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PEOPLE

The Power Series: Power of Community with Andrew MacGeoch

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What’s the one thing that motivates you? The Mag’s “The Power Series” invites industry leaders to discuss the “power” of one initiative and how it’s crucial to everyday life, whether work or play. This month, Managing Partner – Hong Kong & Singapore of BCLP, Andrew MacGeoch talks to us about the power of community. 

What is community? There are different levels of that because you can have your family, your office community, your neighbourhood…But it just comes down to your connections with your neighbours, however broadly you want to define that. 

I like to connect with people. However, for a non-Chinese speaking expat, it can be quite difficult to connect to the local community in a deep way. But during my first visit to Hong Kong in 1988, I encountered a charity called the Home of Loving Faithfulness, of which I’m now the chairman of the trustees. It’s a home for the severely handicapped, and for me it was a small connection to what I call the “real” Hong Kong. 
“Community is providing that sense of belonging, which gives us purpose and meaning”
What I’ve come to value about Hong Kong are the strong family values and that sense of community. In England, where I come from, sometimes things degenerate into the unit of one and not of a family. Whereas in Asia, I felt connected with the people and the place, and what’s more, those Asian family values drew me back. I kept finding excuses to return to this city, and eventually, I decided to move here in 1993 as a junior lawyer.  

I had a mentality of “home is where my suitcase is”: I’m in Hong Kong, so I should plug into the community as best I could, hence the charity, the office, the church I go to, and now I have my family here as well. People ask me, “Andrew, where will you retire?” When you think about what’s important to you, whether you’re young or old, it’s community. Mine is here, so it makes sense for me to be in this part of the world, rather than uprooting and going back to England where I know no one. 
Community is about being supported and supporting others, especially during tough times. The business community here is vibrant and dynamic, and over the years we’ve been through thick and thin. From 1997 to 2003, for instance, were recession years culminating in the SARS epidemic – a lot of people left town then, but many of us wanted to stay on, press on and move on, as we do now during these challenging times for Hong Kong. So how do we support one another? How do we support the local retailers through a difficult time? How do we support people that we know are struggling?

We need a sense of belonging, and when you have that, it leads to other big words like “purpose” and “meaning”. They are what help people get up in the morning and go to work and actually enjoy it. I do sense that a lot of people are struggling with that. We ask ourselves, “What is our purpose in doing what we do? What difference does it make to my life or to someone else’s life?” Community is providing that glue and sense of belonging for people.
For our law firm, it’s important to build both internal and external communities. Internally, it’s about engagement with staff – the more involved we are, the more we’re likely to stay in the business, and the more we enjoy coming to work every day. Externally, we’re here to help our clients. And to find out how we can help, we need to live and breathe their community. That means spending time with them to understand their business and their business world.

We must first understand that people connect in different ways.
There are extroverts, who enjoy larger crowds and parties; and introverts, who are naturally quieter and more withdrawn, but still want to be loved and respected and feel that they belong. This is why we do a number of different engagement activities, such as conferences, seminars, dinners, and for the first time, a movie screening last month in Taikoo Place.

There was something for everyone at the movie event. The extrovert enjoyed the networking part, and the introvert might just watch the movie and enjoy a glass of wine or orange juice in a cosy setting. We’d picked the movie Like, which is about the impact of social media on mental health – something that I’m deeply worried about. We’re now only connecting through machines and not face-to-face, even though that’s where real relationships can be developed. How sad is that? Through the event we wanted to raise awareness of this topic – it wasn’t about us, but about this business community of over 30,000 people.

We can do more together as a community. You can help a limited amount of people as an individual. But we can also inspire others and change habits on a larger scale when we do it together. After all, it’s about how we’re connecting with one another. Whether it’s in a business or charity setting, if we work together rather than sitting on our own in a silo mentality, then we will succeed – or fail – together but we will support each other through it all.

How else can we engage with our team? See what Cedar Hong Kong’s Jessica Haigh has to say about the power of “us”.
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