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The Launch: Social Entrepreneurship Development Project

Last year, I wrote a series about MSMEs, micro-small and medium enterprises, and social enterprises. It was the period of re-opening, as schools started their face-to-face classes, and business slowly returned to the entire operation. The Department of Trade and Industry and the Tabang Bikol Movement joined in October to spearhead the Regional MSME Summit in Legazpi City to aim for a rebound of the economy. The TBM joined DTI’s Orgullo Kan Bicol (OKB) Trade Fair at Mega Mall in the NCR, along with hundreds of MSMEs, some of which are social entrepreneurs.

Thanks to the support of partners, TBM’s women entrepreneurs from Ilaw ng Kababaihan had a relatively easy breeze participating in the trade fair - transport by Mariners, accommodation by a new-found partner, the Hotel Sogo in Cubao, Quezon City, and food from old-time donors and buyers of their products. The women were survivors of big typhoons that hit Bicol in 2016 and 2018 that left them homeless.

Today, they produce and sell their beautifully crafted candles laced with the organic citronella essential oils extracted by the distillation machines from the Department of Agriculture HVCDP for the citronella plants proven by studies as effective mosquito repellents. They also sell bottles of citronella oil which the People’s Organization of Disaster Survivors (PODiS) produce at the distillation facility powered with full off-grid solar power from the Department of Science and Technology (DoST). Materials are chemical-free, and the candle-makers share 50% of the sales. Almost 100% of packaging is recycled or biodegradable, with lots of creative help from new-found friends, Ms. Celia Jacob of Brown Roots and Ms. Ebong Lazaro of JaimEliza Creatives. Through its products, the business increases awareness of healthy and environment-friendly materials like citronella against dengue. In addition, they show that profit-making and social impact are not mutually exclusive.

What the world needs now

With all my organic heart, I believe social entrepreneurs can save the world. With the multiple crisis and recessions, the world needs them now more than ever. They are the change creators in generating wealth and in conducting people-friendly business. They have a shared passion for helping the world through business. Suppose their present number of an estimated 11 million in the world can grow exponentially today. In that case, they can help spur the change that people want - reduce poverty and inequality, and save the earth from environmental destruction. Social entrepreneurship is one of the most significant movements of our time, according to a global social enterprise network. With their social enterprises, they get modest incomes and can go around flexible work environments.

In Bicol, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and partners, the Mariners Polytechnic Colleges Foundation, Central Bicol State University in Agriculture, and the TBM will launch the two-year project, “Developing Social Enterprises for Economic Resilience of Disaster Survivors,” on January 27 at the TBM Citronella Facility, Berde Asul, Mariners.

The experiences of the people’s organizations and their emerging social enterprises, which TBM organized as a community-based response to social problems and disasters caused by typhoons, provide the project’s start. The People’s Organization of Disaster Survivors (PODiS), Ilaw ng Kababaihan, and the Bugkos ng Kabataan in Canaman, Camarines Sur, will join the study with the project’s staff of researchers led by experts Dr. Cely Binoya, Dr. Philip Talay, Dr. Hany, and Dr. Nila Onate.

The project’s primary goals are to develop the Social Enterprise Framework for Disaster Survivors, assess and raise the capacity of the POs organizationally, and institutionalize and replicate them in other similarly situated communities.

For the greater social good

Social enterprises begin with the framework of “for whom” and “for what” is a business, how it starts and conducts commercial enterprise for the greater social good, and not mainly for personal or corporate profits. Social entrepreneurs choose to produce environmentally-friendly products, alternative nature-based foods for health, serve an underserved community like the indigenous people and the poor urban settlers or focus on philanthropic activities. They provide solutions to social problems like poverty, inequality, scarcity, and environmental degradation that are innovative and sustainable.

They are game-changers in business because they are creative, inventive, and imaginative with production processes. For example, I remember I helped organize a group chat among the creative minds of the Ilaw ng Kababaihan with experts Ms. Celia Jacob and Ms. Ebong Lazaro to develop environmentally friendly packaging for their candles. The following exchanges, posted pictures, and new packaging methodologies sourced from simple renewable materials were exciting discoveries.

Social Experiment is everywhere

Social entrepreneurship is always a social experiment in progress. These social enterprises -organized as NGOs, community associations, and cooperatives- are everywhere and comprise a significant number of women and marginalized members of the communities. Every experiment and enterprise developed fosters inclusion, resilience, and sustainable communities and societies. They produce, trade, market, and sell all sorts of goods and goodies, from fruits, vegetables, and chips, bottled, packed, and zipped locked. Every social enterprise provides jobs and, may I add, an effective antidote to mental stress.

Everyone benefits from social enterprises. However, if the government wants to save the country, the social entrepreneurs need all the support to provide the propeller and the anchor, as in a ship. The Social Enterprise Development (SED) project of the CHED with Mariners, CBSUA, and TBM is an excellent exercise to help provide a framework of business for change. The government should help provide a clear roadmap for financing, trading, refining, or technology support.


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