CSR Learner's Corner Archives

Interdependence and Community, or Why I Feel Misunderstood Whenever I Explain My Work

“C-S-R? B-C-Y-Foundation? Ano ‘yun [What’s that]? So, what exactly do you do?”

This is the most common reaction I get from people, in particular family and family friends, whenever I respond to that dread-filling question, “You’ve already graduated, right? What do you do now?”

To us recent graduates (take note, Class of 2013: we’re no longer “fresh” graduates come March!), this is probably the topic we were unceremoniously dragged into most during events or parties. And given the – for lack of a better term – unconventionality of what I am doing (relative to the community I hail from), I sometimes dread those times, just to avoid any long discussions that might raise more questions than answers.

Background: I’m a Chinese-Filipino guy whose family made their own fortune in their own little company, and who graduated with a degree-and-major in legal management. To many – even those who are less than a decade my senior – this leads to one of two conclusions:

“You’re not going to law school? Don’t you want to be a lawyer?”

First, BS LM isn’t even a pre-law course. It is simply a business management course with classes in law relevant to doing business. It’s just that many of its graduates do go on to law school. And no, I’m not interested in becoming a lawyer. I used to be, when the flame for social justice first ignited in me, but looking back, I’m not sure this would be how I would want to pursue the common good. While I’m known to argue a lot, I am not a quick thinker who can make snap-quick decisions. And the field ultimately didn’t just get to me.

“You’re not joining the family company?”

I have to admit, my exposure to business consultancy in my last year of college and my first months after my gap half-year made me want to become a strategic consultant for the family company… a few years from now. But to actually settle in the place I practically grew up in, eventually becoming the boss of these über-friendly men and women who have always been like governesses (and governors) to me… no. We make shoes, and I have a penchant for work boots and combat boots. But still… no.

And it’s also not expected in the family that I would settle in it. As an honor student who went to a top prep school and university, my mom in particular dreamed for me to be something along the lines of a multinational’s CEO, taking home millions a month and jetting off to places around the world on business trips. Frankly, it’s an honor to have your parents hold you in regard as high as that, that they are confident you will rise high… but it’s not what I want. Sure, I want to be a millionaire and travel the world on business class every month (allow me to indulge myself!), but I want to do it my way.

And what way would that be? Well, it’s the way I believed was laid out for me not by my elders, but by my Elder, the Guy Up There. My vocation. My purpose.

Be that as it may, it is frustrating that I have to embark on lengthy explanations of the work I do right now. In a snap: I manage an online library for those who want to learn about CSR, on behalf of a foundation that advocates CSR through events, education, and social entrepreneurship. Of course, it doesn’t satisfy their questioning. Not everyone knows what CSR even stands for, not even the most traditional definition (corporate social responsibility) that has evolved into what BCYF advocates today (citizenship, sustainability, and social responsibility). And the moment I say the word “foundation”, more questions arise: Is it an NGO? Who are your beneficiaries? What does it do?

Wake up, world! Open your eyes! You cannot compartmentalize forever! There is need for some change, some variation, in order to survive and grow!

That said, BCYF is – for lack of a better word – unique. We’re a private, non-profit organization that’s volunteer-run (plugging! Want to volunteer or intern?), where all our projects and departments are run like self-sustaining, profitable businesses. Sustainability. Social responsibility can’t be such if it’s not sustainable. And we are all interdependent – take note, interdependent, not dependent. Not merely just independent too. One side handles CSR, another side handles education, a third side handles social enterprise. They are three sides of the same object: pursuing the common good, one valuable person at a time.

Perhaps the reason why many remain to be unaware of what I (we) do is precisely, paradoxically, even, because we are a community of gamechangers. We contribute our own small part to the great scheme of nation-building for His greater glory, and however small it is, we do it with excellence. This is something I’m learning the hard way: one must not spread himself too thin. We cannot presume we can do something (or everything, for that matter) all on our own. That is why Stephen Covey preached interdependence, why a community is essential: we all help each other grow, so that our combined efforts are the exponential products of the sums of our individual efforts. There are a few instances where, in the middle of explaining things, I mention someone or something, and then a light is switched on in the other person’s brain, and suddenly the whole thing becomes much easier to digest for them. That’s what I mean.

For those of us who love exploring, who love adventure, who love trying things out – and I say this as a reminder to myself – what I just said is today’s key takeaway. Be interdependent, and focus and develop your one strength and passion. You may be inspired by others, but you don’t have to stray into the fields they hail from.

And, instead of “Live Your CSR!”maybe we should say “Let’s Live Our CSR!” instead.

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