Shaping the future of CBRD: Priorities and prospects

(Interview with Dr. Raymund Habaradas, Director, Center for Business Research and Development)

 

In this interview done by Susan Claire Agbayani in 2016, Center for Business Research and Development (CBRD) Director Dr. Raymund Habaradas looks back and sees how the Center has grown over the past two decades – from the time it was known as CBERD, then briefly as AKIBERD — and finally, by its current name CBRD. He also cites who were instrumental to its growth, who its partners were, and where it’s headed. He also talked about fairly recent projects and involvements that affirm that the Center has truly emerged from the shadows and has finally come of age. Excerpts from the interview:

 

How do you think the Center for Business Research and Development (or CBRD) has fulfilled the vision and mission of DLSU – that of being a leading learner-centered research university, and bridging faith and scholarship, attuned to a sustainable earth, and in the service of church and society — especially the poor and marginalized?

 

Dr. Raymund Habaradas: I think that CBRD has fulfilled this role by helping develop the capability of the faculty members and graduate students in doing research. Part of our mandate is to get funding from external sources so we could sustain our activities. But it’s only possible to get external funding if we have a pool of faculty members who can do the research well. The capability-building aspect of our work as a center is integral to the fund-raising aspect. When we talk about bridging faith and scholarship and serving society, it actually goes beyond research alone. It means that we must be able to disseminate the research that we do, and also be able to advocate the things that are important to the College and to the University.

For instance, the RVRCOB is a signatory of the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME). One of PRME’s principles is about research. We engage in conceptual and empirical research that advances our understanding about the role, dynamics and impact of corporations in the creation of sustainable social, environmental, and economic value which we teach our students in our academic programs.

Aside from doing research, we must also follow Principle Six which is Dialogue. It  says that we will facilitate and support dialogue and debate among educators, students, business, government, consumers, media, civil society organizations and other interest groups and stakeholders on critical issues related to global social responsibility and sustainability; meaning, whatever we write and research about must also be known to a wider audience. You can see that this is addressed by our National Business and Management Conference (NBMC) and by the lectures that we organize and that are often open to the public.

In a sense, as a research center, we’re not only producing knowledge, but making sure that the knowledge is actually being utilized through our advocacy and through our public forums, lectures and conferences.

 

What is the significance of DLSU’s having been the first institution in the country to be a signatory to the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME), an initiative of the UN Global Compact?

 

I think being a signatory to the Principles for Responsible Management Education is really an affirmation of what La Salle as a business school actually stands for. Even before we signed up for PRME, we were already pushing for corporate social responsibility (CSR), sustainable business practices, humanistic management, quality of work life, and good corporate governance. We were already pushing that, but that was in the MBA program of GSB.  It was very clearly reflected in the curriculum.

It’s really affirming what we already stood for as an institution. But since we signed up, it means that now we’re making public our commitment. We’re saying to other institutions that we will actually advocate these values. We were also responsible for getting the first members of PRME in the Philippines to sign up through the efforts of Dr. Teehankee, who is now the lead researcher of CBRD’s Business for Human Development Network (CBRD-BHDN). The first members of PRME, like Ateneo and AIM, were his recruits.

 

Can you tell us more about the National Business and Management Conference (NBMC) and how important CBRD’s role is in the conference?

 

During my first year as director of CBRD, I was asked by Dr. Edralin and Dr. Teehankee to help set up the NBMC together with the Philippine Academy of Management (PAoM). This was supposed to be a PAoM activity, and we wanted to partner with the University of San Carlos (USC). But for some reason, PAoM wasn’t able to organize it as an association, so they asked La Salle to help out. As Research Director of CBRD, I was the one who helped organize it with Dr. Edralin, who had contacts with San Carlos.

The idea was that San Carlos would take care of the logistics and the venue and La Salle would take care of the scientific committee: receive paper submissions, evaluate the work of whoever would be accepted, and then create the program. It worked well during that first year, in 2013. We said, maybe we could do it again the following year, because San Beda College committed to be the next partner. We did it again the following year. The original conference in San Beda was cancelled because of a typhoon, so we had to move it over to La Salle. So DLSU played host for the second year.

We saw how this actually contributed to building the image and reputation of the Center, and of the College as a center for business research. We decided to continue. It was held in Baguio in 2015; and in Davao in 2016. Over the years, we’ve included some innovations in terms of how the conference is undertaken. We were able to set up some of the systems. Now, it’s easy to do it every year. It’s no longer as difficult to organize as it was in the first two years.

The purpose of the NBMC was really to give a venue for faculty members of business schools and graduate students to present their papers, so that they could improve the quality of their papers prior to publication. But there were unintended outcomes. Because of the networking that takes place during the conference, now we open up opportunities for research collaborations between and among the institutions.

Since they know that we in La Salle could provide research capability-building, over the years, we’ve been receiving invitations to conduct training in various schools. That’s the reason why — every so often – we go to the provinces, because they’ve asked me and some of our faculty members to do training. The Center has really become visible. La Salle is seen as a leader in terms of business and management research.

Aside from NBMC, we also co-organized several international conferences such as the PRME Research Conference in 2014 and the Catholic Social Teachings (CST) Conference in 2015. So on the average, we organized two conferences per year: one domestic (NBMC) and one international. These served as vehicles to expand our network.

In 2016, PAoM returned to NBMC as a partner. I took over as President of PAoM. The more senior members of the organization wanted relatively younger people to run the organization to make it more dynamic, since PAoM had become dormant. NBMC promotes scholarship in business and management. We’re actually doing what PAoM is supposed to promote: management scholarship among business schools. So they wanted to revive the organization. They said, why don’t we just link up with La Salle and NBMC? And I said, that’s fine, since we’re already doing it.

 

What research has the center embarked on that would truly reflect the DLSU vision or mission?

 

I would consider a research project which we did on my second year as director as important and quite significant because of its scope: Vision 2020 and Beyond: Road Map for the Printing Industry of the Philippines. A lot of papers were produced from this project. We helped the printing industry in the Philippines develop a roadmap to help it grow and become more competitive, especially with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Community coming in.

This project looked into various facets of the printing industry. From coming up with the general landscape, to finding out how the players in the industry actually innovated; what the technological trends were over the years; and what the prospects for the industry are — given ASEAN — and what the bottlenecks are, particularly in terms of developing talent for the industry.

By doing this project, we were able to uncover issues related to different aspects of the industry. And currently, PCPEF (or the Philippine Center for Print Excellence Foundation) – our funding agency – works closely with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).  They have sponsored several workshops already, trying to implement the different recommendations that we made in that roadmap.

Everything’s there in the roadmap, and it’s been distributed to different industry players. It is what PCPEF uses to mobilize the different stakeholders who have an interest in the success of the industry.

We also did several studies that are different in nature, because our external projects are demand-driven.

The Assessment of Corporate Responses to Sustainability Imperatives is a significant project. We had our respective teams and topics. We looked into three general aspects of sustainability in corporations: sustainability reporting under Dr. Maria Andrea Santiago; corporate social initiatives and social enterprises under me; and humanistic management practices of firms under Dr. Divina Edralin. The project was partly-funded by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED); La Salle had counterpart funding. This one (was) really closely-related to our PRME commitments: they have something to do with sustainability.

In 2016, we had external projects funded by international organizations. The first one is Capturing Coral Reef and Related Services (CCRES) Project – Business Model Development and Evaluation (Business Analysis) Activity in El Nido, Palawan, which we are doing in partnership with the University of Queensland and Cornell University. This is part of a bigger project funded by the World Bank. The first phase is only a part of that being handled by Cornell. It was extended to 2017; we were asked to take on a more active role on the Philippine component, because of the work we’ve done the past few months.

The second project was funded by the Philippines-Australian Human Resource and Organisational Development Facility (PAHRODF), which wanted us to take a look at the different business models of selected government training institutes in the country.

 

How have the research priorities of the college evolved over the decades? How have these influenced the thrusts and activities of CBERD/ AKIBERD/ CBRD?

 

Over the years, our priority had been to develop research capability. And this is consistent with the expectations of the university for our faculty members to publish in scholarly journals, and for their works to be cited.

That’s the priority of the University, and by extension, of the College. When the College of Business and Economics (CBE) had the Angelo King Institute (AKI), the Center for Business Economic Research and Development (CBERD, the predecessor of CBRD), just focused on internal activities. AKI was more active in getting external funding, especially since its past directors were really known in the academic setting and internationally, so they were able to get a lot of projects under AKI.

When the School of Economics (SoE) and the CBE split up, AKI was more closely associated with SoE, and CBRD became the default center of the RVRCOB. If you look at the current structure of La Salle, though, all the different research centers/ institutes report directly to the Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation (VCRI). CBRD is nevertheless associated with the College, but we could draw talent from all over the university, even from outside. Talent need not be drawn solely from the College itself. But in the past two years, that’s what has happened. I was really just drawing from our internal pool of talents. Now, we’re beginning to draw talent from outside.

Our research priority is developing capability. It still continues to this day. Except that it’s not a burden that CBRD alone has to carry. Under the structure of RVRCOB, the Vice Dean for Research and Graduate Studies (VD-RAGS) is supposed to develop the capabilities of the faculty and graduate students.  It’s as though research has been integrated into our academic programs. Many of our graduate programs are very heavy in terms of research. And then, their requirements after their course work are papers. This helps our faculty and graduate students develop capability as part of the graduate programs, and not just an extra activity being conducted by CBRD. We’re providing with venues through which they can present these papers through conferences and public forums. In short, we’re trying to see what we can do so there would be synergies among the activities of VD-RAGS, the research activities of the academic departments, and the activities of CBRD.

It helps that Dr. Divina Edralin, who was my mentor, and I are both from the Management and Organization Department (MOD). So it’s easy to coordinate and we have open communication between the two offices; and we’re friends with the different academic departments.

I’m looking at creating sub-centers within CBRD that senior faculty of RVRCOB could head and they could take care of advocacy. For instance, Dr. Ben Teehankee is the lead researcher of the Business for Human Development Network. It’s a sub-center within CBRD which advocates humanistic practices in business. We will provide it with seed funding. We expect it to deliver knowledge products, organize public forums, and even generate its own funding requirements from external sources. We can probably replicate that model of a center within a center by creating more later on. But we’re trying this out as proof of concept.

 

When she became the Dean of RVRCOB, Dr. Luisa C. Delayco said she told you to identify the research direction of the college. What did you set as the research direction of the college?

 

I was actually appointed as CBRD director for one year during the deanship of Dr. Ginny Santiago, and then it was extended for two more years under the deanship of Dr. Luisa Delayco. I was reappointed as CBRD director under the term of Dean Brian Gozun in 2016.

To be honest, I didn’t see it as something long-term. I was really just focused on the activities of the Center itself and at being able to run it on a year-to-year basis.  My original timetable was really just to do one year and then two years, just to get all of these projects coming in; just so it could be said that the Center was already earning.

We had modest goals. Year One: To get the center to be known; Year Two: To be able to get externally-funded projects — let’s say from local sources — which we were able to do. And then, Year Three:  To be able to do some more activities to generate external funding with an international component; which is happening right now.

Now I can already think about the center in a more strategic sense. Over the years, I have begun to get a clearer sense of what the opportunities and possibilities are. We plan to conduct a strategic planning workshop involving key stakeholders of the college and some of the research fellows involved in the different projects. I think that would be the opportune time to set the research direction that would be formed due to collaboration, and not based on what just one person wants to happen – which is basically what has happened in the past three years. This is typical of research centers that are very dependent on the personality and interests of the director.

 

Does the CBRD Fund still exist?

 

We have a CBRD Fund. That’s what I tap into for the remuneration of some of our fellows. There even is a College Research Fund under the Dean’s Office. And that fund had not been touched for a long time. I plan to tap into that for the small sub-centers I intend to create, just as seed fund. After a while, we hope to generate or raise external funding. The beneficiaries could just give it back to the College Research Fund for other activities.

 

So, is it “Publish or Perish?” Or “Publish and Flourish?”  And how has CBRD supported this so far?

 

Publications are important, but we’re looking at publication in a more inclusive sense that’s not just limited to scholarly journals. It could be internally-produced based on research we have undertaken and based on the thrusts that we think are important not just for the college, but also the country. These should include business notes, monographs, textbooks, book chapters, teaching cases, and teaching notes, among others.

What I see here is that if the faculty members are good, and they do a lot of rigorous research because of the different internally-funded sources and the externally-funded projects we generate, publications will actually follow later on. They will really be published, because they want whatever they labored on to be cited by people. This is something that will happen as a natural result of the capability-building that we’re doing. We don’t even have to set targets because it will naturally happen.

I can see that we don’t have to rely solely on the publications-and-citations game, because we’re the College of Business. The important thing is, our research is useful to industry and academe.