Let’s Get Lao!

The Rapid Area Assessment was the last activity of MDM students for Term 1. For the second term, the MDM class conducted an International Field Review (IFR).

The IFR is a two-week immersion program in an Asian country where students are expected to assess a local development project. In this exercise, the class reviewed and evaluated projects, looking at its sustainability programs, and made recommendations to enhance the project’s effectiveness. The findings from the field review will be presented to partner organizations and the faculty members for critiquing and improvement.

MDM goes to Lao


We left for Laos on August 19 and stayed in Vientiane until August 27. There, we assessed the health insurance design of the Lao Ministry of Health.

Dr. Kenneth Hartigan Go, the head of the Stephen Zuellig School of Development Management, said, “Health Insurance is a way to protect the citizens from financial risk emanating from catastrophic illness.” The doctor noted that the IFR is a learning platform for the Development Management graduate students to study an international development issue of concern.

The IFR was made possible in partnership with Asian Development Bank through Dr. Eduardo P. Banzon. What makes the field review unique is that it was conducted in a different country with a different context and set of systems.

Crystal Anievas, the class president, shared her thoughts about the IFR: “Being an international field review, we couldn’t be complacent. We had to plan all our interactions in advance because Lao has a unique system. We also had to be prepared for anything–groups were prepared for changes in schedule and created contingency plans. We had to rely on our translators to help us gather data and communicate to the locals,”


Insights and Reflection

As development managers, we were able to get practical, hands-on experience in dealing with development issues. The IFR helped normalize our use of developmental jargon, (like the “bottleneck” we experienced in the immigration department and assessing the “capacity utilization” of the hospital employees [thanks, Prof. Chua]).

Crystal said, “Development concepts like social health insurance sound so complex in the classroom and on paper. Going to the field and speaking to the people on the ground made the concepts come to life. They became clearer.”

But perhaps the most significant insight we gained during the IFR was realizing how far we have come in our MDM journey. You could see the camaraderie, the synergy, the tension, the conflicts, and the teamwork needed to produce the output for the IFR written report and presentation.

This trip gave us a glimpse into the reality that despite a myriad of problems, uncertainty of circumstances, and seemingly unsolvable issues, there exists beauty, hope, and resilience that make life worth living, which motivates us to keep trying.


***The MDM 2017 class wishes to thank Dr. Kenneth Hartigan Go, Dr. Eduardo P. Banzon of the Asian Development Bank, Ms. Vanhpheng Sirimongkhoune of the World Health Organization, the Lao Ministry of Health, our local translators, and all the people who made our trip successful and meaningful.

Words by: Marikris de Guzman and Nur Ainee Lim, Students, Master in Development Management 2017


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