Academic journal article The South East Asian Journal of Management

Empowerment of the Few and Disempowerment of the Many - Disempowerment in Thai 'One Tambon One Product' Organisations (Otops)

Academic journal article The South East Asian Journal of Management

Empowerment of the Few and Disempowerment of the Many - Disempowerment in Thai 'One Tambon One Product' Organisations (Otops)

Article excerpt

Small and medium-sized businesses are not only paramount for a thriving economy but contribute to the development of individuals, local communities and the society in many respects. Thus, governments are often keen to provide support for the development of such enterprises. For example, in 2001 the Thai government introduced a One Tambon One Product (OTOP) scheme in order to help small and medium-sized businesses achieving a whole range of goals (Boonyarattanasoontorn, 2006; Fujimoto, 1992; Kurokawa, 2010; Natsuda et al., 2011):

Economic goals - creating local value-adding activities through branding local products, developing rural economies, generating income and alleviating poverty;

Social goals - enhancing local communities' entrepreneurial skills by using local resources and knowledge, building human resources in the local economy and encouraging participation of the local community;

Psychological goals - building community spirit and pride and increasing people's self-esteem and sense of belonging;

Political goals - ensuring social cohesion and political stability.

This scheme actually goes back to the Japanese One Village One Product (OVOP) concept for economic and social development of rural communities, invented in the late 1960s in Oita Prefecture, Japan (Kurokawa, 2010; Kurokawa et al., 2010; Natsuda et al., 2011; Routray, 2007). Its main idea is that local people set up small business organisations in which they use their own traditional skills and knowledge and combine them with modern management concepts in order to create and produce market products that are not only locally but also nationally, and even internationally, attractive and competitive.

In Thailand the one village concept has been adapted to tambons, which are local government units below district level and can comprise several neighbourhoods or even villages (for similarities and differences of OVOP and OTOP policies and their realisation in communities in Japan and Thailand (see Denpaiboon and Amatasawatdee, 2012; Kemavuthanon, 2014; Li and Schumann, 2013; Thu, 2013). There are now more than 36,000 OTOPs in Thailand, mostly in form of sole proprietorships and family businesses.

The development and dissemination of the ideas of OTOPs, especially in terms of their economic success, are well documented (Kurokawa, 2010; Kurokawa et al., 2010; Natsuda et al., 2011; Routray, 2007). However, most of the information about OTOPs available so far is purely related to either business or marketing, consists of very general overall numbers, and is mostly about products, markets or financial aspects. A consequence of such incomplete data is that analysis and conclusions (but also managerial and political decisions) often remain at functional levels and focus only on selected aspects (such as products and their marketing) and do not address the full scope and potential of OTOPs (Fujimoto, 1992).

What has been stressed less (and little investigated) is the social aspects of OTOPs, in particular how they relate to the ideas of empowerment (Boonyarattanasoontorn, 2006; Lortanavanit, 2009). However far-reaching empowerment is, it is generally understood as being good for people; it is good for their work, motivation, performance, job satisfaction, organisational loyalty, needs, wants, self-esteem, aspirations and personal development (e.g. Collier and Esteban, 1999; de Jong and van Witteloostuijin, 2004; Doucouliagos, 1995; Greasley et al., 2005; Maynard et al., 2012). In return, empowerment is also good for organisations. For example, in their empirical study on the influence of empowering leadership on employees' actual psychological empowerment, intrinsic motivation and engagement in the creative process. Zhang and Bartol (2010) found that these three variables are positively related to and feed positively into organisational performance.

Thus, empowering people, within organisations as well as within their communities, could be interpreted as social progress (Lortanavanit, 2009). …

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