Whenever I’m asked about the work I do – or whenever I, say, invite someone to an event of ours – I usually end up creating more questions than answers (leading the people asking me to give polite nods of understanding instead) or being stereotyped as an NGO worker who would not earn a lot in my career (I wrote a similar reflection previously). I am unable to fully get the point of CSR 3.0 or social enterprise – much less BCYF or its development model – and usually end up struggling to face my “panelists” who would give well-intended but misguided advice about why I shouldn’t be here.
Granted, I’m used to it already. But the more important problem for me – which I have answered, or tried to and miserably failed, previously – is how to engage those who do listen to me and have a spark of interest coursing through them. To fail to reach out to a person who has already somehow waded into the ocean of social responsibility thought (and have them step out) is worse than failing to ask someone to even take a dip into the water – and I don’t want to disappoint.
“Oh, that sounds nice. So how do I so-and-so…?”
I wish I got that all the time. But of course, it’s impossible to please everyone.
So for those who do lend us their ears, it’s our duty to accommodate them as much as we can. Some people would want to hear concrete steps on how they can start living out a CSR lifestyle without knowing the whole back-story behind it – and as much as we believe they should know it, reality dictates that there will be interested people who are not as interested to know the whole reason behind it. It’s a market that I don’t think we should alienate as every human being is unique, individual, and has a lot of potential.
I like research, I really do. It’s sad I never fully embraced this during my school years – when we wrote our first academic research paper in my penultimate year of high school, I was actually more concerned about the forms of my APA citations and notecards rather than the actual content (but it was a good paper nonetheless, or so I hope). But thanks to people like my brothers, I realize that one of my hobbies is actually casual research – a more positive way of saying there are times I can just surf the Web without doing anything else. Hey, but I learn from the things I come across!
“Research” doesn’t even have to be academic research (although, here, in CSR Bookshelf, we do focus on that more, for the sake of you, dear readers). Simple browsing or discussing can already constitute a form of casual research – and, importantly, it builds the foundations for good researching habits when one gets right down to business (no pun intended). It’s passion turned profession, in a way.
Most crucially, it’s how we translate what we learn into concrete ways of communicating it to our peers. Sure, we may come across the best article, site, or repository of information in the whole world. But if we cannot make others see that clearly, then it’s all for nothing. Especially here in BCYF, where our work is to achieve social change by transforming others. It’s essential that people understand what we’re talking about. And that’s partially where I have so much difficulty – for all my love of language, I am a dreadful translator.
Gone are the days when highfalutin would be a norm and writers (and speakers) keep outdoing each other and themselves. Especially in today’s digital age where everyone with access to the Internet is at risk of hyperconnectivity and information overload, we look for the simple things, the things that can be understood in a moment’s pause. This is a big challenge for those who love to tell stories, myself included, because we could be (and I am) accused of beating around the bush. For all we know, we could have an opportunity slip beneath our grasp forever just because we did not package our thoughts well.
Even in accounting class, one of the mantras taught us was KISS – keep it simple and short (or, more crassly, keep it simple, stupid). People like to see results first and foremost, and while I am a firm believer in the equal importance of process and results (especially for us trying to make CSR a lifestyle), not everyone thinks that way – and Stephen Covey did give one of his Seven Highly Effective Habits as Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Meaning, it is us, the leaders (or leaders-in-training) of social change, who need to take the initiative in reaching out, even if it means adjusting to others, if only momentarily.
But that’s why research is all the more important. The more information we chance upon, the more support we have to turn our learnings into very simple, straight-to-the-point points for discussion. Five sources on one topic is more effective than just two because it corroborates the thesis better – and there is more inspiration on how it can be laid out in layman’s terms. It’s a paradox of sorts that forms the backbone of effective change and development: the more the input, the simpler the output. True, it’s also possible for one to get even more tongue-tied due to the sheer volume of words coming their way, but I’m an optimist who believes the former is much more likely, especially when it comes to idealistic-realistic young people who are only too happy to share with the world what they learn and desire. Again, myself included.
As a daily reminder to myself, as long as we keep on keeping things simple (but backed with quality knowledge), I see no reason why we shouldn’t become one of the most influential institutions out there, sealing the commitments and hearts of many.