Honing the potential of social enterprises with new UN-led program


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Poverty, climate change, lack of access to education — with so many problems plaguing the country, it’s become apparent that every Filipino must do their part to help solve them. In the business scene, social enterprises are fully taking on this role, placing social impact at the center of their operations instead of just profit.

While it’s admirable that many businesses are starting to take up the mantle, it’s a sad reality that building a business is no walk in the park. With barriers such as a lack of funding and a lack of access to support systems, many social enterprises are in dire need of a boost to scale their businesses.

Luckily, there are existing entities which are fully dedicated to supporting social enterprises. Among them, the Innovation for Social Impact Partnership, or ISIP.

Training to stand on their own

ISIP is a joint project by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Philippine Development Foundation (PhilDev), and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade – Australia (DFAT-Australia). Aiming to accelerate and sustain the capacity of social enterprises by contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the project using three key strategies to help support the social enterprise scene.

One of these strategies, entrepreneurship, led to the development of a social impact accelerator. The one-year training program consists of lectures and workshops, investor roundtables where social enterprises can discuss opportunities with potential investors, and pitch karaoke sessions to train social enterprises on how to communicate effectively to different audiences.

By including a wide variety of tools that cover different aspects of running a business, ISIP helps equip social enterprises holistically so that they can stand strongly on their own after the program. Just last May 10, its first batch wrapped up the first six months with a demo day, with participants pitching to banks, foundations, and investors to help secure the kind of support that they still need.

“Most of the startups or social enterprises, they are technical experts. They love what they’re doing and developing, but sometimes, they don’t necessarily understand the business aspect of running a business,” said Emil Tapnio, Program Director for PhilDev.

“That’s what we’re trying to ensure that, much as you love your product, [it should have] a good prototype, that it has a target market, and that there’s really someone who’s going to buy that.”

Utilizing potential

Aside from entrepreneurship, ISIP also utilizes education and policy agenda to create a more conducive environment for social enterprises. The former includes faculty training on entrepreneurship and a roster of visiting professors rotating around various local universities.

For the latter, ISIP discusses research-based policy frameworks with the academe and the government that they can consider to support social enterprises. One of these frameworks, technopreneurship governance, has produced a Technopreneurship 101 subject, which is currently being taught in over 500 universities across the country.

Such efforts are essential in bolstering the Filipino business scene in general, which is not lacking at all in potential. With a growing economy, huge working population, and a sense of ingenuity, it’s a matter of implementing effective programs to properly utilize these advantages.

“There are over 164,000 social enterprises. The problem, however, is that only 10 percent of those enterprises will actually succeed and become viable, bankable businesses with real growth,” said Titon Mitra, Resident Representative of UNDP Philippines.

“And that is what we’re beginning to address, by trying to demonstrate that we actually have this creativity, we have the youth population. And if you give them the means to translate their idea into a profitable business that has a significant social impact, you have a very immediate development socially.”