Creating a Corporate Citizenship Program - Oceanside Case Study #1

I recently returned from a trip to Mexico where I was meeting with NGO’s in Oaxaca State, in a town called Huatulco and presenting at the 3rd Annual Congress of Non-Profit Organizations of Mexico hosted at University of Hidalgo in Pechuka, just north of Mexico City.

It was an amazing experience in both cases.

The first half of my trip focused on setting up a corporate citizenship program for a private, small, Canadian company, Oceanside Cruz del Mar, with business and personal interests in Huatulco.  My main goal was to meet people who are actively engaged in the social and environmental community to see if there is a way to make stronger ties between the community and the business.

I have a feeling that as more and more Baby Boomers retire to Mexico and points south (snowbirds), we are going to see more and more people wanting to support Mexican charities because that is where they are spending a good portion of the year.  This was ever apparent when I went to the organization El Sueno Zapoteco A.C. “Dreams of the Zapotec” supported by the Bacaanda Foundation in Concord, MA. 

The holiday season is the busiest time of year for this organization – the Zapotec artisans are working full-throttle making decorations and crafts for tourists and local Mexicans alike.  The workshop is so busy, that the Gringos in the community come and help out!  The local artisans show and teach the transplanted Canadians and Americans how to paint the gourds and create the crafts.  It was wonderful and refreshing to see the transfer of knowledge back across the table.  My experience has been such that typically it is the foreigner doing the training, not the other way around.

The funds from the art shop are used to fund the dental clinic and educational programs that are held in the mountain community.  Mexico has legislation that every community that has children must have a school, however, they do not make the commitment to make sure that the teachers are trained so the rural education is sub-par.  This agency helps support the school program by ensuring that the teachers have adequate training and that the schools are functioning.

Supplies are purchased from local communities – such as the gourds that are used for some of the decorations and crafts.  The dentists that work in the clinic are Mexican trained and come from the surrounding cities.  In addition to professional support, Mexican and North American volunteers provide support in the way of manual labour in the construction and maintenance of schools and in the workshop (as mentioned earlier). 

Huatulco is an interesting place.  The region attracts socially conscious people who are actively involved in environmental stewardship and sustainable development.  In part, because the area has been classified as a UNESCO environmental site.  Nine sheltered bays make up the region and all along the coastline you will find Mangrove forests and freshwater lagoons.   These important wetlands ensure the environmental integrity of the area.  While the government has made claims that this is of key importance, the balance between economic growth from tourism and the conservation of this unique landscape is top of mind. 

A haven for bird watchers, botanists, agronomists and outdoor adventurers, this locale attracts a variety of people who come for a few days or a few months.  I even met a woman who went down almost 20 years ago, and just never left!

Mexico’s charitable sector is thriving.  While there is a sense that there is not a lot of financial resources in the country, what I think the main challenge facing the Mexican NGO’s is the lack of coordinated efforts and multiple international aid organizations encroaching on the Mexican charitable landscape.  What excites me about the project with Oceanside is that we are looking at Mexican-based NGO’s and projects, not organizations that are American or Canadian led.  Oceanside has made a commitment to engage the local community in building out the projects and is really taking a hands-on approach to understanding the issues and coming up with solutions in partnership with the community leadership.  This is definitely not a hands-out relationship, but truly a hands-up partnership.

I will be heading back down to Huatulco from Feb. 15-25. If you are interested in joining me and the Oceanside team on this trip please email me at gena@dexterityconsulting.ca.  The itinerary for the trip will be posted shortly.