“Knowledge is Dead Without Purposeful Action.” – Matthew Alberto

Hopes and Dreams

Matthew Alberto & Social Enterprise

I was born in the Philippines after the fall of a dictatorship and the rise of a shaky Filipino democracy.

Four years later, my parents sought “greener pastures” elsewhere and we immigrated to the Land Down Under, Australia.

As immigrants, we started out like most immigrants do: with nothing but with everything. “Nothing” in the sense of material belongings, but “Everything” in the sense of dreams, hopes and amibitions for the future for our family.

Growing up in South-Western Sydney, I grew up where many immigrants and refugees congregate. It was an “Australia” that most people don’t really imagine when they think of our country. I ate rice at home and played footy on the weekends. I went to an Irish school with Brothers who spoke with a strong accent. Many of my friends were Australians with ethnic backgrounds from Asia, Europe, South America, the Middle East and Africa.

Looking back, I’m proud of where I came from. I learnt the value of a multicultural community and hard work, and I believed in the necessity of social justice for all – especially realizing that many of my peers were also immigrants who came from war-torn or poverty-stricken countries, and like my family wanted a better life.

Ever since highschool, after encouragement from a special friend, I began getting involved in volunteering. A group of friends and I even created our own social enterprise. We called it “Compassion Inc”. From there, we held fundraising events to raise thousands of dollars for causes like the Spastic Centre and Westmead Children’s Hospital. We even volunteered together on various occasions, helping out as much as we could, with the fundamental belief that we could ‘change the world.’

I was once given a small yellow car, made in a developing country from aluminium tin cans that were once rubbish and trash. I learned that there is potential in all things – even in things and people that originally seem hopeless.

“You can only know where you’re going, if you know where you’ve been.”

Recognizing that it was my life’s purpose to help people, I discovered that my own past opened a new door of opportunity. My mother told me that if we had stayed in the Philippines, we probably would not have been able to afford the type of quality education that I received in Australia. That hit me hard. Why had I been so lucky?

Then, I remembered times when I would see children on the streets of Manila whenever my family visited the Philippines. These kids would tap on our car window and beg for money. Was it fair that I was where I was, and they were there? We could easily have swapped positions. They looked like me and we both spoke Tagalog. But in a twist of fate, I was where I was, and they were there where they were. Was this fair?

During university, I travelled to the Philippines on many occasions to volunteer and intern – first with UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), then with CHRP (the Commission on Human Rights on the Philippines), as well as Gawad Kalinga Community Development Foundation. One of my proudest moments was helping to lead about 60 young Australians to build homes for Filipinos in Palawan. I even became the President of the United Nations Society of UNSW.

Eventually, I earned a degree specialising in economics and international relations.

I then worked with Amnesty International, the University of Sydney and the Asian Development Bank in Sydney, Australia.

But still I wanted to do more.

Brave New World

Matthew Alberto in Bangladesh

I decided I wanted to be closer to the people. To help people where it mattered.

I went to Bangladesh, and worked with the United Nations World Food Programme, in order to enhance the food distribution programmes and livelihoods for the Myanmar refugees in Bangladesh. Here, I have learned to be in one of the toughest environments I have ever been. With the refugees highly dependent on food aid, I began to realise the significance of social initiatives targeted towards self-reliance.

Aid is dead. It is not a sustainable solution to complex global problems in the long-term.

Solutions must come from the people themselves. I began to realise that microdevelopment and entrepreneurship is one important means of encouraging sustainable improvement to the lives of the poor.

Recognizing this, I realised the impact that social enterprises have had in Bangladesh through BRAC and the Grameen Bank under the leadership of Nobel laureate, Muhammad Yunus.

Through further research, I discovered other social enterprises worldwide. Businesses with a social purpose inspired me, as they used entrepreneurial models for positive change, such as the Acumen Fund, Better World Books, and Vision Spring, and Toms Shoes.

Social Entrepreneurial Spirit

It is from these roots that I have grown my social entrepreneurial spirit: To cultivate innovative solutions, to do it sustainably, and to have fun.

Join me on this adventure as I continue to develop and build social enterprises.
Share your insights and lessons, and I’ll give you mine, too.

I’m passionate about helping people, but I’m even more passionate that I can help you help even more people.

Together let us continue to change the world for the better via Social Enterprise.