Social enterprises: new pathways against poverty



The objective of social entrepreneurship is to address unfair situations characterized by the deprivation of basic needs where many governmental and philanthropic actions have fallen in producing the expected results - Abdul Wali Khan, University Mardan, 2020


The “Tiangge” held on June 14 at the Mariners gym in Canaman was a quickly organized event with 15 social enterprises (SEs) participating from Libmanan to Canaman, Camarines Sur. Five days earlier, Dr. Gabriel Jimenez, the MPCF Canaman EVP, called for an expanded general Mancom meeting in the Boardroom with marching orders to mobilize and prepare. The week before, I shared a detailed plan of activities as a reference and guide.


Every June 14 is Eliza’s day. Eliza L. Jimenez, the co-founder of Mariners schools in Bicol, was the entrepreneurial spirit who served as the quiet, conscientious purser behind with the Founder, Commodore Jaime C. Jimenez. Both are now gone. The whole-day affair was dubbed “Celebrating and remembering Eliza L. Jimenez on her 98th birth anniversary as an entrepreneur and businesswoman.” I thought a better and unique way to remember Mommy Eliza was to hold a “Tiangge” (bazaar) as a fitting tribute. She was, after all, the business manager of the first school canteens, bookstore, and businesses on campus in the 1970s. Over at the MPCF Legazpi campus, president Merle San Pedro led the “Business Day” events around the unified theme.


The Mariners’ partner, the Tabang Bikol Movement (TBM), closely helped coordinate the whole-day event with the Central Bicol State University in Agriculture (CBSUA) and the Department of Agriculture (DA) for the traditional Pagheras of vegetable seedlings, and with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) for the TBMfacility located within the campus.


On Tuesday- day of the event - the sun was hot, almost searing. But for the organizers and participants, it was a much welcome weather change after the previous intense rainfall. Joining “Tiangge” is an easy breeze for TBM’s enterprising community organizations that have been a part of provincial, regional, and national trade fairs before the Pandemic. With Covid-19 still lurking, the IATF pandemic protocols remain enforced, so inside the big gym and outside - wearing face masks and using alcohol and temperature scanners are still in place. Twenty snappy maritime cadets in their neatly pressed white uniforms lined up on both aisles face to face to welcome the school’s top executives and guests, who beamed at the beautiful sight of young cadets and the lovely young majorettes from Mariners Naga. Yes! Everyone was beaming with delight at the colorful display of products at every participant’s booth.


As a highlight at the opening of the “Tiangge”, the MPCF president, Dr Marilisa Ampuan exchanged symbolic institutional tokens with the president of CBSUA, Dr Alberto Naperi, represented by VPAA Ana Mirano as a start of a partnership on SEs soon.


Held at the Mariners gym, the hastily organized “Tiangge”, a first at the maritime school, was one happy, unforgettable and productive day for the community-based organizations and school-based groups who joined to display and sell their wares to the limited invited face-to-face “public.” Among them were the Libmanan farming entrepreneurs, Ilaw ng Kababaihan, People’s Organization of Disaster Survivors (PODiS), Bugkos Kabataaan, RESAYKEL, Kutkutin, a new enterprise among Mariners employees. The Mariners Culinary, which began as a curriculum-based student program, has now emerged as an enterprising champion in culinary arts in Bicol.


The aspiring entrepreneurs went home with stories to share about how they successfully marketed their products. Aside from their hard-earned cash sales, they received prizes for their efforts and were greatly inspired. Then the rains came as if to welcome the success.


Alternative livelihood - a response to poverty


The Pandemic has taught every Filipino to find ways to survive. It is the period of seeking an alternative livelihood and other means of income to overcome economic difficulties. After all, whatever one believes, the ultimate goal of families today, especially the breadwinners amid extreme poverty, is to create income, especially when government fails. Hence, people are compelled to create, adjust and innovate alternative income-generating projects to live.


Social enterprise is an inclusive business


As president of JaimEliza, a homegrown private enterprise in food and merchandise retails, I have long advocated for inclusive business. Aside from its corporate social responsibility (CSR), JaimEliza has promoted the participation of its providers in a common goal for product quality, health, and environment protection. But I find social enterprises more inclusive and empowering because they are businesses of, for, and by people themselves. They create new pathways to better livelihood to support inclusive growth in poor communities.


Social enterprises come in different types—for example, community social entrepreneurs, non-profit private social entrepreneurs, and global export-oriented social entrepreneurs. Examples of SE programs include educational materials, products from prison, rehabilitation, and the like.


Requirements to succeed


But to succeed and impact people’s lives, social enterprises need an enabling social environment to flourish and be resilient and sustainable. It starts with a government policy that supports and encourages Filipinos to start up and scale up freely without the hassle and rigid restrictions or conditions for growth.


TBM continues to develop a social enterprise framework for disaster survivors. It also hopes to develop modules for organizing and capacity building for social enterprises to be resilient and sustainable. Properly guided, social enterprises can create new jobs and be vehicles for efficient and effective service delivery. In addition, these social enterprises can boost citizens’ participation in their communities and turn innovative ideas into action for the common good.