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The power of partnerships |


The power of partnerships

Let me begin with the MICRO: One day, two friends and I were discussing the state of the country over coffee. I was lamenting the fact that education in the country was totally bereft of any cultural subject matter and that arts and culture, the sector I hold closest to my heart, was totally ignored by not just educators but policy makers in government. Even corporate support was dwindling. My friend Laine, seated on my right suddenly talked about their bank’s thematic anniversary celebration. And Margarita, seated across me, started to speak about needing more books. At that moment, a special project was born.

It helped that Laine is the vice president of public affairs at the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation or HSBC in Manila, and that she was looking for something to make the celebration of their 130th year anniversary with the theme cultural diversity, more meaningful. Margarita, meanwhile, is president of a non-government organization called Sa Aklat Sisikat which advocates for reading in the Grade 4 Level. It helped, too, that I had vice-chaired the Task Force that created the Philippine Cultural Education Plan under a government cultural agency, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, except that the project was shelved due to the unavailability of funds. Government couldn’t seem to do it alone. Private sector needed something and NGO had the people to help.

The result of the synchronistic synergy over coffee was the creation of a children’s book based on ancient Filipino cultural icons with stories written in the bilingual language for Grade 4 students. Funded by the HSBC, created by me and my creative team using material from the NCCA, the book was disseminated to the poorest schools in Metro Manila through SAS’s reading program.

Copies are presently being reprinted in thousands as more people and groups are willing to fund and disseminate the books on behalf of the advocacy of literacy.

What I just want to illustrate in this story is the power of relationships. What one can do, two or three can do better and stronger. Where one can create a ripple, groups can create waves of change together.

CHANGE. This the operative word for the 21st century’s information age – where nothing will be linear, singular or predictive. It is a period characterized by speed – by the way we access information and the way we share it.

One characteristic of this energy of change is the emergence of a new way of thinking, of borders being pushed, where something new is indeed emerging in our collective frontier. Around the globe, in boardrooms, chat rooms and think-tank groups, people are responding to an impulse to come together in shared exploration, shared directions and visions.

The way we view the world and each other, through the lenses of change, can be fearful and full of distrust; or can be strengthened by relationship building of both like – and different minded people that work towards common goals. This is participative relationship at its best: both collaborative and creative. The implications of working together are profound and it becomes doubly so if we are conscious of bringing up a new level of how our work should be.

In his book Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny, Robert Wright said that the mark of human history has not been random in direction, but has in fact been progressing along very specific direction: that of increasing cooperation and unity. Relationships that move in cooperation and unity are fueled by one tangible value: Trust built at all levels and characterized by a high level of transparency. Trust must be created, sustained and built upon. There has to be congruency between what is offered and what is being delivered. This is the basis of trust.

Now let me go MACRO. The country is weighed down by tremendous budget deficit and a burgeoning poverty problem. Through the years, the nation is steadily drained of the best minds and skills as Filipinos seek employment overseas. The limited resources held by government, the seeming lack of wisdom in the management of these resources, as well as the prevalent corruption practices, have resulted in the loss of trust. National developmental efforts are delayed as private sector’s initiatives, which often need policy support, are not supported and vice versa. In the traditional viewpoint, each grouping has its individual roles to fulfill. Government is expected to handle policy making, implementations and regulations. The NGO is expected to handle the social dimensions of development and the corporate/private sector is expected to profit as it has a pre-occupation for revenues. Because things don’t seem to be working in this traditional format, the challenge is to seek another approach, or a change of focus. We must see all their roles through a developmental paradigm and with an eye to building relationships between groups.

Now, let me go COSMIC. This developmental paradigm is the earth’s manifestation of the energy of the coming Age of Aquarius whose energy first made itself felt in the 1960s. Remember – the "make love, not war" slogans of the flower power people, alternative lifestyles emerging, the inherent desire for the brotherhood of man, and the expressive individualization of expression? Now, as we move closer to 2013, the year that our galaxy will be "locked" into the constellation of Aquarius, the energies are manifesting itself more clearly: information age multi-dimensional cyberspace, power to the individual and thus, to the collective; multi media is the renaissance of expression, consciousness expansion, scientific breakthroughs, the alternative becoming mainstream (acupuncture, yoga, reiki, etc) the desire for ONE peaceful world – again, the trend towards group works, collective consciousness and collaboration for a higher, common good.

Let me take you back to MACRO: Corporate social responsibility, known in the corporate lingo as CSR is a concept with a growing currency around the globe. While CSR does not have a universal definition, many see it as the private sector’s way of integrating the economic, social and environmental imperatives of their activities. CSR also frequently involves creating innovative and proactive solutions to societal and environmental challenges.

CEOs who sit in the driver’s seat of big corporations, and all who are in decision-making positions must see the wisdom in pursuing and strengthening CSR initiatives in their companies. This is about bringing the soul back into profit-making. It is about balancing the cosmic purpose why such ventures are created – so that good, positive karma can be enhanced when money can help other people’s lives and heal our earth.

CSR goes beyond charity and requires that a responsible company will take into full account the impact on all stakeholders and on the environment when making decisions. This requires them to balance the needs of all stakeholders with their need to make a profit and reward their shareholders adequately. This /Holism approach to business regards organizations as being full partners in their communities, rather than seeing them more narrowly as being primarily in business to make profits and serve the needs of their shareholders. Let me dive back to MICRO. The transformative power to move, create, change lives and consciousness is with each and everyone of us. To become even stronger, let us reach out to join groups and create partnerships. We, as individuals, can become the glue that brings companies with resources aligned with viable projects that help to uplift lives, then bring together volunteers through NGOs who have the passion to work the vision. Or we each can volunteer to join a group that helps other groups and communities. This will surely bring meaning into our small lives as we begin to work for something greater than ourselves. We can all become independent change engines. Our challenge is to bring people and groups together through trust relationships so we can work towards higher, more noble and less personal goals. This, I believe, is a path worthy of our collective aspirations.

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