COVID-19 thoughts: An opportunity for renewal

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It goes without saying that we’ve already entered a ‘new normal’. Nowadays, the best we can do to help is by staying at home and helping wherever we can. In my case, I hope sharing my personal thoughts online would help give the assurance that no one is alone, and that we’re all going through this together one way or another.

In the Philippines, we’re past day 50 now ever since the ‘enhanced community quarantine‘ was imposed. For many Filipinos, however, it still feels like not many has changed. The number of confirmed cases has already reached beyond 10,000, and a plethora of political issues remain despite the threat of the pandemic. Recently, one of the biggest media organizations in the country was shut down by the government.

I know what you’re probably thinking — so what’s the point of still talking about all the horrible things happening? Shouldn’t we focus instead on what can be done? Well, for one, not talking about the things that are happening would show that we have a neutral and disinterested stand. So, in a way, we’re still making a stand by not making a stand. The reality, however, is that by doing so, we’re only further enabling the oppressors and horrible things happening. So if you ask me, yes, we should be taking the right and informed stand in times like this.

Anyway, that’s not the point of this entry. I want to focus our attention on the future, something that not many of us have the luxury to do because at this time, we’re caught into compromising and doing a lot of risk management for our organizations and personal endeavors. What does our future hold when things finally start to stabilize?

One thing is for sure — we cannot go back to how we originally spent our lives. The photo below, I think, encapsulates this thought. As I was writing this entry, this photo is being randomly shared across social media. There are actually many others like this photo, but I think this one hits the spot.

“To stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature.” One of the basic human values, according to Shalom Schwartz, is universalism. It involves the understanding, appreciation, tolerance, and protection for the welfare of all people and for nature. Schwartz and many scholars, however, state that people do not recognize these needs until they encounter others beyond their primary group and until they become aware of the scarcity of natural resources. In other words, people only begin to understand their coexistence with other people and with nature when they themselves become inconvenienced by certain circumstances.

And we see this happening today when the pandemic struck across the world. We’re realizing that oh, we actually need to coexist. But up to how far can this realization go? Will it merely be just another social media trend in the ‘Wishful Thinking’ segment?

By no means am I an expert, but one of the things that surely needs to change is the way we view money. Let me explain.

For a long time, we have perceived money as something that allows us to engage in life’s pleasures and hedonistic activities. This is correct, and nothing can take that away from us. But what if humanity were to reach the ‘final’ tipping point — the point of no return? When will be the time that we acknowledge that consumerism has reached its peak, at least in an international sense (note that mostly only developed countries have reached this so-called peak), and that a new order has to come into play?

Money has always been about things like buying power and increasing the gross domestic product. And this is something that we shouldn’t demonize nor impose malice upon. Our concern should be — what if this constant need to become rich affects other aspects of life? Like the environment, our mental health, and personal relationships. What, then, becomes of humanity?

Many think tanks and smarter people have expressed this thought so much better than how I’m doing it here. But the pending dilemma remains: Only when we learn to align our ambitions and constant need for wealth toward the genuine advancement of humanity will we truly become ‘good’ people. Imagine if it’s a common thought for money to be grown so that we can plant trees across the world, or if money is used to grow businesses that have a social cause and not merely maximizing profit for stakeholders. Of course, this is clearly wishful thinking, but what if?

Money is not bad. Nor is it good. It’s basically a ‘vehicle’ for day-to-day transactions. It almost feels like a form of language. Like what you probably heard already before, it’s not money that becomes bad, but the way people use it. In essence, people are also neither good nor bad (this statement can be quite debatable), but the actions they partake in dictate whether they are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ people. So when we earn money, it’s important that we think about where and how it will be spent. This is, I think, one of the ‘new normal’ that we should be taking into account: Our perception of money. It is, after all, our chance for renewal as we go towards more uncertain times.


Hi! I’m Ian. In this blog, I share my personal stories and hopes for the world. Let’s take the conversation forward! Email me at ianbrmia@gmail.com for collaborations.

The art of financial frugality

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In Alexa Mira Society (AMSI), we started to become more conscious in our spending this year. Ever since starting the planning stages in April 2019, we have been spending only around P100k. It baffles me how other organizations spend P100k on a single day.

I think it’s a matter of trying to understand that funneling in hundreds and thousands of money in a program does not necessarily mean you are creating genuine, social impact. Sometimes, frugality with spending can have its positive impacts as well–at times even greater impact.

It’s also about transparency and spending money wisely. As much as possible, we only spend for the things that are really needed on every program day, such as food and honorarium for speakers, among others.

Here, I will share some small practices that our organization does, that thankfully led to positive financial results so far.

Spreading out the program outline

For one, our programs are not a one-time, big-time thing. It’s spread out across the year. This is also one way to keep the programs sustainable and attuned to the practical needs of the community.

For this year, we focused on two main programs. I think this helped us narrow down our focus, so that the funds that get funneled are centered around these two main programs. I think it also helped that we have a small community of five families.

As much as possible, we were also frugal with the expenses on every program day. We don’t really need too much money to move forward and progress–we just need the appropriate amount of money to keep the program going. I think this is a very important lesson for many non-profits. While we are not experts on this aspect, we try our best with what we have.

Funding and grants are also not easy to come by all the time, so we really have to be wise in spending money.

Having a minimalist approach

Having only what you really need is the basic premise of minimalism. In non-profits, I think the same perspective applies.

Being a small organization, we really have to make do with what we have and unleash our creativity around that. In another blog post, I shared how creativity helped us in AMSI.

More than just lessening expenses, minimalism in non-profits means that you only spend on what is essential for the community. You don’t need too much to begin with. You just need a few, well-selected things that could help in the long-term sustainability of the organization and community.

While we are small, I hope other non-profits learn a thing or two from our experiences at AMSI.


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