Social innovators recognized for their work in Filipino communities

Font Size

Three social innovators were inducted to the lifelong Ashoka Fellowship at the Ashoka Induction and Fellow Launch for creating inclusive and systems-changing solutions in their chosen Filipino communities: Ryan Gersava, Ben Abadiano, and Scott Stiles. 

“Because of the pandemic, we are perfectly poised to build our world anew,” said incoming Ashoka Philippines country director Abby Mapua-Cabanilla during the virtual induction on Oct. 30.

Founded in 1981, Ashoka is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that supports and enables more than 3,500 social innovators worldwide. 

Ryan Gervasa of Davao-based Virtualahan. Image via Ashoka Fellowship.

Mr. Gervasa, whose dream of becoming a physician was dashed when he couldn’t get a job after he tested positive for Hepatitis B, created the Davao-based Virtualahan, a virtual school that employs cost-effective social technology to help scholars from socially excluded populations access work in the global digital economy. As a result of the program, 42% of the school’s 350 graduates saw their income increase threefold.

Ben Abadiano of Pamulaan Center of Indigenous Peoples Education. Image via Ashoka Fellowship.

Mr. Abadiano established the Pamulaan Center of Indigenous Peoples Education in 2006 after spending time with the Manobo tribe in Bukidnon, the Mangyan tribe in Oriental Mindoro, and other indigenous peoples (IP). The first tertiary-level program for IPs, Pamulaan Center has a curriculum that integrates indigenous knowledge and culture with standard collegiate course material. Pamulaan counts teachers, anthropologists, agriculturists, community facilitators, and youth leaders among its alumni.

Scott Stiles of Fair Employment Agency. Image via Ashoka Fellowship.

Mr. Stiles, meanwhile, co-founded the Fair Employment Agency after seeing the plight of Hong Kong’s migrant workers during his summer internship there. Unlike exploitative recruitment agencies, the Fair Employment Agency promises transparent pricing and ethical practices. Within four years of launching in 2014, the agency placed over 3,000 Filipino workers without charging them recruitment fees, helping workers avoid almost US$4.5 million in recruitment debt.

To create change, Mr. Stiles advised innovators to develop a well thought-out plan to get funding support. “Embrace the power of storytelling,” Mr. Gervasa said. “That was a transformational moment that really helped us shape our narrative and attract mentors who believed in us.” Added Mr. Abadiano: “The resources will come. It is the easiest to happen if people see [your] sincerity.” — Patricia B. Mirasol