My news feed is full of exciting technological advancements. From health breakthroughs to literal rocket science, from faster telecommunications to cleaner energy, it seems that nothing is truly impossible.
But impossible is the reality for many people, particularly millions of our countrymen in the Philippines. It seems, that after generations of poverty, the idea that they will someday escape the fear and pain that come with lack is truly impossible. I don’t need to do a survey. I just need to look out the window. I don’t need to review the statistics. I just need to walk through the busy streets of Manila. For all our good intentions, for all our social media posts, for all our donations, all our fundraisers, all our projects, and all our NGOs, the scourge of poverty remains.
This is why the idea of Intelligent Impact is very important to us at Bridge. Intelligent Impact is not simply a digital solution to an old problem, or a new cure to an old disease. Intelligent Impact, for us, is providing measurable, scalable, and sustainable solutions to our issues, particularly the issue of poverty in the Philippines. We want to be able to objectively point to over 1,000,000 people set free from a cycle of generational debt.
After over a decade in social work and community development, I’ve many times been very disappointed with my results. Despite all my efforts and the efforts of others, I find that, by objective metrics, my impact was actually very minimal. How many talks have I given? How many successful people have I produced? How many blogs have I written? How many principled people have I produced? How many causes have I promoted? How many homes have we built? How many poor people have we uplifted? I think it’s important to know the reality of whether our efforts are leading to real solutions or simply a delaying of the problem. It isn’t enough to feel good about ourselves, to be able to check a “social work” box, or to be receive the social recognition of being involved. We want to take the lead in highly measurable, meaning highly transparent, highly countable, and highly judge-able impact. We want to know, “Is this person really better off according to objective metrics?”
One of the statements I dislike a lot is this, “I do my part in my own little way.” How convenient! We have massive social issues, issues we vocally opine on, yet, when it comes to taking ownership of the issue, we retreat into our own safe and respectable, “I do my part.” Seeking scalability is acknowledging that these issues are massive and that the actions needed to address these issues are also massive. We did not start Bridge to help “in our own small way”. We started, resourced, and are building Bridge to impact millions of people, particularly in the area of financial poverty.
Another thing I dislike, actually, hate is a better word, are well-meaning opinions coming from people aren’t paying the cost of those opinions. A social media post claiming solidarity with people suffering from an issue such as poverty, while we type away on an expensive device as we sip on an expensive cup of coffee, is not compassion. Talk is very cheap. Opinions are very cheap. Real commitment is seen when we go out to pay the cost of our ideals. As an organization, we are very cognizant of the costs of our goals, and we greatly value the people and organisations who provide us with the resources to achieve our ideals. But we don’t see them as endless sources of funds. We see them as stakeholders, meaning, they have a contribution to our mission, but they also must get something in return. So building a sound business model is important to us. We don’t ever want to be “donor dependent” nor unstrategic simply because we’re beholden to the financial interests of others. We want to make sure that we capture massive value in return for the massive value we provide.
When we combine measurability (and the accountability that comes with) with scalability and sustainability, we have a very difficult task ahead of us. We cannot hide behind our motives. We need to face our results. We cannot retreat to our comfort zones. We’ve committed to scale. And we cannot keep asking for handouts. We’ve chosen to own our own destiny. But this, we believe, is the only way towards real impact. Nothing of significance is achieved through easy paths, and shouldn’t we be more than willing to do the necessary hard work of achieving such a valuable objective? Even as we grow (we’re one of the fastest-growing HR Tech companies in the country), even as we innovate (launched first savings app in the country), and even as we improve lives (lowest monthly interest rate), we remain unsatisfied. There’s so much more people to serve, more improvements to our model, and more impact to be made.