I IMAGINE 2017 entering into our consciousness with trepidation as the events from last year remain ingrained in our hearts and minds. However, this anxiousness is not unwarranted. There is always something nerve-wracking about a new year.
When I heard fireworks go off on the first day of the year, I looked back to a time when I wasn’t conscious of issues transpiring in the world—to a time when I only accommodated school, family and friends within my bubble. At one point, “Why should I care? This has nothing to do with me,” had often become my reaction to news. I had initially thought that, as long as I was living comfortably, the country was okay as it is. I would simply shake my head in disdain at politicians squabbling on television. Not surprisingly, my concept of good governance was vague, with only anti-corruption views and an embarrassing amount of skepticism coming to mind.
But lately, reminiscing about the early 2000s has often ended in the gratitude of knowing that in time, and in an encouraging environment, what is vague can become clear—meaningful even. From my exposure to our organization, the Institute for Solidarity in Asia’s (ISA), partners in government in civil society, I felt my idea of good governance gradually being transformed. As a program coordinator for communication, I often interacted with partner agencies in the sense that I would regularly receive news and updates from our program coordinators in the field, to be further researched and turned into stories to showcase transformation journeys at the national and local levels of government, either through online posts, articles, or news bulletins. When opportunities arose, I would observe working sessions and document the stories of those who participated in our training programs and conferences.
I saw my role in communicating ISA’s brand of good governance and scouring for personal storieswithin partner organizations in Philippine government as instrumental to shaping perception of our public servants and our government as a whole. It is amazing how, through my exposure with ISA, my concept of good governance has evolved—from simply being about “anti-corruption” to pushing for “collaborative, accountable, sustainable, and strategic”. It is also because of my interactions with the public sector that I developed more of an appreciation for those people who do good and work well but do not necessarily achieve recognition or any form of public attention. Building and managing our governance reform institute’s online image helped me to realize that “public image” does not necessarily mean making ourselves look good. Instead—and infinitely more importantly—it is our platform to show that there is still good in our country and in its government.
WhenI encountered an article by Youyang Hou and Cliff Lampe on nonprofitquarterly.org about a May 2015 research paper on the constraints and foci of social media practice in small environmental organizations, I realized the limitations of social media for non-profit organizations. While online engagement cannot fully gauge campaign effectiveness, the reach and influence of social media cannot be disregarded. It is, after all, our prerogative to use these capabilities for something greater than image creation. Social media specialist Simon Mainwaring articulated this by saying, “Like all technology, social media is neutral but is best put to work in the service of building a better world.” This especially rang true in 2016, when people took to social media to express support or dissent, encouraging discussions and mass actions that could have been more difficult to replicate and track if traditional media had been used.
Ultimately, it boils down to using all tools available to us, to our generation, responsibly. To quote Socialnomics founder Erik Qualman, “the power of social media is [that]it forces necessary change.” Like most people with access to social media, I have seen a lot of online campaigns bringing to light issues such as violence against women, racism, animal cruelty, and environmental degradation. Making enough noise online can truly call the attention of those who have the means to help, and provide justice for those in need. It can also call attention to issues that people don’t initially give a second glance to or even completely ignore in the first place.
In 2017, I can only hope for more of the change we truly need—and that this change allows and encourages more people to open their eyes and contribute to the multitude of perspectives that are needed in a democracy, especially through new means such as social media. I look forward to another year of understanding better what it means to advocate for good governance and of serving the country alongside others who genuinely care for it.
Kirsten Ramos is a development communication graduate of the University of the Philippines Los Baños and is currently a program coordinator for communication at the Institute for Solidarity in Asia (ISA). To learn more about her work with the institute, visit www.isacenter.org.