4 lessons in pursuing my version of CSR—a Career of Sustainability and Responsibility

I have been fortunate to have the opportunity in trying many things in terms of internships and jobs, spanning from my college years up to this day where I am finishing my Master in Business Administration degree.  I have tried working for multinational companies, nonprofit organizations, a startup, and currently as a member of the higher education academic community.

 

Viewed in the traditional perspective, this smorgasbord of experiences may raise red flags from seasoned HR practitioners.  They might say this is typical Gen Y or Millienial mentality—fickle, selfish, and to some extent disloyal to an organization.  However, the overarching theme emerging from these career decisions revolve around picking the best aspects of each stint and reconciling them with my goal of living a holistic career, imbued with money, mission, and passion harmonizing with the way I think life should be lived.  I believe that the key to living a career featuring sustainability and responsibility is how a person is able to reconcile these aspects with minimal tradeoffs.  Below are four initial lessons or reflections I would like to share.

 

Point 1: Desire for flexibility

 

I acknowledge that I do not have the most concrete ideas on what the ideal “CSR” career will look like.  Hence, I have this great desire for flexibility that allows for inflection points and shaping my vision as it emerges.

 

This is what I found challenging in highly structured organizations with concrete goals and visions, usually prevalent in multinational corporations.  There are set goals to be met – quotas, number of projects, maintaining clients, etc.  Your performance and rewards are basically measured by how well you execute these mandated goals, and if one executes and even exceeds these targets, usually big rewards await.

 

However, the flipside is critical: one must be fully dedicated to the company goals or else he cannot maximize his productivity and will be stuck in a conundrum of always second guessing one’s self.  Ideally, one’s personal vision should be tightly aligned with the company goals.  If one should pursue a CSR career in highly structured organizations, it is vital to integrate your personal CSR goals with the company’s mechanisms.

 

In my personal experience, this is hard.  A corporate career with great personal flexibility is like capturing a lightning in a bottle.  It will take tremendous alignment between your immediate stakeholders to make things work.  Hence, I found it beneficial for me right now to work in an organization that allows me to be a kind of “intrapreneur”—leveraging resources of the organization while aligning it with my personal and emerging visions of what an ideal personal CSR could be.

 

Point 2: Maximizing opportunities

 

The environment or context we live in is very dynamic and eternally changing in a very fast pace.  As a result of this, I think gone are the days where personal and organizational visions should be fixed; rather, they must be agile enough to maximize whatever opportunities may arise along the way.

 

Since personal CSR is somewhat relative and can be changed, it is vital for person to somewhat design his life that exposes him to many opportunities that allow for tinkering money, mission, and passion.  In my personal experience, after I attained my undergraduate degree, I was fixated on being very deliberate with my choices.  A leads to B leads to C leads to D. I failed to recognize that truly, only change is constant, and the happenings in my surroundings will undoubtedly influence my options.

 

Hence, I am now biased for positions and roles which allow many kinds of opportunities arising.  I am still not very comfortable with uncertainty, but I take peace in the fact that with uncertainty comes opportunity—steps that allow for better designing of a career that truly reconciles money, mission, and passion.

 

Point 3: Sticking to my key strengths

 

The challenge in trying many things is the danger of confusing one’s self in terms of answering the question: “Where am I good at?  What do I want to be known as great at?”  I have tried managing an organization’s social media, executing marketing activations, implementing various projects and events, designing paraphernalia, and improving operations and processes.  The fear was real – I did not want to be a jack of all trades, master of none.  At best, I wanted to be a jack of all trades, master of one or even some (because mastering everything is difficult, if not impossible).

 

And that pursuit of mastery of one, for me, turned to be writing.  Sometimes creative writing, in forms of simple songs, poetry, and blogging; sometimes technical writing, in forms of documents, formal letters, and scholarly research articles.  I wished to be competent in many areas concerning management of organizations, but I know that I am in my element when my activities involve writing.  I am not yet the best creative or technical writer I could be; and that is okay.  I will continue to grow and I can confidently improve because I know what my key strength is.

 

For this, I am grateful for my high school English mentor and my current research mentors.  Through them, I was able to affirm something that I know I have the potential at, and this allows me to frame sustainability and social responsibility in terms of my key strength.

 

 

Point 4: Staying loyal to my personal values and purpose – “personal legend”

 

Currently, what I really value is the ability to reconcile idealism and being practical, mission and money, dreams of what could be grounded on what can really be.  It seems that in all my previous stints in various organizations, I always challenge myself to think in terms of proving idealism need not be mere naivete, rather, it allows for ideas that help us make reality a much better place to live in.

 

Have I crafted already that ideal career that integrates money and mission, sustainability and social responsibility?  Not yet.  I dare say I am still far from it.  That is where faith comes in – a belief that every struggle is every knock that persistently opens that door.  “Knock and the door will be opened.”  And by all means, let us knock hard, bang hard, because the career we desire will not be given; it shall be earned.  And though God loves us, He will not open the doors just because He pities us.  He knows we deserve better than that.

 

We will knock.  We will shout.  Once He deems us as deserving, then the door will be opened to us.

At the Convergence of Dualistic Natures

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This blog post is directly lifted from one of my reflections on a paper I have read.

Perhaps the insight that struck me the most is that managers, whether under business, academe, public, or any organizations, have complex motivations, goals, and objectives.  After all, managers are human beings with different wants and needs.

Stripping down the titles and labels, human beings at their core already have complex and conflicting desires.  When at their lowest and the need for survival is imminent, we recognize the mentality of the needy called “kapit sa patalim”, wherein they will do almost, if not, everything for themselves and the betterment of their family, even at the expense of others.  Ironically, when people are at their highest and as you quoted in your paper, people with power tend to be corrupted.  Maybe these people’s characteristics revolve more on self-preservation at all costs.

There are also human beings, such as genuine public servants and social entrepreneurs who truly practice the Christian “servant leadership”.  Perhaps these people value selflessness more and giving value to society.

I have always pondered on the complexity of human behavior, particularly on the dualistic natures that exist in us.  To cite a few examples, idealism vs pragmatism, helping society vs making profits, subjective vs objective.  The easy way for these things is to isolate a half, and use them as exclusive lenses in viewing the world.  We create assumptions that disregard the other half of the “dualistic nature”.  This has advantages and disadvantages, but I’d like to focus on the disadvantages.

By constricting ourselves too much within one frame of mind or assumption, we commit the error of disregarding the whole truth – dualistic natures need NOT be mutually exclusive; there are plenty of overlaps.  I remember my Unilever internship wherein my supervisor told us in the culminating presentation that ethics IS black and white; but until now I respectfully disagree.  There are always gray areas, and there will always be because human beings are innately relative, innately subjective.

Tying all of these thoughts to your paper, I can sense multiple hats in you that compelled you to do action – both as a “rational” and “irrational” manager, and as a compassionate human being.

Rational, in the sense that a manager or chair must do what is best to reach the bottom-line (in this case, to serve students at the least cost possible), compelled you to act perhaps due to the fact that the inefficiencies of the predicament of secretaries affected faculty workflow and serving the needs of the students.  If I may rightfully borrow economics thinking, solving this problem is the logical thing to do to smoothen out inefficiencies and help the department “serve its customers better”.  You eliminated the “cost” of inefficiencies by acting on this manner.  Moreover, this stayed true to the dept’s thrust of “Bridging Faith and Management Practice”.

However, in an “irrational” perspective, if I may again take the liberty to use these terms, the ff insights may surface.  It is “irrational” to “waste” time solving this problem when you could have stay put and focused on doing research and preparing lesson plans.  It is “irrational” to hire secretaries as full-time vs contractual as they add cost, in a purely economic perspective.  But still, you acted “irrationally” and had the initiative to care for your fellow even though it will cost you precious time and energy.

To conclude my reflections and synthesizing what I have realized in your example, managers and human beings are better moved to do things that are mutually beneficial for themselves and others when placed in the gray areas, where dualistic natures converge.  Perhaps there must be motivations from both an “idealistic” and “pragmatic” side that are compelling enough to move beyond the boundaries of rational thinking, beyond the boundaries of our preset defaults.

“Being Your Own Boss” is not “Having No Boss”

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It seems that the idea of  “being your own boss”, or starting up one’s own business is gaining more traction today.  Some people fantasize on the thought of relaxing underneath the shades of a palm tree in a white-sand beach while money  keeps on pouring in.  Some daydream of the day they would not have to answer to a micro-managing boss whose life’s purpose is to make a subordinate’s job miserable.

If your passion to pursue entrepreneurship or be your own boss is as similar as those listed above, then by all means, I believe you should find a deeper purpose.  Because being one’s own boss is not the same as having no boss at all.

The reason why it’s not “having no boss” and “being your own boss” is as explicit as that – entrepreneurship requires more self-discipline, more self-mastery, and more self-management or “self-bossing”.  Perhaps a better term is “self-leading”, or the ability to lead one’s self.

When one becomes an entrepreneur, there’s no more fixed monthly salary that one can cling on to or use in planning credit.

When one becomes an entrepreneur, it may not be an 8 to 5 job, but rather, an 8 to 8 job (and I mean 8am to 8am!).

If you are part of a corporate job, imagine this – all the benefits you receive from the company, you should be the one to prepare for yourself.  No one will withhold your income tax, no one will forcibly save money for a “retirement” fund.  You will now be the one to establish the structure of the organization and make sure the organization does not violate any laws.  You are your own boss – you should be the one in charge of doing this for yourself now.

With great power of freedom comes a great burden of responsibility.

Please rethink first the true meaning of “being your own boss”.  When an individual is capable of digesting the repercussions of being one’s own boss (vs the wrong notion of having no boss), is only when he is ready to reap the true rewards of entrepreneurship.

 

Pro-Poor and Social Entrepreneurship Bills (Reaction on Sen. Bam Aquino’s Filing)

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There has been news from Senator Bam Aquino’s Facebook account that he has ” filed seven bills that aim to empower the poor through jobs and livelihood opportunities”.

Disclaimer: I am not proclaiming this to advertise Sen. Aquino’s initiatives and endeavors – this is merely to give insights, reactions, and comments on what he endeavors to do.  After all, these are the advocacies that are indeed close to my heart as an aspiring entrepreneur, educator, and as a current researcher on the said field.

I know that as a fresh graduate from DLSU, I still have much to learn when it comes to CSR, social entrepreneurship, and the policies that may or may not help these movements achieve their intended benefit: progress and solving society’s most pressing problems.

Although some people in the web and even in media doubt Sen. Aquino’s intentions for running in office as Senator (some stating that this may just be a ploy to extend the “Aquino dynasty”), I support Bam because of his track record as a practitioner of social entrepreneurship.  This is why seeing news from Facebook that he has filed pro-poor bills instigated somewhat a kind of relief in me; that this man perhaps indeed has a plan to bring the synthesis of his social entrepreneurial experience into influencing policy-making.

I am hopeful that this is not just a ningas-kugon attempt; only time will tell.  Let time be the one to test Sen. Bam’s resolve in influencing social entrepreneurship and poverty alleviation through policies.

Onto my humble insights.

I want to zero in on two  particular bills that Sen. Bam filed below:

2.     The Fair Competition Bill, which aims to “protect consumer welfare, advance domestic and international trade and sustained economic development by… regulating monopolies, anti-competitive agreements, abuse of dominant power, and anti-competitive measures.” It also establishes the Philippine Fair Competition Commission;

7.     An expansion of the Poverty Reduction through Social Entrepreneurship Bill (PRESENT), filed in the 15th Congress, which supports the creation of social enterprises and offers incentives and benefits to business that genuinely help the poor.

 

First, let me acknowledge my practical limitations as I admit that I still have a lack of experience in terms of doing actual social entrepreneurship work.  However, I am an avid learner of the field and have read researches and books that may perhaps arm me with enough tidbits to utilize in making comments or insights.  Should readers agree or disagree, feel free to discuss via the comments section below this post.

First bill

Personally I believe that the two bills are benevolent in spirit.  On the first bill, I would just like to raise Muhammad Yunus’s insights on social entrepreneurship, which he wrote in his book “Building Social Business” (2010).  Yunus propagates that since social enterprises are true businesses, then ideally, there should be minimal incentives or support from policy – social enterprises should let market forces or the “invisible hand” of competition determine whether a social business idea is viable or not.

I have two conflicting opinions on this one.  On one vantage point, Yunus’s claims are meritorious; a social business enterprise must be viable and should not have to rely on incentives to be truly viable.  If a social business enterprise needs to rely on incentives, then what happens if the law is changed for whatever reasons?  What if political factors crush the incentives?  Then the social business enterprise loses its crutch… then becomes crippled?  These are indeed valid points of view and my recommendation to Sen. Bam is to not “baby” social business enterprises too much that should a law be ramified or lose its implementation, the business would invariably suffer and need to close.  This view emphasizes the need of true sustainability, meaning the capacity of a business to be at an on-going concern without the need to rely on policies as crutches.

On another vantage point, since social enterprises chase not one but two bottomlines (even three, if they pursue financial profits, social responsibility, and environmental sustainability), it is only fitting that there should be separate incentives that can aid their growth.  Social business enterprises can be different species if compared to traditional corporations; and perhaps different rules and policies must govern these enterprises.

Seventh bill

I wholeheartedly support social enterprises as vehicles towards poverty and even environmental problems alleviation.  However, my only concern is the measurement of how a business “genuinely helps the poor”.  In light of the sickening pork barrel scam that used bogus NGOs as puppets of politicians’ puppets, there is indeed a concern on implementation.  What is the meaning of “genuinely helping the poor”?  Will it include multinational or traditional corporations with CSR programs?  Will philanthropy be considered?

I am coming from the point-of-view that there is no universal social entrepreneurship definition as of the moment.  Some entities may use this bill to put a facade of authentic social entrepreneurship wherein they’re indeed traditional profit-maximizing entities with social responsibility on the side.  I believe the spirit of this bill is not on traditional businesses, but more on actual for-profit social enterprises that have a hard time balancing financial and social objectives.

My recommendation to Sen. Bam is to develop transparent measures that will decipher whether an existing enterprise is truly a social enterprise.  We do not want incentives, funds, etc to go to greedy businesses that will utilize this bill and wear on superficial masks.  There must be a strict way of determining whether a social enterprise qualifies for benefits under this bill.

Final words

I hope my humble thoughts can help people recognize the value of social entrepreneurship and how policy can influence their existence.  This blog post is written in the spirit of pursuing the Common Good, in the name of practice, continuous learning and education, and research.

Lack of Policies or Lack of Execution?

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Another corruption and graft related issue has surfaced in the Philippines.  According to Inquirer.net, there are officials who allegedly directed their pork barrel funds to bogus NGOs so as to pocket their assets.

This is a bit frustrating, especially since this gives NGOs more negative publicity.  Yes, perhaps there may be some organizations who are merely tax shields or are indeed “ghosts” that suck the funds out of the tax-funded pork barrels for the personal gain of those in power.  But the true NGOs suffer from this as well; those who pursue social good with integrity and sacrifice.  Perhaps social enterprises may suffer from these kinds of things as well as this may destroy reputations of organizations that pursue the common good.

On to the topic of this blog post, is it about the lack of policies or the lack of execution?

According to my professors in DLSU, the Philippines have good laws related to preventing corruption.  However, there is indeed a lack of implementation – a lack of execution.

I think it is time that the public be the one to execute the law through public demand, or public pressure.  If we can find a way to utilize, harness, organize or even systematize the People Power phenomenon, then we can be the watchdogs of corruption.  The dawn of this digital era amplified with smartphones capable of using social media, cameras and digital recorders can serve as the country’s CCTV in looking out for undesirable actions from those in power.

Perhaps there should be pressure for every organization to be transparent.  If we can harness the all-seeing eye of this becoming increasingly digital world, then we can demand transparency from all kinds of organizations.  This will make covering the tracks of corruption harder.  This will put pressure to those in power to really invest in projects that contribute to the common good.

Let the mass media news always show a regular update on transparency reports from officials.  Let social media news websites raise discussions and fora related to these kinds of issues.

For far too long we have been searching for the medium by which we can amplify our eyes.  We have wished for Superman-like x-ray vision to determine proofs of corruption looming behind those promises of those in power.  Let us use the power of our digital era and be the ones to execute our policies.

Proving Believers Right

I stumbled upon Seth Godin’s blog and he posted something about proving skeptics wrong.

For basketball fans, one might be accustomed to superstars having the mentality to prove doubters wrong – people are motivated by those who disbelieve and bash them.

As you read Seth’s blog, you will notice that he used to keep track of the skeptics, the doubters. But then he stopped, perhaps having this insight:

Why focus on proving skeptics wrong when there are true believers worth spending a greater time on?

Seth continues to state that these believers would even be the evangelizers that will spread your word and thus, it is more productive to focus on them.

I know for a fact that proving others wrong, especially the pesky doubters or even the cheapest of haters is such a very powerful motivator. I have sometimes used it in sports when playing basketball (just as how MJ and Kobe used them), and sometimes it leads to one having that sudden burst of energy. In the vernacular, I think it’s translated as “gigil”.

But come to think of it.

What then, after we prove doubters and haters wrong?

What then if one gets vindication, redemption, or even revenge?

As Seth advocates in his blog post, is it not more appropriate to prove the fans and true believers right? For those who kept the faith?

Instead of playing the ruthless god who punishes non-believers by sending them to hell, let us emulate the Christian God who focuses on rewarding the faithful and bringing the believers to heaven.

Somehow, things are more worth the time, energy, and passion.

Sure, proving doubters wrong is satisfying. But nothing compares to the euphoria of proving one’s believers right and exulting one’s success with his loved ones.

Copy Paste

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Artists will always begin with a blank canvas; and if Murphy’s law, even in its most little ways of messing with an individual, distorts one’s creative juices then say hello to disaster.

How can an artist innovate when it is downright challenging to invent new things? Can someone really sustain being original all the freaking time?

Painting creative, innovative things to a canvas does not need  extreme originality. At least that’s what some business authors want to say.

No, it’s not finding something to plagiarize. No, it’s not about copy pasting entire ideas and what have you and claim it as an obra maestra.

It’s like doing a paper – finding a passage or quote so compelling that it begs to NOT be paraphrased. It begs to be copy pasted. But take note – only a passage or quote, and the proper source must still be cited.

What I am talking about is perhaps what Kim and Maugborne (Blue Ocean Strategy) advocated as looking across different industries to borrow certain elements that can be implemented to another industry as an innovation. Example would be the subscription model adamant in publications being implemented by software industries as service – like Google Apps subscriptions.

Perhaps it is also what Seth Godin advocated in his manifesto (Bootstrapper’s Bible) about copying business models from another industry and applying it to your own.

Copy pasting, when armed with savvy for creating synthesis of seemingly disconnect industries leading to the birth of a New Truth leads to innovation.

Then, somehow, the blank canvas will then come to life. No amount of Murphy’s Law can now mess with one’s innovative juices. Everything that goes wrong will go wrong, but everything that goes wrong is an opportunity to innovate.

Social VS Societal: Which is Which?

Social VS Societal

I write this post not to give answers, but rather, to ask necessary questions.  This is borne out of the simultaneous growth of two revolutionizing ideas:

Social Entrepreneurship and Digital Entrepreneurship.

As a student of business, one will encounter jargon that may be confusing at times.  Just a test, try defining these terms:

Social Entrepreneurship.

Social Marketing.

Social Business.

Social Media Marketing.

If one tries to find definitions to these terms, then they will know if one truly does his research that there seems to be… different answers.  To better illustrate, I would like to zone in on one particular word: SOCIAL.

Earlier, the term “social” referred to mostly anything to do with society.  For example, a generally accepted definition of social entrepreneurship is using business principles in solving society’s problems.  As the marketing guru Philip Kotler expounded on, social marketing is then using the principles of marketing to positively change behavior.  This spectrum may be summarized as the societal point of view.

However, the dawn of social media, blogs, and the Internet gave birth to a new meaning of being social – being connected to society.  Go to your favorite bookstores and you will see books with titles such as “Social Business”, “Social Marketing”, etc., which are entirely different from Kotler’s definition and how he uses the word social.

This raises a very important question: shouldn’t there be a clearing up of jargon?  If left unchecked, there may be miscommunication and unfortunate repercussions in the business and education sector.

Should we use different, more precise terms such as “societal marketing”, “societal entrepreneurship” – replacing the vague “social” with the term “societal”?

Or should we accept that there can be two uses for technical jargon?  The problem with this lies in advancing research and further studies.  This affects communication and even searching, for people might find the wrong information they need.

Some have equated Internet with instant information.  But information not organized is as destructive as a lethal weapon, for it destroys and misleads the thinking mind – hampering possible exponential growth in research and communications.

 

CSR Series: Baptism

Sometimes, baptism can be harsh.  Purification can be painful.

All the things that happened may be a harsh spanking from Mother Nature to remember to take care of her.  Perhaps we should have a change in lifestyle?

But still, after half a week of rainfall, the sun shines.  The aftermath of a purification, a symbol of hope.

As my favorite OPM artist, Bamboo, would now sing:

“Tuloy ang ikot ng mundo!”

 

CSR Series: YFC Reflections – Stop Myopia

Faith.

How do you define faith?

For me, faith involves trusting the unknown, the uncertain.

Faith involves looking at the future.

One of the aspects that our YFC Shared Learning experience taught me is, really, to have faith.  To not be blinded by things that are in front of us now, but to anticipate.  To have foresight.

The problem with us people, even the corporations?  Too much myopia.  Too much nearsightedness.  We only try to see what is in the present, not its effects on our future.

Relating this to our thesis, this is not supposed to be the case.

For Dr. Young and Dr. Tilley, an enterprise which truly integrates sustainability must always take note of its actions’ consequences to the future generations.  The concept of futurity.

Let us look beyond what the naked eyes can see.

Maybe, with just a little touch of foresight, we can tremendously change our future and direct it to a brighter tomorrow.