From a young age, Mon Abrea has wanted to go to Harvard. He wasn’t sure why, but it has certainly been a driving force behind his advocacy. In fact, one of the reasons he started working for the Bureau of Internal Revenue was because there had been an opportunity for him to study at Harvard.
Of course, that wasn’t all. The large part of how his advocacy began was his experience working with former Finance Secretary Dr. Jess Estanislao. His advocacy started as part of that good governance advocacy group, and gradually evolved – eleven years later – into the Asian Consulting Group as it is now.
Now, that advocacy is what led him to fully realize his dream as a little kid – that of going to Harvard. Still, going to Harvard has also been leaving positive impacts on him and has been teaching him important lessons that will make his advocacy more effective.
Advocacy isn’t all about passion. To Mon Abrea, his stay in Harvard Kennedy School has taught him that advocacy must also be data-driven. There needs to be a hard set of facts, and exact and accurate figures, in order to properly drive advocacy.
“For every proposal, decision, or strategy, there needs to be a set of data that are being analyzed and that the diverse opinions on the matter are being heard,” said Abrea.
Certainly, there still remains a space for passion and emotions, but it must give way in favor of data, especially when it comes to decision-making. For a start, he has also applied this learning to how ACG operates. Whenever ACG advocates something or publishes informative articles, there has to be clear references and credible sources.
Diversity in opinions
The second lesson he learned is that there needs to be a diversity in opinions. There is a tendency, especially when it comes to decision-making, not to have diverse views. Whatever the majority says, goes. But nurturing and considering the opinions of a diverse set of people is probably the most important lesson that Abrea has learned.
“Having a diverse set of opinions helps in improving or having a better plan or strategy,” explained Abrea.
At the Harvard Kennedy School, he noted that if you have forty students, you’d likely have forty different opinions or insights. These students come from different backgrounds and their insights reflect where they’re coming from – be it their culture, their experience, or something else.
Focus on what matters
Of course, studying abroad does not mean dedicating his entire life to studying. Even as busy as he is, Abrea has found the time to enjoy the scenery of Cambridge every once and again. Maintaining a work-life balance is predicated on prioritizing things that matter and have a large impact. It is a principle that, he admits, is still something that he is trying to learn.
“There is a tendency for everyone to just be so busy,” he observed.
At Harvard, he notes that, despite the large number of reading materials he has to finish every day, he can still dedicate time to sit and drink hot tea, look at the playground, or just bike around Cambridge.
“You will be more productive if life is bigger than your work,” said Abrea. “If you have that perspective, it makes you more open to new ideas.”
Hardships and difficulties
But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows full of insights over there. The tax advocate has also experienced some hardships and difficulties during his stay there, both financially and mentally. Most importantly, however, it was not easy for him to leave his work, his family, and his advocacy behind.
Thankfully, however, his advocacy can continue even while he is staying abroad. For all the ills that it brought, the pandemic has resulted in everything going online. As a result of that, Abrea noted that he could continue his advocacy through online webinars and via releasing infographics and other types of social media content.
ACG has also been continuing its partnership with its advocacy partners, especially the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the Anti-Red Tape Authority, and the Department of Trade and Industry.
A dream reborn
The concept of the “greater good” is not something new to anyone fighting for an advocacy. The same goes for Mon Abrea. The concept of the “greater good” has been his prime motivation on why he started his advocacy eleven years ago. However, his stay at the Harvard Kennedy School did reawaken his idea of the “greater good.”
“You don’t need to agree with all your government’s policies in order to work with them,” explains Abrea. He noted that, while there are indeed differences when it comes to political values, those differences should not prevent an advocate from reaching out and sharing their opinions and expertise with their government.
An advocate should fight for the greater good of all.
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