Tanya Hotchkiss continues family tradition

Tanya Hotchkiss, executive director of the Hotchkiss Foundation

Development work runs in Tanya Hotchkiss’s blood. Her father co-founded a foundation and a bank in the late 1990s to give back to the locals of a southern Philippine town “who have embraced our family as one of their own.”

Today, Hotchkiss is the executive director of Hotchkiss Foundation and head of strategic management at Cantilan Bank, an institution that promotes savings among indigenous peoples and conditional cash transfers. She is one the most influential development leaders aged 40 and under in Manila.

Devex is recognizing 40 of these young trailblazers in international development. They are social entrepreneurs, government leaders, development consultants, business innovators, advocates, development researchers, nonprofit executives and journalists.

We spoke with Hotchkiss about her vision for strife-torn Philippine region of Mindanao.

In 2012, you joined the Cantilan Bank in Mindanao. What made you make this career move? Are you encouraged by what you’ve seen so far?

I made the move because of the challenge constantly posed by my dad. He has been with Cantilan Bank since 1999 and started the Hotchkiss Foundation and the Hotchkiss Learning Center that same year — all with the same vision of serving and giving back to the people of Cantilan who have embraced our family as one of their own.

After I earned my master’s degree in development, innovation and change in 2011, he knew I was ready to meet his challenge. He said: “You want to do real development work? Then work in Mindanao. It doesn’t get any more real than this.”

Admittedly, the challenge seemed daunting, but the more I thought about it, the clearer my goals became. If I can help fulfill even just a fraction of the vision that my great grandfather set out to achieve back in 1906 when he was assigned in Surigao del Sur as a teacher, then I can say that I have done what I can as a Filipino to help my country.

Cantilan is my dad’s hometown and now it’s mine as well. I’ve seen it progress from a fifth-class municipality with half of its population living below the poverty line to a second-class municipality that has been classified in the 2009 National Statistical Coordination Board poverty study as the least poor area in the entire CARAGA region with just a quarter of its inhabitants earning 16,841 pesos per year.

At times, the pace of development seems as slow as a carabao (just look at the highway and the roads from the airport to here) but, when I take a closer look at one of Cantilan Bank’s performance indicators — levels of poverty incidence in the community where we work — I am considerably encouraged.

The peace process has encouraged donors and international aid agencies to start or increase their engagement in Mindanao. Which sector in Mindanao do you think donors and aid agencies should focus on to create the most development impact?

I think I could make this same case anywhere in the world — investment in education creates the most development impact. This applies to basic primary and secondary education as well as financial education. We see that we are achieving results in the former through our school, the Hotchkiss Learning Center, and the latter through our financial literacy campaign in Cantilan Bank. Education is key to social and financial inclusion and sustainable community development.

You were the first Web and social media editor for the Arangkada Philippines project. What advice would you have for other development organizations that are eager to tap the Web and social media in their efforts?

I once heard someone say, “A marketing strategy without a mobile strategy is not a strategy at all.” This is made especially relevant in emerging markets such as the Philippines where a significant percentage of people access the internet for the first time through a smartphone. If the Internet and social media can be made much more accessible through mobile phones, then this is a great opportunity for development organizations to connect and deliver education to their audience.

Read more about the Devex 40 Under 40 International Development Leaders in Manila.

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