Philanthropy in Mexico has been historically linked to Catholic charity for centuries. Besides, dealing with social needs was considered for many years as a unique obligation of the state. This passive attitude towards social problems by citizens, while it is like a cultural inheritance, has also been one of the reasons why social development has been at a standstill.
But as time passes the social problems are growing, and they are forcing citizens to change their position, from being spectators of reality to a scenario in which they are protagonists of a new history. We the Mexicans cannot continue waiting for rich donors and politicians to address our social needs. As was very properly quoted by María Elena Morera in the XV Annual Meeting of Civil Society organized by Cemefi, which took place in November 2011, ‘we need to switch from a movement of indignant individuals to citizens’ commitment’.
Mexico is a country of young people (those aged 15-29). The power of citizens, the ability to transform reality, is in their hands, since they make up (as of 2009) more than one quarter of the population (26.2 per cent). The number of associations of young people is also increasing. Universidad del Valle de México and Ashoka are good examples of organizations that are offering awards to encourages young entrepreneurs.
Quoting Stephen Young, Executive Global Director of Caux Round Table in the United States, there should be a new relationship of business people with the community; a new capitalism in which CSR is the basis and in which companies create new bonds with the community. Companies could also themselves become developers, or the cornerstone for young people’s social development. This does not mean that companies should donate or deliberately distribute their profits; it refers to a substantial change in the business vision.
Business people must not only dedicate their time and resources to seeking new markets for their products and services; they will also have to explore new possibilities of dialogue and collaboration with the community. For example, they could become strategic allies in communicating with the government to promote relevant changes in public policy, or they could create a product or strategy to resolve a social problem or need.
Maybe this blend of social entrepreneurship – creating a product or strategy to resolve a social problem – with a new way of carrying out CSR can give shape to a new way to practise philanthropy. Big companies could help so-called ‘social companies’ to grow, with a long-term perspective that the greatest success for business is to become part of the reconstruction of the social fabric.
Alejandra González Tirado is Communications Officer at the Centro Mexicano para la Filantropía (Cemefi).