It’s time to introduce another member of Social Change School: the Head of Career Development Service, Tirso Puig.
Tirso is a person that transmits a great serenity to the people he talks to, always perceptive and extremely attentive to those in front of him.
Hello, Tirso! Could you introduce yourself to our readers?
My name is Tirso Puig de la Bellacasa, I am Spanish – born in Madrid – and I work for the Social Change School as Head of the Career Development Service.
In the past, I’ve worked in Italy as Third Sector Projects Coordinator with cooperatives and social services in Bologna, then in Bolivia as Project Manager and Coordinator, Responsible for systematization, Career Advisor and technical consultant for UNICEF, Bolivian Government, Plan International, Cesvi and other organisations; lastly, I came back to Madrid where I had the chance to work as Project Manager with Plan International España. Before joining the Social Change School, I managed the Career Advice Service of the IED – European Insitute of Design Madrid, that counts thousands of students and that I hope gave me enough experience to allow me to effectively cover my current role in the SCS.
Why do you work in the Non Profit sector?
I work in the Nonprofit sector because when I was still a law student, I had the chance, through volunteering and social and political activism paths, to have experiences as educator of young migrants from Easter Europe and North Africa.
At that stage, I realised that I was studying to become a lawyer so that I could help the weakest, but that was not the most satisfying path for me, since that was not really the way I wanted to support those in need.
That experience, allowed me to understand that I was not doing the right thing for myself; instead, I found my real vocation in education and since then, I have undertaken 15 years of experience, always pushed by the will to help those in need and to try changing esesthe current order of things, which I find extremely unfair.
The time you spent in Bolivia really had a considerable impact on your future. Could you tell us more about this experience?
I left for Bolivia following an idea that still needed to be developed, it was an experience I imagined would be as short as a Field Experience, but that instead lasted 8 years. The Bolivian experience defined my career, since I became the person I am today thanks to what I did there; I had my first experience as Technical Coordinator in a consortium project between 3 Italian NGOs (Ricerca e Cooperazione, Gruppo Volontariato Civile (GVC) and Progetto Mondo MLAL) funded by UNICEF. A very big project, and since that moment I laid the basis to build my profile.
Bolivia really turned me into who I am today, I am now that person that emerged during those 8 years in Bolivia.
Based on your experience, how important do you think it is to be open-minded, humble and adaptable?
Being adaptable and humble are both very important things, especially in a professional sector that often entails life choices. The majority of the professionals working in international NGOs work on the field or must constantly go on the field. Therefore, it becomes complicated if you are not willing to make changes and step out of your comfort zone.
It must be said, that after my first volunteering experience, I found myself with a very interesting international job offer, also taking into consideration that I was 26, which makes me think that adaptability also depends on the opportunities we find along the way.
The biggest challenge in your career so far?
The moment that I remember with particular affection, despite being difficult, was when I worked as Project Manager for Ricerca e Cooperazione. I found myself with a budget, a project text, a series of guidelines and I started the first day only having these elements. I had to look for an office, to recruit the staff I needed, to manage two offices therefore do the work twice. The toughest part was building everything out of nothing: it was just my laptop and myself, sitting in a coffee shop in El Alto de La Paz. I went on, despite the difficulties, because I felt the responsibility of the confidence they had placed on me – that became the driving force to go on.
Your personal knowledge of international NGOs is impressive; you have worked in many well-known organisations. In your opinion, what is the best way to move and orientate between all of these opportunities without getting lost?
I believe that an important element for not getting lost is to define your own professional objective and partly your personal one; in other words, understanding what you want to do in your life.
Even in a complex contest like that of International Cooperation, having a clear idea of where you’d like to go allows you to coherently build your path, otherwise the risk is to only respond to a stimulus and to follow a path only as a result of chance.
Of course, circumstances arising along the path become an important part of the journey that becomes more and more defined, but I think it is fundamental to have a clear direction to be able to disentangle that complexity. Sometimes you might also have to say no to something, otherwise you might lose your direction.
What do you like the most about your current job? And of the Social Change School?
What I like the most of my current job is the journey of support with the students, during such a significant time in their lives. They are investing to improve their professional career, and being able to support them in a difficult moment of change is motivating for me and gives me daily satisfactions in terms of professional achievements.
Of the Social Change School, I like the spirit it has when approaching things. The fact that it never loses sight of what is institutionally meaningful, which is also something that is shared by those working in the organisation. I like the commitment to coherence, being loyal to itself, to the mission and vision. I find that this is fundamental, especially considering that the Social Change School wants to train NonProfit professionals that are effectively actors of a relevant and significant social change.
There’s always that one comment from that one student you will never forget: which is yours?
I think about the teenagers or young adults that I’ve worked with in Bolivia. After undertaking a path of training and entry into the job market, they believed that path had changed their life. “Quiero agradecerle porque usted me ha cambiado la vida y me ha permitido cumplir mis sueños” (I’d like to thank you because you’ve changed my life and allowed me to make my dreams come true), is what one of the guys said, when he came to thank me with his parents, who where there because they had also seen the change in their son.
When talking about impact, we often say it is difficult to measure, but you can also see impact through these things, if you are changing people’s lives; this guy now has a degree, has found a job and moved ahead.
What is the biggest cause that drives and interests you the most?
Education for everyone: a cause that I’ve always believed in. Popular education as a tool for emancipation and for transformation of the reality, pedagogy as a revolutionary space, because it transforms reality. To this effect, my cause would surely be an education that frees.
However, today I cannot tolerate the discussion on refugees, immigration and the never-ending hypocrisy of the Western Countries towards migratory flows. The fact that they are refugees because of wars, or climate issues, or because the world is so unfair that they have try, even risking their lives… And I want to do something specific regarding this. Looking at me right now, this is a “great cause”.
And finally, you have a small motivational space: which message would you like to leave to our followers?
Even in light of what recently happened (read here to find out the School’s opinion on the Oxfam scandal), people sometimes doubt about their willingness to be part of the NonProfit sector, because they don’t know it, don’t know how to enter it or would have to give up a higher income. The message is that we need you and that we need people who want to achieve real change. The time to achieve social change has come, both with our individual actions and as much as one can. I believe that we need to do it now more than ever, we need people with the will, strength and competences to do it, otherwise I am afraid that the rhythm of history is taking us towards a phase that will be even worst than the one we are living right now.