In social entrepreneurship lies hope for the less fortunate
It all started with a vision.
People who were interested in easing the plight of poor people came together and started talking about how to improve the lives of those less fortunate. Together, they dreamed of a better society where our “kababayan” need not go abroad to earn a living. Instead, they can stay in their homeland and live a contented life.
These people are what we know as social entrepreneurs. Through their effort, Social Enterprise became “the next business model.”
This model is geared toward empowerment and financial sustainability for the less fortunate. They aim to connect non-government organizations (NGOs) and the private sector with concerned government agencies to eradicate poverty.
Social enterprise is organized by the Peace and Equity Foundation (PEF) in partnership with the League of Corporate Foundations, Management Association of the Philippines, Philippine Business for Social Progress and PinoyME Foundation.
The proponents hope to persuade forward-looking Filipinos to share their talents and ideas to address the country’s social problems.
“Now is the time for social entrepreneurs,” says Bobby Calingo, executive director of Peace and Equity Foundation.
PEF has worked closely with NGOs to bring relief to the poorest communities.
The organization is now scouring the countryside to find good products and develop the social enterprise sector. It also aims to provide financial and technical aid to microentrepreneurs. The organization wishes to open new doors of opportunity to small businessmen by providing them with loans, equities and grants to revitalize their trade.
Also, PEF provides quality technical support to microentrepreneurs by arming them with the skills to penetrate new markets and to further harness the full potential of their products.
According to Calingo, PEF has allotted over P1 billion for social enterprises. Each enterprise will be given P10 million. The funds may be tapped by any group or individual who wishes to iron out society’s intricate problems arising from poverty.
Calingo notes that while everyone who has the passion and desire to help can avail of the funds, there are still requirements that need to be met before the funds are released.
First, there has to be a developmental aspect. It has to be very clear who are the groups who will benefit from this venture.
Second, the product has to be business-driven. “They need to have a very good business case. It has to be equal to any other business case. It must be a quality product,” he adds.
Third, it must be market-oriented. And lastly, the value chain orientation will be looked into. The product will be assessed for its strengths as well as its areas of improvement.
PEF envisions that in five years, each social enterprise must be at par with the other giants in the industry. They will also look into the benefits it has brought into the community by verifying its return of investment (ROI) and the income it has raked into its chosen community. Finally, they will also assess the social impacts a product has on society.
It is no secret that in the countryside, many make a living through agriculture. At the end of the day, most of the farmers who have bent their backs under the scorching sun still end up with so little to provide for their families.
Social enterprise aims to improve this sad reality by providing the farmers with the means to be self-reliant. Social entrepreneurs hope to teach them how to market their products and set up sound business practices to make them more sustainable.
“We want them to see the value of different markets, to go for two markets not just one,” says Chit Juan, founder of “ECHOstore Sustainable Lifestyle,” which is a pioneering venture that provides market access for community products and organic retail goods.
“We are here to help them address the market and link them to other markets. We want to provide them with the skills and motivation,” Juan says.
Though the next business model is not just limited to agriculture, the social entrepreneurs also hope that new ideas will pop up along the way. Little great ideas like how to provide potable water, electricity through solar panels and cheap medicines to the poorest communities in our land.
“We want to teach them how to survive and be more sustainable,” says Jeannie Javelosa, who leads the development arm of ECHO Sustainable Initiatives Foundation which that runs programs related to women’s economic empowerment, social-cultural enterprise development and knowledge management.
While each product is unique in its own way, social enterprise aspires to incorporate all the products and “bring everything together and provide a ‘Philippine look,’” adds Javelosa. “We want to make our products reflect our culture and bring various sectors together and become stronger together in the same direction.”
But they admit that they can only do so much. That is why they are inviting more people to get involved in this advocacy to help our country move forward. This social movement is expected to bring about a change in people’s mindsets.
Social Enterprise is there to bridge the gap, applying firm business practices to move toward sustainability with the help of research and technology.
“Social enterprise is a movement toward change. We want people from NGOs, the corporate world and the fresh graduates to consider this as a career,” Javelosa says. “We want to bring social entrepreneurs into the mainstream and create more synergies and come together as one strong force.”