make a major organizational shift beyond supporting actual implementation of activities at the field level, towards strengthening its role as an advisory and capacity development servicing institution in areas of PADETC’s experience and comparative advantage with other local aspiring civil society groups INGOs and government services.
This shift to transform PADETC is based on a new visioning and positioning of PADETC to become organizationally, managerially, and technically effective and relevant development servicing institution run mainly by young development practitioners trained by PADETC in 10-15 years. This is PADETC’s transition strategy from the current leadership to a younger generation, and at the same time broaden its cost-recovery servicing activities to reduce PADETC’s reliance to external funding.
PADETC’s senior staff will become more involved in influencing development dialogue and policy in Laos on development issues. Through this two prong approach, PADETC hopes to influence Laos development progressively and more effectively towards balanced and holistic development encompassing economic, social/cultural, environmental and spiritual (well-being) development with strong engagement of communities and young people.
To set the stage towards this vision, PADETC has since 2010 set up seven complementary learning and training centers as demonstration/practicum sites operated by PADETC’s middle managers
to facilitate real-life and skill-based learning and practice, especially for young people and to create a platform for sharing and learning among local governments, communities, schools, and temples, and civil society groups. At the same time, PADETC’s senior staff, including the Director is increasing involved in policy dialogues on development issues, especially related to resource use and management as well as promotion/establishment of Lao non-profit agencies in Laos.
Guided by this latest strategic vision, the major objectives of the PADETC since 2009 are to:
- Decentralize PADETC practices, capacities, and experiences through establishing seven functional and professional demonstration training/learning centers.
- Promote learning/training approaches which emphasize discovery, holistic and integrative learning, mindfulness and harmonious relationships with one’s social, cultural and natural environment.
- Provide training services and practical attachments for students and young people in any of PADETC’s centers.
- Build strong capacities and capabilities within each center for provision of quality
training/consultancy services on basis of demand from public and private agencies.
- Provide advisory support to other local civil society groups/NPAs to enhance their development and management capacity and pave the way for the growth of a stronger civil society movement and alternative development voice within Laos.
- Enhance PADETC’s role in policy dialogue and debates, especially in natural resource use and management on national and international forum.
- Reduce dependency on funding from external donors by strengthening sustainability through internal/private fund-raising and creation of income stream through service provision.
- Strengthen and improve transparency of PADETC’s governance structure to support smooth leadership transition in PADETC.
These seven centers and networks are:
- Intergrated organic farm
- Panya Nivej – Eco-rice-fish farm;
- Suan Mai Lao – Eco-forest;
- Sompanya -Wisdom-based schools;
- Saoban Shop – Village handicraft network;
- Development monks network; and
- Youth development network.
Each center has its own manager and technical team and operates with a common administrative and financial system, and planning and monitoring and reporting framework. The centers report to PADETC Head Office which oversees the coordination and quality control of all satellite centers and reviews and guides implementation of the centers’ plans.