This text is from an e-mail that I contemplated sending to my boss. We spoke about it instead, and he debunked my ideas and simplistic analysis, but I still think that they bear some consideration:
In my view, we cannot expect transformation of any sort until we develop a “value of transformation”. Informalism in the Caribbean speaks about a set of values, that though undeclared and perhaps, unrecognised in the people who hold these values, are tangible and ubiquitous, and are seen in the various social relationships among actors.
These values are so embedded within the culture that behaviours that they drive are not seen by actors as being inimical to organisational and social life, but rather are seen as being the best way to negotiate transactions and ensure organisational and social survival. This would explain why it is that we see nothing wrong with nepotism and insider trading, it would explain why it is that there is Jamaica Time operating within local organisations and why so many informal businesses exist both within and outside the formal economy.
The “value of transformation” describes the set of ideals and principles that underlie the “ethos of transformation”. These are the set of morals that are less fluid and less “Libertarian” than those that would typify the values based upon informal ideals. Transformational values are defined clearly and known by all actors on that stage. They survive in the bureaucratic tradition but are not overwhelmed by it.
However, this does not mean that they are virtuous. Virtuous values do not need public outcry against the use of child or other vulnerable labour in sweat shops in order for them to come into play. Instead they volunteer to move to the highest form of morality possible without being coerced into doing so. Indeed, transformational values may well include a certain understanding for the necessity for expedient behaviour that is not all together transformational in the sense that disciples of transformational leadership theories have defined the concept.
Clement Branche and his disciples in the HRD Unit at UWI, Mona, and I admit to being one of them, are concerned with exploring this issue of informalism. I will continue to think about this issue and I invite you to do so as well.