57 min
By: ENC Leaders

Episode 2: The Shift in Work as Service

How can we start viewing work as a form of service? Aika Robredo, executive director of microfinance NGO RestartME, shares her turning points, learnings, setbacks and the process of seeing work that is beyond the self.

Play on:

00:50 – The transformation of work as service

  • This generation is becoming more empathetic. It’s not just about getting things done. We’re gravitating toward creating meaning and intentionality.
  • A lot of people now view their work as an advocacy. Being an advocate means pushing causes you believe in, which involves speaking out and also putting in the hard work and being disciplined about creating change.

05:30 – Aika Robredo on her work, from the beginnings until the present

  • Aika is the executive director of RestartME, a microfinance NGO and the daughter of former DILG secretary, the late Jesse Robredo, and our current vice president of the Philippines, Leni Robredo.
  • Started working in the private sector until her father passed in 2012: “One of the reasons I went into corporate was so that my career would be different from my parents. But the biggest lesson for me is you can’t plan for everything. When he died, I ended up working in government. Be open and leave space for magic, because you don’t know where it will take you.”
  • RestartME began with a Typhoon Yolanda project grant and became a standalone NGO that would give microfinance loans to households.
  • RestartME is about making credit more accessible with a focus on post-disaster on livelihood recovery. They loan to smaller institutions at lower interest rates to, for example, sari-sari store owners, farmers, and fishermen who are affected by natural and man-made disasters. It’s giving them a chance to start and do something on their own.

13:52 – On work rhythm: daily delights, setbacks, and learnings

  • The challenge now is to adapt and to act with urgency. “When you look at long-term, minsan nakaka-overwhelm. So, knowing the next immediate step is important.”
  • The COVID-19 pandemic is teaching us to expect the unexpected and to fast-track solutions, either band-aid or long-term.

25:25 – On starting to view work as service

  • “One of my biggest lessons is having a choice is a privilege… Any kind of work is a form of service. Think of the whole thing as an entire system. May impact ‘yung ginagawa mo in one small way or another.”
  • “Growing up in Naga, we had a Christmas morning tradition of going to missionaries of the poor… We weren’t told we ‘had’ to [serve], it was just something we saw on a regular basis. And I guess mahirap siya i-shake off.”
  • “There are core values and core beliefs na kahit saan ka mapunta, mag-ma-manifest lang talaga siya.”

32:10 – On serving after experiencing loss

  • “My mom really set the standard as to how we should deal with grief. Many people have different ways of dealing with things, but in our household, parati niyang sinasabi na we should channel our grief into something productive. At that time, it was very difficult for us. But we realized that [my dad] started a lot of things that we can continue in a different way or in our own way.”
  • “It’s not an overnight thing, snapping out of grief. Hindi mo siya nakikita in the long term. It’s more of: Ano ‘yung next na pwede ko gawin? Little things, paisa-isa, step by step, for as long as there’s something keeping you going.”

37:20 – On creating change through the things we advocate for

  • “The younger you are, mas malakas loob mo. Take the lessons of the older generation, like the discipline they grew up with, and incorporate ‘lakas ng loob.’ That’s more than enough to push you to go forward.”
  • “Sometimes, it’s more than enough to fix our own little corner. It doesn’t mean that just because it’s a small corner, wala siyang impact. May ripple effect siya eh. If I fix this corner and then ‘yung mga kaibigan ko will also fix their own corners, palaki siya nang palaki.”

39:59 – On working with the older generation

  • “It’s important for us to be humble enough that if something doesn’t work, apologize.”
  • “The least we can do is to listen to them and it’s up to you to know what to retain or upgrade. When you merge the learnings of the old and the perspective of the young, malaking bagay ‘yun.”
  • Discipline and a sense of structure is something we can learn from them.
  • For the older generation, not all of them had the time or leeway to figure themselves out, they just had to work and get things done.
  • For our generation, we just always have new ideas. We don’t need to choose between working hard or smart, we can do both.

50:13 – On her interests: favorite shows and music

  • Favorite K-drama: Doctors and Kingdom
  • Favorite music to listen to now: Taylor Swift’s folklore

53:00 – Key takeways from the conversation

  • Kirk: “Be patient and enjoy the process. With so many things that we are facing now, gusto natin mabilisan. But if you take care of the process, the result will take care of itself.”
  • Iya: “Having a choice is a privilege. So how are we going to use this privilege? It’s a question we can all ask ourselves. If you want to take one small step to change the world, start by asking yourself that question.”
  • Mau: “Openness and humility. That’s part of the human condition: We are all learning. We should come from a point of teachability. If we want to create progress and restoration, we should bridge gaps and bridging that gap sometimes means listening and learning well.”
  • Aika: “It’s a never-ending process. The challenge for all of us is to keep going and not to be fixated on an end goal. Enjoy the journey, but don’t limit to yourself to what’s just in front of you.”

Find the right resource for you