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#WeCAN: Reimagining the partnership for the Sustainable Development Goals



Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
-Excerpt from “Imagine” by John Lennon

Last September 9-18, the Lasallian Social Enterprise for Economic Development team (LSEED) of De La Salle University hosted the #WeCAN International Bootcamp, with student, faculty and industry delegates coming from Asean plus China, Japan, and Korea.

Asean is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The bootcamp explored various ways on how to attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with discussions and immersions on social entrepreneurship, social incubation, cultural appreciation, bridging leadership, and design thinking. Impromptu activities during breaks even led to participants showing their talents in singing and dancing!

What is truly amazing in the #WeCAN bootcamp is how the participants were able to bond and collaborate in thinking of social innovation projects they can pilot in their respective countries. The desire to build on each other’s ideas overcame language barriers. The diversity in beliefs and culture did not cause divides, but rather, that very diversity cultivated mutual curiosity and appreciation from the participants. I realized that when the goals are clear, as articulated by the different SDGs, diversity becomes an edge rather than an obstacle. After all, the goals are what we can describe as big, hairy, and audacious compounded by today’s context of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. Thus, we need multiple perspectives — that is, interdisciplinary and intercultural — so that we can cover each other’s blind spots and build on each other’s culturally rich ideas.

In pursuing SDG 17, which is about partnership for the goals, I realized that the pursuit does not mean requiring a standardized cookie-cutter approach, but rather, it means synthesizing multiple perspectives. I argue that the journey towards the attainment of SDGs happen because of, not in spite of, diversity of culture and points of view.

As the #WeCAN bootcamp neared its conclusion, John Lennon’s iconic “Imagine” played in my head. There is something in the word “imagine” that evokes rich ideas and provokes rethinking the status quo. In the spirit of the song, my experience during the #WeCAN bootcamp led me to reimagine what dreamers should dream about. The new meanings I constructed may disagree with Lennon’s original perspective on how to achieve unity, but I’d like to imagine that he would entertain my reinterpretation. I offer my thoughts:

Imagine all countries, all religions, that because of unique perspectives of the world, we better understand reality and how to better solve its problems. Yes, skeptics may say we are dreamers, but we are not the only ones. And on those days of the #WeCAN bootcamp, many different individuals from different backgrounds joined us. Because of use there can be unity in diversity, and we can partner toward the attainment of sustainable development goals.

Unity transcended imagination and became a reality, even for just a glimpse.

And it seemed like the world lived as one!

Patrick Adriel H. Aure is an assistant professor from the Management and Organization Department, Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business. He advocates social entrepreneurship as head of the Social Enterprise Research Network of the Center for Business Research and Development (CBRD-SERN) and as co-chair for strategic directions of the Lasallian Social Enterprise for Economic Development (LSEED) committee at De La Salle University. His email is patrick.aure@dlsu.edu.ph.

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