GSIF Blog Post #2

One example of how cultural issues affect the Philippines plastics project is figuring out what handmade plastics product would be marketable to an audience in metro Manila. For example, products that boost “made in the USA”, that they are made by the hands of artisans, or sourced from eco-friendly materials is a pretty good way to grab a buyer’s attention in the United States. It is clear that the “made in the USA” aspect does not mean the same to a Filipino citizen as it does to an American one. A product that is in high demand in the United States does not necessarily mean it is in high demand elsewhere, and this trait demonstrates the importance of understanding the culture of the Philippines as well as communicating with UPD to see what they believe is marketable.

Another example is the view on Women’s rights in each nation. While the Philippines are a moderately developed nation, our team is not yet familiar enough with the cultural customs and views on the roles of women. This could affect our project’s success as it is imperative that local people or firms will want to purchase goods that are made in a women’s shelter.

A third example of cultural issues and differences affecting our project is the perception of American students coming to do fieldwork for their project. As was discussed in lecture, it is a common sentiment outside of the United States that what Americans value most is power over time, money, family, or other typical values. This perception may hinder our project in that we may be perceived as aloof and that we may have different motives than we actually do. It is extremely important that we make sure that those we deal with know that our project is focused on benefiting the women’s center in Paradise Village, and NOT about power. After all, we are university students and are in the project to not only create a positive impact but to learn while doing so.

One example of these issues in action comes from my recent trip to London, England. One night, my friends and I decided to go to a local pub. As is usual in the united states, we all wore brightly colored clothing, from colorful flannels to graphic t shirts. We stuck out like a sore thumb, because we quickly learned that a general fashion pattern in England is to wear lots of dark colors like black. It was very obvious to those around us that we were not locals, and were from the United States.

In addition, another cultural issue at home is the initial mistrust of those from other countries. One example is the commonly shouted “immigrants are stealing our jobs” complaints that can always be heard around elections. It is common all over the world to inherently trust fellow citizens over those from another country, partially due to bias but also simply due to a difference in culture. It is unfortunate that even with the ease of global communication, that there still exists mistrust across nation borders.

A third situation that is present at home is the demand for certain products across different regions. Products with terms like “organic” or “locally sourced” can fetch a higher price in a market that is removed from farms, such as urban centers like New York City. Whereas these labels would not attract any attention at all in rural areas that are always surrounded by organic and locally sourced food, because that is what all food is. Similarly, different regions have different demand for products. Tractor sales in downtown Los Angeles are pretty low, and few people in rural North Dakota have a need for a fully electric car.

One example of how cultural practices can be leveraged to address community and market problems is to invoke a common cultural priority. Arguments like “it saves money, it saves time, it brings the family together” are good first steps to reaching your audience culturally.

Another example of leveraging cultural practices to address market problems is that a difference in value on wasted goods such as old water bottles and plastic bags can mean a larger profit on the goods that are made from these materials since they can be bought for cheaper.

Lastly, since there is a very strong sense of Catholicism in the Philippines, it would be very advantageous to get the support of local churches. This would mean that the members of these churches would in turn be willing to aid our project how they can and it would mean that we would gain a general favorable view from local markets. The Church would be a very helpful ally in gathering information and input from locals as well.

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