Typically, students end the semester with tons of exams and paperwork. For us MDM students, we ended the first term with a Rapid Area Assessment (our last hu-RAA!, get it?).
RAA is the culmination and application of all the classroom learning from Term 1. For a period of 2 weeks, learning teams conducted field work, gathering data on various issues. This year, the learning teams were assigned to different areas in Makati City, such as the Central Business District, the boundary between Makati and Manila, and the disputed areas between Taguig and Makati, among others.
The RAA had two phases. The first stage was designing the RAA plan wherein groups were expected to outline their objectives, methodologies, research tools, and the themes of their research study. Since time and resources were limited, groups needed to be focused, realistic, and strategic.
The second phase was actually going to the field and conducting the research. RAA provided more of qualitative data using various methods such as observation, key informant interviews, and focus group discussion. Students were expected to submit a written report and give an oral presentation on their findings to a panel.
The RAA work was unpredictable and challenging. You cannot expect things to always go right. Our learning teams faced various challenges along the way. We faced logistical problems, communication breakdown, and organizational inefficiencies. Some of us had difficulty reaching out to village officials, while others faced hardship in communicating with the residents.
Since we conducted the RAA during the summertime, many of us experienced dehydration and got sick. Our foreign classmates had difficulty understanding conversations and interviews because they could not speak the local language. Yet, some of them confessed to enjoying the RAA because it was a good opportunity for them to see the other side of Makati.
Relevance of the RAA
For the students, RAA was an avenue to apply and integrate all the learnings from the classroom. This was a chance for us to use the concepts and frameworks and also practice our writing, synthesizing, and analyzing skills. The RAA was where theory and practice were put together. Working in a group within a span of two weeks also trained us to manage the challenges in collaborating with people.
The Makati City government partnered with AIM in this year’s RAA, and the findings of the students will be used by the local government to address community challenges and improve the lives of their constituents.
The two-week RAA was difficult but insightful experience for all of us. We were exposed to the different issues in the community. We were able to listen to the voices of the people in the margins. We had a chance to interact with the different sectors and know their individual and collective challenges.
We may learn intricate frameworks, profound concepts, and complex tools in class, but I guess nothing beats real-life learning experience! So as we end our first semester, we are immensely happy for surviving the semester as we can finally shout at the top of our lungs, hu-RAA!!! for a meaningful term!