The Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) has widened its financial-literacy education program for social entrepreneurs to help boost the range of its credit sources in the country.
This year the BPI Sinag Foundation also extended its partnership with academic institutions and nonprofit groups, and then assesses the impact of their social-entrepreneurship programs.
Together with its new partner Bayan Academy and the Ateneo Center for Social Entrepreneurship, the BPI launched a series of multisectoral research, training and seminar activities that illustrate the real-life situations of social entrepreneurs.
“With the Bayan Academy, we hope to find gaps for the improvement of social entrepreneurship and to document them to educate others in the future in building a repository of knowledge,” BPI Foundation Executive Director Fidelina A. Corcuera said at the Sinag’s launch on Wednesday.
The project includes an investor education seminar among starting and tested social entrepreneurs, along with boot camps and product-invention competitions, as announced at the lender’s headquarters along Paseo de Roxas Avenue in Makati City.
Amid the pile of financial grants long offered to the public, social-entrepreneurship experts see financial literacy that includes managerial and technical skills as a bigger piece in Philippine social enterprises.
“A lot of people from NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] and investors wish to help and already helped people financially. So, the marketing, technology, technical assistance, linking of industries and management are more important for them to be competitive in the value chain,” said Eduardo A. Morato Jr., chairman of Bayan Academy for Social Entrepreneurship and Human Resource Development.
Morato explained social entrepreneurs enhance all business operations from sourcing raw materials to funding, designing and marketing of products to uplift communities from poverty and degrading environments.
During the forum session with social-enterprise leaders, it was agreed that raising knowledgeable and skilled social entrepreneurs, especially in the countryside, is key to self-reliance.
“Social entrepreneurs are the ones who manage the business or keep it running. So, we have to build management from below, because when you go to the agricultural areas, there is no managerial talent,” Morato said.
Although poverty incidence in the country declined to 21.6 percent in 2015, rural areas still comprised a third of the country’s poorest.
Rural poverty in Indonesia sank to 13.9 percent in 2013; 13.8 percent in Thailand in 2014; and 17.4 percent in Vietnam in 2010, according to the World Bank.
In the Philippines the government aims to reduce poverty in the countryside by 20 percent in 2022.
“There is no more relevant time to develop social entrepreneurship. I believe it should be the standard of businesses, because it is not only concerned with profits, but also with social and environmental impacts,” said Mariel Vincent A. Rapisura, professor in Microfinance Capacity-building Program at the Ateneo de Manila University.
Although the government has broadened its financial services nationwide through microfinance programs for various enterprises, the British Council in the Philippines noted other opportunities the Filipino social entrepreneurs could explore to address the country’s other social issues.
“In addition, the majority of social entrepreneurship are product-based, particularly livelihood-based goods. In other countries there are more services-based social enterprises, especially in health, education, water and sanitation,” said Bangko Sentral Deputy Governor Nestor A. Espenilla Jr., the keynote speaker.
Thus, Espenilla lauded the collaborative efforts of BPI that he said could push legislators to perfect laws on financial inclusion for the development of all sectors.
“In such partnerships, there is a wealth of complementary experiences, expertise and resources that could be matched to generate beneficial alliances that can advance the cause for social enterprise,” Espenilla said.
BPI and the social-enterprise groups hope this exchange could also spark creativity in Filipino workers through a more engaging educational environment, especially in the countryside.
“The education system in rural areas does not generate creativity. When you ask farmers what they think they could do, they would just be looking at you and waiting for your answers. We need to provide them opportunities where they could speak up,” said Emmanuel Velasco, founder of Organic Options Inc.
However, Morato observed even in big urban universities, interest in social entrepreneurship remains low. He said he had to pull out students from their seats at the Ateneo to attend its master’s program in the field.
Thus, Velasco proposes a Philippine version of the Silicon Valley, which is a technology center in the US where social entrepreneurs could brainstorm concepts for their industry’s growth.
“We need a Social Enterprise Valley that is an ecosystem where the brightest, bravest and most enterprising groups are incubated to create the most innovative and greatest technologies and social-enterprise models for the Philippines,” Velasco said.
With the foundation’s initiatives of education, training and capital access, Sinag Director Corcuera is excited for the fourth foundation launch next year of a new breed of social enterprises that will provide quality goods and services and maintain high-value chains in the country.