HUMAN CAPITAL DEVELOPMENT AND COMMUNITY GROWTH, PAPER PRESENTED BY PST. JOSEPH C. IBEKWE, CEO, FLEDGROUP, ABUJA AT THE MAIDEN EZEAGBOGU DEVELOPMENT SUMMIT, HELD AT EZEAGBOGU, EZINIHITTE MBAISE, IMO STATE, AUGUST 10 – 12, 2018
I want to deeply appreciate the organizers of this first Ezeagbogu Development Summit. It’s gratifying to note that, at this critical time in our historical evolution, the great sons and daughters of Ezeagbogu have decided to take the destiny of their community into their own hands. This event is one which time is overdue, but I would affirm that it is better to start late than never start at all.
I also want to appreciate the organizers for inviting me to make a presentation at this inaugural Development Summit. I am deeply humbled. I strongly believe that this summit will open new vistas to our community and I expect that the Summit outcomes will be painstakingly implemented for the benefit of our children’s children and the sustenance of our collective heritage.
Ezeagbogu is a landlocked community in Ezinihitte Local Governmenr Area of Imo State. It is surrounded by five other communities, namely Okpofe, Itu, Ihitte, Onicha and Ahiara. Ezeagbogu has a few formal educational institutions that cater for its human capital development, namely two primary schools and two secondary schools, one public and the other private. Though it has a vibrant young population, unfortunately most of these young people exit the community in search of better life outside due to lack of self-actualisation opportunities; leaving behind an aging population that can hardly support sustainable development. The community does not have functional social and physical infrastructures that can sustain high qaulity life. Because of these, the community is in the throes of under-development and is currently at near zero growth level.
I understand that the theme of this summit is Setting Ezeagbogu on the Path to Development, and within this thematic focus I have been asked to speak on the topic: Human Capital Development and Community Growth. I am also expected to participate tomorrow in a panel discussion on the topic: Peaceful Co-existence as Catalyst for Community Development.
In this paper, I will adopt a conceptual approach in discussing the topic and follow a pragmatic approach in my submissions on strategies to institutionalise sustainable community development in Ezeagbogu.
Therefore, I will share with us on four critical areas:
- The concept of Human Capital Development;
- The Concept of Sustainable Development ;
- Community Growth and Community Development;
- Strategies to transform Ezeagbogu into a vibrant sustainable Community.
In doing these,
I will provide some conceptual definitions.
I will provide anecdotes – stories from my work experience and others in the field
Finally, I will invite each of us to put hands on the plough for deliberate actions towards the attainment of the Community’s collective vision.
I will be speaking more to our hearts, than to our heads; because a lot depends not just on what we know in our heads, but on the willingness of our hearts to get things done.
- Human Capital
Societies or communities are as developed as the quality of human beings within them. The quality of humans in any society is measured in terms of capital; with capital referring to the assets, resources, and investments that are prevalent within that society. Human capital therefore is about the sum total of the skills, education, and attributes that influence the productive capacity and earning potential in the society. Two things stand out in this description: production and earning.
According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), human capital is defined as: “the knowledge, competencies and other attributes embodied in individuals or groups of individuals acquired during their life and used to produce goods, services or ideas in market circumstances”.
Human capital is a term made popular by Gary Becker, an economist and Nobel Laureate from the University of Chicago. Essentially, the human capital theory refers to the stock of knowledge, habits, social and personal attributes including creativity which could be deployed to produce economic benefits1. The original idea of human capital can be traced back to the work of Adam Smith in the 18th century, the man who wrote the book titled “The Wealth of Nations“.
An article in Wikipedia, the online dictionary describes human capital as the collection of traits – all knowledge, talents, skills, abilities, experiences, intelligence, training, judgment, and wisdom possessed individually and collectively by individuals in a population, for example, in Ezeagbogu. These resources are the total capacity of the people, which is their potential for wealth that can be directed to accomplish the goals of the nation or state or a portion thereof.
There is the individual human capital which is about the skills and abilities of the individual that could be deployed to productive endeavours. There is also the human capital in the economy which is the aggregate individual human capital of an economy which is often determined by the prevalent educational standards. Human capital is not inherent, but acquirable.
Factors that determine Human Capital
Because human capital is not inherent, there are factors that determine its level of prevalence in any society. These include, but not limited to the following:
- Practical skills and qualifications
- Educational exposure and attainment
- Work experience
- Relational skills – Communications skills
- Emotional intelligence
- Judgment – ability to make informed decisions
- Personality – hardworking
- Habits and personal preferences
- Creativity – ability to innovate, find new ways of solving problems, create new line products or services
- Geography – social pressure of local environment which can affect expectations and attitudes.
In recent years, most theorists have broken down human capital, now referred to as “intangibles” into one or more components for the purpose of analysis. These are social capital – the sum of social bonds and relationships. It has other synonyms as goodwill, brand, social cohesion or social resilience. There are also the instructional capital and intellectual capital.
Based on research and observations, experts have come to agree that human capital is the backbone of Human Development and economic development. For instance, Mahroum (2007) suggested that at the macro-level, human capital management comprise of three key capacities: the capacity to develop talent, the capacity to deploy talents, and the capacity to draw talent from elsewhere. Collectively, these three capacities form the backbone of any country’s human capital competitiveness, including Ezeagbogu.
Human Capital Development: The Imperative for Ezeabgogu
At the beginning of this paper I stated that a society is as developed as its human capital. It follows therefore that Ezeagbogu is as developed as its reserviour of human capital. The level of human capital determines so many things including employment, productivity, innovation, economic growth, and general prosperity. Given that we live in a modern global world, to which Ezeagbogu is part of, it is inevitable that we should be concerned about the community’s level of human capital development. We should be concerned about how to improve our reserviour of skills and resources; and on how to deploy them for socio-economic benefit.
- The Concept of Sustainable Development
The term “Sustainable Development” was first coined by the United Nations Commission on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1987, under the leadership of the former Norwegian Prime Minister Ms. Brundtland. The Commission defined Sustainable Development as “development that meets the needs of the present without jeopardizing the capacity of future generations to meet its own needs”.
Since the Commission defined that concept, other subsidiary concepts have emerged including “sustainable democracy”, “sustainable agriculture”, “sustainable society”, “society livelihood”, etc. Each of these has a bearing to human capital development. For instance, Sustainable society has to do with the capacity of a society to exploit its inherent resources to meet its present needs without undermining the capacity of its future generations to meet its own needs. What are the inherent resources in Ezeagbogu? Sustainability has to do with continuity of existence and functionality. In the light of Ezeagbogu, we are talking about how to develop the community today with the resources available, without jeopardising the capacity of future generations of our people to develop themselves. This requires deep thinking, concerted efforts and concentric actions.
Indicators of a sustainable society
There are certain values that make for a sustainable society. The absence of these values is indicative of a society that will implode on itself over time. These values are hard work or dignity of labour, honesty, respect for constituted authority, respect for sanctity of human life, communality and mutuality of support, particularly support for the elderly and the vulnerable groups – children and physically challenged persons.
Indicators of unsustainable society
On the other hand, there are indicators of a potentially unsustainable society. These include violence, youth disorientation, dishonesty, disobedience to constituted authority, family breakdown, individualistic lifestyles, valuation of money over and above human life, lack of inter-generational connection and paucity of support through mentoring and volunteerism.
What do these have to do with us? Simple! As long as our society condones these behaviours and does not come out strongly to collectively condemn those acting in such manner and encourage those who live in line, all efforts at community development will be a waste of time.
- Community Growth and Community Development
I was asked to talk on community growth. I will take a side step to state that growth is a good thing if done right. There are bad growths. Communities are dynamic; they can’t stay the same; and they can’t sit around and reminisce on the “good old days”. Instead, they have to sit up, look forward and position themselves for a positive, productive future. Thankfully, that’s the reason for this important summit at this time. However, community growth is a function of community development. In fact, community growth is the outcome or by-product of community development. What then is Community Development?
In the global development circles, the term “development” often carries an assumption of growth and expansion. In recent times, the concept of development has been questioned because of the realization that ‘more’ does not always mean ‘better’. Therefore, while the term “development” may not always mean growth, it always imply “change” – not change as in political slogan. Community development therefore is a process whereby community members come together to take collective action and generate solutions to common problems. The central purpose of community development is community wellbeing exemplified in economic buoyancy, social stability, environmental purity, good quality health status, cultural vitality and moral character of the members of the community.
Essentially, community development begins as a small initiative within a small group and could grow into broader community involvement. It is usually a grassroots process by which community members:
- Become more responsible
- Organize and plan together
- Develop healthy lifestyle options
- Empower themselves
- Reduce poverty and suffering
- Create employment and economic opportunities
- Achieve social, economic , cultural and environmental goals
Genuine Community development initiatives should seek to improve on the quality of life and should be sustainable. There are things that characterize an effective community development. It should be:
- A long –term venture
- Carefully planned
- Inclusive and equitable
- Holistic and integrated into the community’s bigger picture
- Initiated and supported by the community members – community ownership is important
- Of benefit to the community
- Grounded in experience that leads to best practices – the initiative is replicable
One of the key benefits of Community development is that it helps to build community capacity to address issues, take advantage of opportunities, find common ground for action and balance competing community interests. However, this does not just happen. Capacity building requires both a conscious and a conscientious effort to do something to improve the community. It requires integrated long-term planning and strategic actions. This takes me to my last point of discussion.
- Strategies to transform Ezeagbogu into a vibrant sustainable Community
Capacity is key to development. Long-term holistic vision is what undergirds any development initiative and processes. Ability to identify relevant pillars of development is what determines the nature of human capital to be nurtured and deployed. Let us start with vision. What is the kind of society we see Ezeagbogu to be like in the next 5, 10, 20 or 50 years from today? Can we capture it? It is important to articulate a clear vision of what kind of Ezeagbogu we want to see in
the future. It is that vision that will inspire and direct our plans, our actions and our engagement with the outside world, including our neighbours. For instance I propose a community vision statement that reads something like this:
“We see a community of a healthy population actively engaged in sustainable agriculture and wholesome economic activities; that produces responsible and skilled citizens able to occupy leadership roles within and outside the community; that has regularly maintained good roads network and functional social infrastructures like recreation centres, schools and healthcare facilities; where everyone feels secure and individuals are treated with dignity; where the elderly and the vulnerable are protected and supported; where cultural and religious liberties are respected; where relationship between the old and the young is mutually reinforcing and respectful; where innovation and creativity are cherished and community members are proud of their identity and gladly welcome diversity”.
A vision statement such this can easily inspire community members to think of ways and means to actualize it. It is this kind of vision that will determine the community’s approach to matters of education, security, healthcare and sanitation, leadership development and engagement with the outside world. It will determine how the community treats its members in order to maintain social harmony which is critical to its continuing survival and existence.
Against this background I want propose some strategies to transform Ezeagbogu into a sustainable community over a long term.
- We must create a Community Vision Statement – CVS
- We need to develop common values that we hold dear, that unifies us and cannot be compromised by any member of the community.
- We need to develop a plan of where we expect Ezeagbogu to be in the next 20 years – a 20-year development plan. Such a plan will touch on the following critical areas: Education, Politics and Political leadership, Economy and Entrepreneurship, Security, Health and environmental cleanliness, Mentoring and deliberate support for youth development, etc.
- We should encourage our youths to enroll to serve in security agencies: military (air force, navy, and army), police, customs, immigration, and Civil Defense.
- We should identify some of our young people who have inclination to civil service and help them get jobs and encourage them to stay in the service.
- We should also identify youth with potentials for politics and groom them for political participation early enough.
- I suggest the establishment of an Ezeagbogu Development Trust Fund – EDTF – to function as NGO which will be responsible for collecting donations and funding specific development projects within the community. The NGO will be independent of Ezeagbogu Development Union – EDU, but managed by competent professionals. Details of structure and functionality of this organization could be worked out later.
- Finally, we must moderate our proclivity towards money and individuals with high economic power, but to also respect ideas and innovation which generate money and sustain societies. By all means, money is important for human capital and community development, but values, ideas and innovation are what sustain a society over a long haul.
Specific Roles of individuals and Groups
I have proffered possible ways of transforming Ezeagbogu into a sustainable society. But let me go a bit further to suggest specific roles that individuals and groups within the community could take in order to operationalise these ideals.
- Individuals – Individual members of Ezeagbogu who are economically well to do must invest in the youths of this community. The investment could be in terms of offering educational scholarships; sponsorship of some youths to learn trades and skills in different fields; organize Entrepreneurship Training programmes as well as help them with start-up capital to set up small businesses. Adult members of our community should be available to serve as mentors to the younger ones in business, professions, ministry, and other areas of life endeavors. Investment in youth development is critical to community survival.
- Groups – There are so many groups that exist in this community including Age Grades, Women Associations, Religious Groups, etc. Each of these groups must deliberately shift focus from merely existing as social gatherings to become development-oriented. The justification for the continued existence of these groups should be on the value they add to the community. Why should Age Groups not initiate scholarships for indigent children? Why should religious groups not be actively involved in community development? In this wise, I am talking about Religious Social Responsibility (RSR). The community should have a physical impact of the existence of a religious group in the community in practical terms, beyond conventional preaching, teaching and crusading with the Word of God. Different Ezeabgogu Development Union (EDU) branches should begin to re-evaluate themselves and get back to their core reason for existence – which is community development, not denominational religious development. Let’s have less of eating and drinking at our meetings and devote a little more resources to what benefits the community in general.
Our organization – FLEDGROUP – will be ready to provide free counseling and support to individuals or groups that are interested to know how to go about in any of the areas I have discussed. Experience from elsewhere has shown that it is dangerous to be a rich person in the midst poor people. Therefore, it is important we do everything to reduce poverty and inequality by investing in our own people. Everyone has a part to play. I invite all of us do our part; because what we can do for ourselves will determine what others will be willing to do for us.
Distinguished sons and daughters of Ezeagbogu, I congratulate you for this giant step. A journey of a thousand miles starts with the first steps. You have taken the first step by organising this Development Summit. We must now move forward by taking ownership of this development initiative and put ourselves on the line to make it reality. What we can do for ourselves, will be fundamentally transforming than whatever others can do for us. As long as we are not desperate to pursue individual agendas, but to promote collective interests, we shall make progress speedily; otherwise we will remain stagnated!
I hope take questions and reactions from you today and to share more at the panel discussions tomorrow. Thank you for your patient attention and the opportunity to share my thoughts with this distinguished audience.
Long live Ezeagbogu Community
God bless you all.
Pastor Joseph Chinenyeze Ibekwe
CEO, FLEDGROUP, Abuja
Tel: 0803 326 1363. August 10, 2018
- Clauia Goldin, Department of Economics, Harvard University and national Bureau of Economic
Research “Human Capital”