When Work Isn’t Just About Productivity: An Interview with Cesar Aliaga

Cesar Aliaga AmaroLa gente debe formarse con libertad.” — César Aliaga Amaro [People should have the freedom to develop.]

They say that everything comes together when you truly dream. And César’s dream needs all the support from the universe that it can get because it’s hard for people to believe in something that isn’t based on the quickest timeframe possible and can’t be proven with numbers. Effecting change in people’s lives should count for something, shouldn’t it?

Catch César in action during one of his Sunday School classes for youth in which he chats with them about relationships:

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A Constant Theme

César began working with youth as the president of his youth group at church, appointed at only 24 years of age. Over the next few years, he would serve the church in various roles from youth and principal pastor to regional president and later consultant to the president at the national level. “It doesn’t matter,” the authorities told him when he expressed doubt about his lack of formal training. “You do it well.”

During his early pastorship days, César made an observation that would turn into an ambition. The youth, expecting him to be like the former authoritarian pastor, immediately responded to his greetings defensively, giving excuses as to why they weren’t able to go to church. “I don’t care if you go to church,” César would respond. “I’m just wondering how your day is going.” The pastor before him pressured the youth to attend events and meetings, but César was naturally able to build friendships with them. He had a knack for connecting with others through his lightheartedness and sense of humor, and soon discovered that certain people didn’t attend church because of problems inside or outside the home as serious as abuse or rape.

Centro2BThe realization is what inspired him to start Centro2B (translated and interpreted as “center to be”), the first NGO of its kind in Huancayo. “Most youth programs in Peru involve training, workshops or entrepreneurship sessions. If you don’t show up, you’re booted from the program,” César explains. “But the youth at risk who truly need support are the ones who aren’t going to follow schedules or show up all the time. At Centro2B, there’s no intervention; it’s therapy based on friendship.” The concept? Provide a hang-out spot for youth where they can be as they are, where there are no commitments, expectations, judgments or hidden agendas. They can get help with their homework or join free dance, music, theatre or art classes, but there’s no obligation.

The Method2B

Supplementing his accounting degree, which has allowed him to handle all the legal and financial aspects of managing an organization, César recently completed a Master’s in Psychology through weekend studies and is now working on his Master’s in Theology. Both have helped him flesh out the Method2B, a proposition that he aspires to implement not only nationally, but also globally. It involves a relational and non-invasive approach to counseling based on patience and natural friendships.

César teaches his team “to fish for conversations.” It’s the small talk that builds trust and creates an open space for sharing problems. “If you ask someone how things are going, they’ll only tell you about 10% of the truth,” César explains. “100% only emerges if you don’t put pressure, letting the pieces of the puzzle come out on their own over time.” He stresses that the product isn’t immediate. When the youth are ready to let you help them discover solutions to their own problems, they may not make positive changes in their lives instantly either. Change takes time and César seeks to provide a safe and encouraging place where youth can take their time.

The Method2B started as a personal theory of César’s that he later discovered was already backed by years of research, such as Albert Bandura’s concept of self-efficacy and Carl Rogers’ theory of self-actualization. César also makes a point of brainstorming with those he crosses paths with from foreigners to locals, entering into discussions with a dose of critical thinking yet willing to be taught even by those who are much younger than him. To this day, he continually researches and refines his program.

Centro2B Cesar Aliaga

It’s About Teamwork

“At Centro2B, we’re all part of a team,” César is proud to say. “It’s horizontal.” And he takes the same approach of freedom with his employees; they aren’t bound to productivity measured by numbers. And César’s challenge is to the fight the misconception that the Method2B isn’t worthwhile without quantitatively measurable results. People, especially funding sources, have told him that “conversing isn’t enough,” and all of his employees expressed doubt in the beginning, but César begs to differ. “You need to live the method and be open to understanding it in order to see its value,” he asserts.

Since it’s a lengthy process and you need to see it to believe it, it’s difficult for César to obtain funding. Not only does he have a hard time conveying the method’s value in a way that businesses and governments can understand, but people also tend to opt for what they feel is the easier way, the vertical way in which you sit youth down and talk at them. Nevertheless, César’s optimism abounds and he’s got the right people already on his side. An uncle recently found out about a small funding offer, his employees have experienced the method’s success and stay with him even though he can’t pay much, and the government is showing more interest in his work. Beyond the trickling in of good news, César sees the changes he’s making in others’ lives. He has seen it, I have seen it and more people are seeing it.

What do you spend time on that others may consider unproductive? How are you making a difference in your career? Tell us in the comments below!

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10 Comments

  1. Posted September 26, 2011 at 12:38 am | Permalink

    Wow – means believing until you see. Samantha, you are blessed by living with some exceptional humans who are stepping out of their comfort zone and making a difference

    • Posted October 6, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

      You are so right, Roberta. I truly am blessed to be surrounded by such inspirational people. =)

  2. Abe
    Posted September 26, 2011 at 5:09 am | Permalink

    Within my carreer it is the productive, measurable results that count. It is the proof, the paper trail and more often then not the need to have if you are to expect growth. Few people can see that productive results are the by-product of unmeasurable efforts performed by exsordinary people.

    • Posted October 6, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

      Ooh! I totally remember what it was like at Safeway, Abe! It was definitely about the numbers. I’m so glad your store has a leader like you to help them realize the true value of the “unmeasurable efforts.” Thank you for being you. =)

  3. Becky Bangayan Ting
    Posted September 26, 2011 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    I am so blessed by Pastor Cesar’s life! It is an affirmation to my beliefs and vision. Yes, society views productivity with clear results that can be measured. Not so when working with people…especially people who are abused or have martial problems. Trust is something they have to re-learn and that is really really hard. To prove yourself worthy of their trust takes time. I am a firm believer of establishing relationships over and above what society defines “work productivity”. My life’s mission is to glorify Him (God) in everything I do. When I was still single, I get to meet different people in my workplace…and although I do not have any training in counseling, I offer my ear and shoulder to those in need. If I do offer advise, my guide would always be “what would Jesus do?” After I married, my husband and I got involved in the couples ministry and my heart bleeds to see so many broken marriages.

    In my workplace, productivity is increased sales…which means keeping the phone lines open for orders, keeping interaction with customers short and efficient with important details of their orders. However, I believe in putting relationships first over and above the technical side of “work”. The funny thing about it is companies are now adapting the same concept because they’re finding it effective in increasing sales. However, I believe a person’s heart motive in establishing relationships is an important factor. The least you can do for a person who’s hurting is to be sincerely concerned for him/her. Be efficient in serving an order and you have a customer for a while. Establish a relationship and you have a friend for life…you have touched a person’s life and made a difference.

    • Posted October 6, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

      You totally understand, Auntie Becky! That’s what’s so off — when we work with people, it should never be about the numbers. It sounds like you have a natural ability to support those around you and I’m so glad you’re community has someone like you!

      I truly believe that the time and care you put into building relationships makes a difference with your customers too! Isn’t it funny that business experts are only now realizing that it’s not truly about quantity? =P

      I’m so glad this article and interview could speak to you so deeply! And thanks so much for taking the time to comment!

  4. Posted September 27, 2011 at 2:45 am | Permalink

    What a inspiring post Samantha!

    My favorite part has to be when Pastor Cesar went to the authorities and expressed his concerns about how he thought he was not qualified to carry on in his position. Their answer to him that “he does his job well” was powerful and inspiring!

    It is inspiring to me when an individuals efforts and actions speaks more than their doubt in their own ability. That tells me that someone is constantly watching us, and that we should always consider this fact; giving our best effort at all times. We just never really know when the person who is looking can speak for us when it matters most.

    • Posted October 6, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

      Me too, Deeone! I always wonder if things like that would happen in North America where everyone’s all about rules and certifications. The truth us, some of the most qualified people don’t have the natural ability and experience combined to make the most effective changes in others’ lives. That’s how I see it anyway. =P

      I love that lesson you garnered! You’re right that it’s motivation to always give our best. =)

  5. Posted September 29, 2011 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    This has got to be one of the most inspiring people I’ve read about in a long time. Following your heart is difficult in the face of judgments, especially your own. Pastor Cesar sounds like a blessing to all those around him.
    Thanks for sharing his story, I’m off to do the same.

    • Posted October 6, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

      Great point, Bonnie! Sometimes, our own judgments can be the most debilitating too. =P I know they are for me. =)

      Thanks so much for commenting and sharing!! =)

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