I was mildly perplexed the first time I came here when everybody insisted on referring to the public as “community.” Instead of merely saying, “This is to inform the public….” most press releases preferred to use the term “the community,” as in “This is to inform the community that…”
It was not until Typhoon Soudelor hit in 2015 that everything crystallized, that the CNMI, indeed, functions like a community.
Knowingly or not, the CNMI recognizes itself as an organic community that’s made up of diverse parts and yet operates, for the most part, smoothly as a whole. Despite its many flying parts, the CNMI manages to keep all those flying parts in the air, a community that helps one another in times of need, that watches each other’s backs and brakes for pedestrians. Whether we like it or not, we have a model here of how people can co-exist.
The Saipan experience in the aftermath of Typhoon Soudelor is a good example of coming together and helping each other out, of people checking on their neighbors if they were okay, of making sure they had water to drink.
And that experience was not merely about the general population acting like compassionate human beings. It also involved the efforts of many private companies and government agencies that stepped out of the shadows of commerce and bureaucracy and plunged headlong into how they could help people recover.
Many hotels offered shelter for displaced employees. Some set up water stations and offered free use of laundry machines. Many helped with feeding programs. Several altruistic non-profits were formed to facilitate assistance and aid. Even something as simple as allowing an employee time off so he or she could line up for gas was heaven-sent.
And, despite a human tendency to descend to finger-pointing and chaos, the CNMI chose to rise above that and came together to show the world an example of how everyone could help to restore a sense of normalcy. It was a testament of true corporate social responsibility, when being in business also meant playing an oversized role in the community. The mobilization of talents and individuals made all the difference.
The experience also showed people and businesses that corporate giving is no longer just about measuring money. In fact, most modern surveys on perceptions of companies’ reputations focus on the areas of social responsibility, emotional appeal, products and services, vision and leadership, financial performance, and workplace environment.
That means being in the black at the end of the year is no longer the sole yardstick by which to measure a business. How a business is perceived in what it does to help the community where it operates is now also a measure of a business’ success or failure. That pretty much summed up the CNMI experience in the wake of Typhoon Soudelor. Besides the value of unity, the experience was also a teaching moment for businesses on the value and importance of social responsibility. Thankfully, CNMI businesses did not shirk that lesson but embraced its value and actually became role models of how businesses could also be rallying points in times of crises.