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5. Principles of organization and methodology selection

Decisions were made about organization and design of methodology on the basis of specific principles related to the need for using analytical techniques that could be easily applied in rural areas of developing countries. Methodology was adapted both to the characteristics of decision-makers in rural regions where the project was likely to be replicated and to the availability of data in the Bicol River Basin. Some of the principles used to organize the project and select methodologies were inherent in the conceptual framework used to design the project, some were recommended by the international consultants, and others emerged from experience with the project as it progressed. Some specific techniques of analysis had been tested earlier in experimental projects in India, Brazil, and Ghana, and they were included in the methodology devised for Bicol.

The project had four distinct phases: first, an extensive inventory was made of data, information, and existing studies to formulate a statistical profile of the region and to delineate existing resources in rural settlements and urbanized centres of the Basin; second, a functional complexity analysis of the region's settlement system was undertaken to determine the distribution of services, facilities, and productive activities and to delineate the settlement "hierarchy"; third, an analysis was made of "linkages" among settlements within the region and with places outside of Bicol; and finally, an analysis was done of the access of the rural poor to services and facilities located in urbanized settlements. The adequacy of the distribution of urban functions for rural development was evaluated and a spatial-policy plan for future development of the Basin was formulated. The plan would then be transformed into recommendations for identification, selection, and location of investment projects designed to increase the access of the poor to urban functions needed for rural development and to strengthen the spatial system for equitable economic development.

Among the operating principles used in the organization of the project and in selection of analytical techniques were the following.

1. Create an ongoing planning process as well as production of a spatial development plan. The objective of the project was twofold: first, "to develop a planning process - potentially valid for application elsewhere in the Philippines and in other countries," and second, to develop "a plan for strengthening the contributions of urban centers to rural development in the Bicol." Thus the project would not only test an analytical and planning procedure but also institutionalize the process in the Bicol River Basin Development Program so that the analyses could be revised on a continuing basis.

Although the CPDS staff made extensive efforts to fulfil both objectives-primarily through eliciting the participation of technical personnel, BRBDP planners, and Philippine consultants in the project's operations, and informing local political leaders through training and workshop sessions-staff time and attention inevitably focused on analysis. Formulating an ongoing planning process and institutionalizing it were often subordinated to completion of more immediate tasks. Workshops held quarterly in Bicol proved to be an effective way of keeping a core of technical personnel and political leaders informed of activities during the first months of the project, but participation fell off as the project progressed. The pressures of time and conflicting commitments for political leaders made their attendance at workshops sporadic. Once staff activities were moved from Bicol to the University of the Philippines at Los Baņos it became more difficult to provide information and elicit participation. Moreover, as pressures began to build on the staff to complete various stages of the project on time, more expedient and less participatory procedures were adopted.

2. Design the spatial analysis and development plan to be policy-oriented and adjunctive in nature. The plan or spatial analysis would be oriented to the decision-making requirements of the Bicol River Basin Development Program, regional offices of national government agencies, and provincial and local governments that would be making investment and location decisions in the Basin over the next ten years. As the regional director of the Department of Local Government and Community Development expressed it during an early organizational workshop, the outputs of the Urban Functions in Rural Development project should be "inputs" for the planning efforts of other organizations. The plan would not be a comprehensive regional development scheme per se, since the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the major cities, and the BRBDP already had comprehensive development plans. Instead, the Urban Functions report would provide a spatial dimension useful for making locational decisions and for revising comprehensive development plans. Planning would be adjunctive, and the data and analysis could be used to supplement technical criteria used by various organizations in making investments in the area.

3. Use applied research methods and analytical techniques easily performed by rural planners and easily understood by policy-makers. The analytical techniques used in the project would have to be appropriate for applied policy analysis and to the planning capacities found in rural areas. The consultants believed that conditions found in most developing nations imposed tight constraints on the complexity of applied policy analysis. Policy plans must be done quickly and be timely if they are to have an impact on investment decision-making. Thus, policy studies cannot usually depend on time-consuming data collection and highly sophisticated research techniques. They cannot, moreover, use techniques that impose overly complex, costly, or time-consuming requirements on users. They should be relatively easy to apply and not require, at least initially, sophisticated equipment or high levels of technical skill and training, which are not usually found in rural regions. If the methods are to be institutionalized in local planning and decision-making processes they must be of a type that can be applied manually or with easily acquired and operated equipment such as desk calculators. If they are to be applied by planners and administrators without advanced technical training in spatial analysis, they should involve relatively simple and easily learned operations.

In addition, it was considered crucial that the methods and techniques be comprehensible to rural policy-makers and that the results of the analyses be clearly presented to local and national officials who would have limited exposure to or interest in spatial analysis methodologies, and, indeed, who might be alienated by complex methodology. The primary audience for the analysis would in most cases be government officials and political leaders with limited education and technical training. The analytical techniques most easily understood by them would be descriptive statistics, analytical mapping, scaling, and charting.

Although most participants in the project eventually accepted the general principle, strong tendencies to deviate from it were apparent in the early stages. Some of the staff members (most of whom had masters degrees), the University of the Philippines' professors who acted as consultants, and some of the BRBDP planners often showed more interest in relatively sophisticated methodology and often viewed the project as research rather than as an exercise in applied policy analysis. Staff members worried that the results derived from more simplified descriptive techniques would not carry the "authority" of those generated by sophisticated statistical methods and computer analysis. However, as the project progressed, and the limitations of available data, the requirements of collecting additional information to fit complex analytical methodologies, the difficulties encountered in explaining more sophisticated techniques to political leaders and technical personnel in government agencies, and the constraints on operationalizing computer-based analyses became more apparent, the principle became more acceptable.

4. Use as much existing data as possible; limit new data collection to areas where significant "information gaps" appear. Because a number of studies had been previously conducted in the Bicol and because the Philippines had extensive census and statistical information, the planning and analysis methodologies were tailored as much as possible to using existing data. Methods requiring additional data collection were used sparingly and only when crucial "information gaps" were identified. In any case, limitations of time and money made large-scale data collection and extensive original research impossible. The Urban Functions study would draw as heavily as possible on census materials, previous resource and social-survey studies of the Basin, and the specialized feasibility and technical studies performed by and for the BRBDP.

Although the Bicol River Basin was relatively "data rich" for an economically depressed region, it soon became obvious that much of the available data were not collected or reported in forms appropriate for spatial analysis. Nearly all socioeconomic data, for example, were reported at either the provincial or municipal level and could not be disaggregated to the barangay (village) settlement level. Thus, it was often difficult or impossible to make meaningful distinctions between poblaciones (town centres) and rural barangays with socio-economic data reported at the municipal level. Moreover, much of the data collected by the National Census and Statistics Office (NCSO) were on a sample basis, making it impossible to attribute them to specific settlements or to use original field sheets to disaggregate data for settlements. Some of the data were reported at different units over time, or the unit boundaries changed from one reporting period to the next, making time series or temporal comparisons difficult. A good deal of the information available from technical reports, special BRBDP studies, and national ministries was collected for specific purposes and communities and did not cover the entire Basin. Thus, many aspects of the analysis had to be based on "sample" studies of sub-areas within the Basin.

Moreover, there were other limitations to the information available. Accurate maps delineating towns and barangays did not exist when the project began, and a good deal of time had to be devoted to locating and mapping settlements. Air photos were available for only about 10 per cent of the Basin, and neither time nor money was available to complete the photo surveys. Thus, information concerning the location of settlement boundaries had to be collected through field and key informant surveys. The excellent social surveys conducted by the Social Science Research Unit of Ateneo de Naga University-especially municipal and transport inventories and programme evaluation studies-provided strong insights into various aspects of underdevelopment in the Basin, but they covered only Camarines Sur province. Some of the studies had to be updated or extended in Albay Province in order to obtain complete coverage of the Basin. In addition, the lack of family-income and employment data at municipal and barangay levels created serious analytical problems that were never fully overcome. Finally, except for some data found in the transport studies, virtually none of the existing information was useful for linkage analysis; transport linkages, market and social interaction patterns, service linkages, and governmental relationships all had to be determined through original studies done on a sample basis by the project staff or its subcontractors.

5. Use a combination of analytical methodologies, and rely heavily on staff knowledge of the area under study. It became clear early in the project that, given the constraints of time and money and the need to develop a useful policy document quickly, it would not be possible to undertake a comprehensive statistical analysis of the Bicol River Basin. Where comprehensive coverage could not be attained using existing or easily collected data, the staff used partial analysis, sample studies, and sub-area analysis. Formal statistical analysis was supplemented, where appropriate, with "softer" methods: case studies, participant observation, and interviewing of key informants. The staff was encouraged to be creative in developing analytical methodologies suited to the conditions and needs of the area. To the extent that the output of the project would be a policy plan rather than a scholarly research study, the staff was urged to employ a wide variety of techniques for obtaining information, and to cultivate and use their own knowledge of the region in arriving at judgements and conclusions concerning crucial development issues.

Although a large number of possible analytical techniques were suggested in an initial conceptual study, the project was not designed to test a pre-selected set of methods. Design of the analytical methods and techniques evolved during the project as opportunities and constraints became apparent, and was selected on the basis of criteria outlined earlier. Under any conditions, heavy reliance on multi-variate statistical techniques seemed questionable given the types and quality of data available and the purposes of the study.

The staff accepted the necessity of using a variety of formal and informal, "hard" and "soft" analytical methods, and the application of their own judgement to the study, although they were initially sceptical and somewhat uncomfortable without a pre-selected and designed approach. Their initial reaction was that one or two statistical techniques would provide the "answers" and that conventional regional-analysis methods should simply be applied in Bicol. Indeed, in the early stages of the project, statistical methods were often used as "crutches." Manipulation of numbers was substituted for hard thinking and conceptualization about spatial systems in the Basin. To some extent both reactions were mitigated as the project progressed and the staff saw the limitations inherent in each statistical technique they tested, and the need to use methods of analysis as a way of testing conceptions and preliminary judgements rather than to provide unequivocal "answers" and irrefutable conclusions.

In retrospect, it is clear that no pre-selected package of techniques would have exactly fit the conditions in the Basin. Many analytical techniques that were thought to be important for analysis at the outset had to be discarded either because of lack of available data or because they yielded inappropriate or useless results. Even simple location quotients could not be calculated, for instance, because of the lack of employment or production statistics; coefficients of segregation and Gini Concentration ratios could not be determined for many socio-economic indicators, and distance-accessibility analysis was found not to be very useful in the context of rural undervelopment in the Basin. Even some standard techniques of analysis such as centrality indexing were not helpful; attempting to calculate Guttman scales by computer proved futile given limited computer capacity and lack of trained manpower. In each instance, the staff had to fall back on descriptive and manually calculated statistics. Overall, however, this provided a strong learning experience for most of the staff; doing short field surveys, hand-calculating results, manually constructing scalograms, and testing alternative statistical techniques forced the staff to think seriously about the types of data needed, their real worth, the cost-effectiveness of gathering more, and the meaning of the results in terms of the conditions they observed in the Bicol River Basin.

Moreover, the initial exercise of inventorying existing data prior to designing analytical techniques and collecting additional information-although it required much more time than originally estimated-yielded an important output: the first statistical compendium of social, economic, demographic, and physical information, disaggregated to the municipal level, that had been compiled for the Bicol. It categorized data from myriad sources that heretofore had been scattered in specialized technical reports. This compendium alone would provide an important planning tool for the BRBDP and other government agencies within the Basin, and eventually can be used to assist in making private sector investment and location decisions. Finally, the exercise yielded the first comprehensive settlement map of the Bicol River Basin that identified and located barangays. Again, this would provide BRBDP planners with a valuable tool for future planning, and when combined with the analyses of municipalities, functional complexity of settlements, and indicators of linkage, can be used to make more informed and effective location decisions.

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