Jayson's Story

Jayson Abad / 6 min read

Championing Cultural Intelligence and youth empowerment in the Philippines.

Jayson Abad speaking to a group

Jayson Abad is pursuing a Sociology degree at Mindanao State University - Iligan Institute of Technology. He founded the League of Active Young Leaders for Sustainable Development, has served as Youth Mayor for the Upi Youth Governance Program, and researches disinformation for Internews. 

He is one of our 25Under25 Global Legacy Awards winner, recognized for his dedication to improving the world we live in, and motivating others to follow his lead.

Jayson learned about the ASEAN Young Leaders Programme through his network, marking his first international exposure as a first-year university student in 2021. Eager to engage with over 200 peers from across the ASEAN region, he sought to enhance his leadership skills and deepen his understanding of Cultural Intelligence, a crucial interest given the cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity of his home region.

Jayson’s programme helped him develop in some key areas:

  1. Discovering the value of cultural diversity.
  2. Embracing continuous personal growth and the importance of nurturing future leaders.
  3. Enhancing group collaboration and presentation skills for impactful community projects.
  4. Applying leadership skills to policymaking and youth empowerment in Bangsamoro.

Appreciating the diversity of his homeland

The Philippines is made up of over a hundred ethnolinguistic groups and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, where Jayson grew up, is known for its “tri-people”, split across faith, culture and ethnicity. The programme helped him appreciate the value of diversity and identify ways to work towards peaceful coexistence for the benefit of the region and country.

“For me, Cultural Intelligence is the ability to work with people from different cultures. It involves appreciating and working with diverse perspectives. It’s about finding ways to make things happen despite our differences, to cross boundaries and work together.”

Jayson even took the opportunity to share his understanding of Cultural Intelligence with his classmates.

“They were shocked to learn about the concept of cultural intelligence. In the Filipino context, we naturally practice cultural intelligence, but we don't specifically label it as such. We call it Pakikisama which means cohabitating or co-existing.”

He has since become intentional in ensuring that, when developing community projects, each group is fairly represented and has a seat at the table to share their perspectives. This in turn helps design solutions that benefit everyone, not just a select few.

Cultivating a leadership mindset

Reflecting on his experience, Jayson emphasized that leadership is an ongoing journey where personal growth benefits both oneself and others. 

“The programme gave me the mindset that I must cultivate myself further because leadership is a continuous process. After all, it’s not just me who will benefit from investing in my skills. If I become a better leader, the people I work with and the community we serve will benefit from that. I am grateful for how the programme instilled that kind of mindset in me, never settle for less and always seek to improve.”

While Jayson is aware of the impact of his own development on others, he knows that his role as a leader doesn’t stop there.

Jayson Abad speaking

“I also cultivated the mindset of paying it forward and sharing my knowledge with others. When you eventually leave an organization, you want your projects and passions to continue thriving.

It's essential to nurture people with a similar mindset and values so that the projects can persist and even surpass your initial efforts. Because that's the essence of leadership. You make leaders out of people.”

Developing collaboration skills

Programme participants worked in groups to identify solutions that benefit their city or region. For Jayson, this was a particularly fruitful experience, helping him understand how to generate ideas in a diverse group and effectively present them to a panel.

“We had to learn how to be upfront and clear with our ideas, and to be honest with each other through feedback. We had to get good at doing research, which was something I was still improving upon during my freshman year when I joined the programme.”

Jayson also gained a different perspective on how a group might effectively present a project without compromising inclusivity. 

“For the sake of being inclusive, we wanted everyone in the group to take part in the presentation of our project, but this led us to go beyond the allocated time. It felt unfair to only have one person presenting, and yet I learned that there are other ways to maintain a sense of inclusivity. For example, we could’ve made the decision as a group beforehand on who will present. That’s an inclusive decision after all because we would have created consensus in the group.”

Taking his leadership journey one step further

During the programme, Jayson gained clarity on his focus: applying the acquired skills and mindset to benefit his community and design long-term solutions through policymaking. 

He applied these learnings at the Bangsamoro Youth Parliament, a platform convening 80 young delegates from the region to address issues affecting the youth and formulate policy recommendations in a simulated legislative process.

"My time on the programme really equipped me with the ability to work with people of different backgrounds. It helped develop a mindset where, even if I represent a minority among the 80 delegates, I didn’t have to settle for less. What we lacked in number, we could make up for in quality.”

The ASEAN Young Leaders Programme, part of our global Legacy campaign campaign, challenges young people to envision the future they want to create for their city, region and country. 

Jayson’s story exemplifies the campaign’s goal. By recognizing the value of diversity, developing collaboration skills and cultivating a leadership mindset, Jayson is committed to designing solutions that will enhance livelihoods in his homeland.

Jayson Abad is a BA Sociology student at Mindanao State University - Iligan Institute of Technology.
He took part in the ASEAN Young Leaders Programme in 2021.

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