MANILA, Philippines - Over 500 local and international entrepreneurs, businessmen and politicians are gathering this week at the Enchanted Farm Village University in Angat, Bulacan to discuss the power of business and solve some of society’s most pressing problems.
They have gathered for the inaugural Social Business Summit, a four-day event co-convened by Sen. Bam Aquino and Tony Meloto, founder and chairman of Gawad Kalinga.
Meloto believes that social business increasingly reflects the mood of the times: “Social business is the business of caring. It is about tapping into the genius of the poor whom we had forgotten. The Enchanted Farm is a university for unlearning and innovation. Here, the Filipino discovers he can become a wealth creator at home, not just a job seeker abroad,” Meloto told event participants, including over 50 foreign delegates from the United States, Australia, France, Singapore and the United Kingdom, among others.
One presenter was Jaime Ayala, Ernst and Young’s 2012 Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines. As the former CEO of Ayala Land, Ayala received the award as founder and CEO of Hybrid Social Solutions Inc, a social enterprise: “I think a number of us are trying to figure out our new paradigm. The planet is in peril, we face a growing number of social issues and at the same time we long to live lives filled with meaning. Can charity alone solve all these problems?”
Ayala believes that it is not just the job of government to make the world a better place: “The power of business, if it connects to the bottom of the pyramid, really can contribute to solving problems and adding value to society.”
His visionary efforts to bridge the power infrastructure gap in the provinces, by leveraging on solar-powered technology, has brought light to 50,000 rural families who were previously considered off the grid. The company even distributes its solar-powered lanterns internationally to countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya and India: “If adapted and made accessible to the bottom of the pyramid, you see how a technology really can change lives,” Ayala explains.
Freddie Tinga is another successful entrepreneur who, following nine years as mayor of Taguig and three as congressman, believes even more clearly in the power of business to solve social problems: “It’s not enough to be frustrated about a problem, you have to do something about it. We decided to find a huge problem, one that affects all of us, and then fix it.”
Indeed, Tinga, president of Global Electric Transport (GET), believes that there is a viable business proposition to solving two of Metro Manila’s biggest challenges, traffic congestion and air pollution. GET is introducing to Metro Manila from the beginning of next year the COMET, an organized transportation system of electric, zero-emissions jeepneys, which could mean that the gas guzzling, polluting jeepneys of today will one day be a thing of the past. “With 85 percent of pollution in Metro Manila coming from vehicles, and a significant amount of that emanating from jeepneys, we really saw an opportunity to clean this whole mess up.”
GET believes in establishing a business for its people, with the welfare of drivers the greatest priority. By partnering with Gawad Kalinga, GET will provide the GK values formation program to its drivers as well as providing drivers a salary according to the performance of the route, not the performance of the individual vehicle: “Therefore, perhaps we will be able to produce the most courteous drivers,” Tinga adds.
Building a social enterprise which addresses the triple bottom line (profit, environment and community impact) has additional challenges. For this reason, Stephen Groff, vice president of the Asian Development Bank, urged that for social business to succeed, it would need the support of both the public and private sector. Groff outlined the role for legislators, financiers, businessmen and educators alike.
Speaking from the state-of-the art Hyundai Center for Green Innovation, one of the Farm’s training centers, Groff explained his delight at his surrounding, just one and a half hours from his office in Ortigas: “The Enchanted Farm really is an appropriate name, since there really is something magical happening here. That’s why the Enchanted Farm is attracting people from around the world to a truly enchanted place.
“Until recently, most of the news concerning the Philippines centered on unfortunate events. This has changed. Today there is a different story line. It is becoming much more balanced, reflecting positive developments too.”
And one positive story, Groff believes, concerns social business: “I really am confident that the Philippines can become a regional leader in social entrepreneurship.”
Other speakers on day one included Joey Concepcion, founder of GoNegosyo; Mark Ruiz of Happinoy; and Anna Meloto-Wilk of Gandang Kalikasan. The event runs from Oct. 2-5.
Gawad Kalinga (GK) recognized the Philippine STAR’s support for the ongoing social business summit.
A special wall was constructed at the ArchAngel Culture and Arts Center, a few meters away from the Enchanted Farm’s main pavilion, the Hyundai Center for Green Innovation (HCGI) building.
Displayed on the wall are clippings of all articles written by British journalist Thomas Graham and published by The STAR in support for the 2013 Social Business Summit.
Graham came to the Philippines on a short-term assignment and volunteered for GK and other causes.
“We are very thankful for the support of the Philippine STAR for the GK Social Business Summit,” said Graham in an interview yesterday.
He said the series of articles published by The STAR have attracted a lot of people who became interested in the summit.
As a matter of fact, about 500 people, including about 50 foreign visitors from different parts of the world, have joined this year’s summit.
Foreign participants include students and businessmen from France, Brazil, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates.
The summit opened on Tuesday and will continue until Saturday, with Vice President Jejomar Binay as keynote speaker.
Graham said no certificate or plaque is given to the STAR. Instead, they displayed the series of articles he wrote, along the longer wall that displays the historic rise of GK since 2003.
“I think this is a better recognition than handing a plaque because people will know those who willingly support the mission GK,” Graham said.