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We interviewed Jo Bautista, a MSc in Sustainability and Entrepreneurship student, about her #SendtoGive project, which she started as a response to the COVID-19 crisis. She speaks about using art to fundraise support for impoverished Filipino citizens, the inspiration for her project, and the ability of business to create much-needed change in the world.

Tell us about yourself.
My name is Jo Bautista from the Master in Sustainability Entrepreneurship and Innovation Class of 2021. I am a Filipina citizen currently living in Berlin.

Could you describe your trajectory up to the point where you are now?
The idea began during the last week of March and launched in the first week of May. The time in between was a flurry of ideas, support, challenges, pivots, and breakthroughs. I went from being really apprehensive about showing my work to other people, to slowly shedding the fear of failure and simply just going for it. I have had a series of ups and downs in terms of motivation and confidence, but support from friends and family continue to keep me going. A lot of chance opportunities and timely luck has helped me greatly along the way as well. After the first week of launching the project, I’m happy to share that we had a total of 21 orders sent to 11 different countries. It’s a small start but a great step forward. I look forward to seeing how far I can take the project and the positive impact we can all create.

Jo BAUTISTA painting 1 - MSEI - ESCP

What motivated you to start your #SendtoGive project?
What inspired me to start #SendtoGive is the experience of living away from my home country during this difficult time. As you know, I’m a Filipina citizen living in Germany — this situation gave me the unique opportunity to view the impact of the coronavirus across two very different lenses. The first lens through which I saw was outside my window in Germany. Clean roads, happy, well-dressed people, social support like Kurzarbeit [short-work subsidy scheme]. Through my second lens, I saw the news in the Philippines and was in contact with my Filipino family and friends. Hardship, hunger, no social support, no means for survival. 

At the beginning, I struggled with a lot of anxiety and sadness. I felt as if I was away from my home and helplessly watching it crumble. But then, as I continued to keep the pulse of what was going on in the Philippines, I recognized a bright, silver lining. In the midst of all the hardship and struggle, the Filipino’s spirit and character shined through. Part of what makes us Filipino is our willingness to help one another and that’s exactly what people were doing. 

Across the private sector and all over social media, I could see individual Filipinos finding ways to help our fellow countrymen who were less fortunate and truly struggling. Fundraisers, food distribution, support for the frontliners, programs for the homeless. I was inspired! 

I realized that the only way to overcome the impact of the coronavirus is to fight it. To rise to the challenge and contribute what I could to be part of the solution. I reviewed my assets and realized I had time, paintings, and the lessons from our MSEI program to work with. I can’t say the rest is history but I can tell you it’s happening right now. 

I still get anxiety sometimes — there’s still a lot of people struggling and a lot of work to be done. But by focusing on this project and focusing on the small bit of positive change we can affect, I believe we can work together to build a better tomorrow. 

What are the goals for the project?
I have 3 goals for the project which can be condensed into 3 Cs:

  1. Community - What’s fascinating about the coronavirus is the global aspect of its impact. All nationalities and ages are affected by this pandemic in one way or another. Some may feel the impact worse than others but everyone has their own share of challenges. Given this, I believe that the key to getting through this crisis is by doing it together as well. After the first week of launching this project, postcards had already been sent to 11 different countries around the world. To me, this paints an image of the global community we all live in and is part of what I want to strengthen through #SendtoGive
  2. Creativity - I want to highlight the value of creativity and how, through a positive mindset and a creative approach, we can create new solutions that actually make a difference in the world we live in.
  3. Compassion - The coronavirus is a global pandemic but some people feel the impact worse than others. In fact, for some, this is the most difficult time in their entire lives. It’s important for those who find themselves in a fortunate situation to open up their hearts and help those who need it. We simply can’t leave others behind. 

What piques your interest in the broad field of sustainability?
Social sustainability! Coming from the Philippines, I have a deep understanding of the realities that come from social inequality and want to do what I can to create solutions for it. Business sustainability also greatly interests me as the right business framework can allow ideas to continuously grow, evolve, and create an impact. 

Why did you choose art as the means with which to raise funds?
I chose art to be the center of this project because of its ability to cross cultural barriers and speak to the emotions. I am also deeply passionate about art and I use this passion as my fuel to keep striving.

Jo BAUTISTA painting 02 - MSEI - ESCP

What’s behind the name of the project?
#SendtoGive talks about how the action of sending a postcard can empower you to give to others. When you #SendtoGive, you help people in 2 ways:

The first is that you help give love to someone who is away from you. When you send someone a postcard, you help them to feel remembered, connected, and supported during this challenging time of social distancing and isolation.

The second highlights the non-profit aspect of this project. When you #SendtoGive, all profits from your purchase go to providing food and financial support to Filipinos that have no other means of survival. When you choose to send a postcard, you automatically give to charity. 

How has the MSEI programme and/or your professional/academic background prepared you for this project?
Perhaps the most striking learning I took from this programme is that we can use business to solve some of the world’s issues. We don’t need to go into politics, or become NGO workers, or sell all our belongings to feed the hungry. Instead, we can use our talents, create products and services, and channel the strength of a market to help us affect the positive change in the world we each want to see.

From a more practical standpoint, I found myself applying my classroom learnings in real life. Accounting, pivoting, positioning, releasing an MVP are all concepts which I applied in my journey so far. It’s funny because when you’re in class, you don’t necessarily feel like you’ve learned something you can apply in real life. It all feels theoretical. But when the time comes that you actually want to create something, you find that you have a lot of valuable tools already in your toolbox.

Anything else you would like to add?
This project has been the culmination of efforts and support from so many different people, both from my personal network and even strangers just looking to provide help. It has been a great inspiration for me to work with these people and know that the willingness to do good is a human value we all share.

More info about the Master in Sustainability Entrepreneurship and Innovation (MSc) at ESCP