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» » » » » A Look at Pinoy Social Enterprises

JR Lopez Gonzales 10:51 PM 0

A picture of a beaming young Filipina with Jack Ma and President Obama in a conference graced the dailies exactly about a year ago here in the Philippines. That lady was Aisah Mijeno, a young Filipina scientist who invented an ingenious lamp that works simply by adding two tablespoons of salt on a glass of water. This portable lamp called SALt (Sustainable Alternative Lighting), made light accessible to thousands of families in the far-flung areas of the country.
L-R: Alibaba CEO Jack Ma, US President Barack Obama, and Filipina scientist Aisa Mijeno.
What that image showed was not just a "Filipino Pride" moment, but a moment of significant importance for the growing trend in the Philippines: social enterprises.

In a nutshell, it is a revenue-generating business which aims to reinvest its profits in cultural, humanitarian, and environmental causes. Simply put, the social entrepreneurs use the money that you pay them for social good.

Especially at the turn of the twentieth century, more and more community enterprises were put up here by young entrepreneurs with impressive leapfrog technologies and innovations. One of these is the "Bambike Revolution Cycles", which are locally-made bicycles with the main chassis built from sturdy bamboo. It has a two-prong approach for community betterment: 1) it provides employment to the people of Tarlac who makes those bikes; and 2) they set up a bike tour for the tourists to enjoy famous Manila landmarks by pedaling their way using the bamboo bikes. I have experienced it myself and those bikes look stylishly great, too.
Bambike workers assembling the bicycle body in Tarlac. 
In the provinces, SE continues to have big leaps forward. A community enterprise that I have recently discovered on Facebook was the Taclob bags. It was made by the survivors of the strongest typhoon in the country, Typhoon Yolanda (International Name: Haiyan). As a response to the growing need for a source of livelihood, the Taclob project improved the survivors' well-being by allowing them to make bags from discarded materials - which also helps in the reduction of solid waste in Tacloban City.

These are just but a handful of the dynamic social entrepreneurship trend in the Philippines today. Not just geared towards the financial rewards, these community enterprises give proactive contribution in resolving Philippine issues.
The "Compassion" bag, one of the bestselling bags of the Taclob project. 
However, while SE leaves lasting impact to our society, the need to regulate and protect these initiatives arises. A piece of legislation was introduced by Representative Erin TaƱada in the Congress four years ago. It was entitled “Magna Carta for Social Enterprises of 2012" but sad to say, it did not gain any traction. With this new administration of Pres. Duterte, however, I see a ray of hope for he seemed to favor pro-poor policies. A legislative measure would raise awareness and governmental support which would further encourage innovative community initiatives all over the archipelago.

It is undeniable that the Philippines could see social enterprise starting to have more and more impact in the coming years. I am hopeful that these community enterprises could be utilized as a  tool for the country's poverty reduction programs.  Who knows, we might have more Aisa Mijenos in the future that could work out creative and innovative ideas for social good - with the less fortunate ones as its primary stakeholders.

Photo Credits:

Aisa Mijeno with the SALt lamp, Accessed 11        October 2016.

Bambike Webiste. Tarlac Workers, Accessed 10 October 2016.

Taclob Facebook Page. Compassion Bag. Accessed 10 October 2016.

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