Thursday, October 31, 2013

Inspiration from Social Enterprise Training

I apologize in advance for the length of this post but I couldn’t pick simply one inspirational experience to share.

You read that I was in Manila all last week, but I didn’t share many details on why. While in Bontoc, Attorney Floyd, Provincial Secretary of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines (ECP), invited me to attend a seminar on Social Enterprise for the development officers and workers of the ECP.

First, let me give some background. The ECP has a foundation called “Episcopal Care Foundation” or “E-Care.” My understanding is E-Care works to serve as the developmental and social ministry arm of ECP. Each diocese has a Development Officer and Community Development Workers or CDWs. These Officers and CDWs work with communities to evaluate how E-Care can assist them in developing projects such as a water system or agriculture production. The goal recently is not to simply pass out grants to these communities but work alongside them to discover assets and skills within the community and utilize them to develop projects or businesses. They’ve been using the Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) approach. The main end result trying to be reached is poverty alleviation for the communities.

Attorney Floyd addressing all the participants.

Now, E-Care wants to take this one step further by developing and supporting social entrepreneurs. Social entrepreneurship is the innovative creation of a business that not only produces revenue but also addresses a social problem. A social enterprise is an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being, rather than maximizing profits for external shareholders. One of the main supporters of this field is a nonprofit organization, Ashoka, based in Arlington, VA.

Danilo Ocampo, organizer of the training, sharing some ideas.
Hector going through an exercise on Value Proposition.
Now I don’t want to bore you with all the details of business model and social enterprise terminology and methods learned throughout the two-day training. However, there are a few moments, which were especially inspirational for me that I would like to share.

The first inspiration I found on one of the first slides of the entire seminar. The slide showed this quote by Bill Drayton, Founder of Ashoka: “Social entrepreneurs are not content just to five a fish or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry.” One of my main beliefs when it comes to mission, outreach, development work is don’t give a man a fish, teach the man to fish. Giving a man a fish, creates a bad habit, dependency, and doesn’t solve the problem, but masks it. One must learn to fish for himself or herself, work, build a business and provide for their families and communities. However, this quote, the idea of social enterprise, gives me a whole new perspective.

Charlene sharing her social enterprise experience with Good Food Company.
Participants working on our group exercise.
The solution to developing communities and breaking the cycle of poverty won’t be found by doing the same, repetitive projects. We must laterally think of innovative solutions to revolutionize the initiative to bring people out of poverty.

The second inspiration came from a young woman named Charlene. Charlene like many Gen-Y, twenty-somethings wanted to be a changemaker. She saw a social problem, researched about possible solutions, and imagined a solution with her friends. She created Good Food Company with the help of others, which allows rural, organic farmers to get their products to socially aware consumers in urban areas. What seemed like a do-able business with seed money, it fell apart. Charlene went on to describe how the idea and mission was there but the organization and implementation failed. After a year with not much of a program left, Charlene was heartbroken and had little hope of the project continuing. Then with new interest and management, Good Food Company refocused and organized into a small organization. Now it has grown to over 70 subscribers and is feeding urban customers with fresh, organic vegetables, connecting farmers with consumers, and educating those on how to cook and eat healthy food.

Group 1 presenting our business model canvas. 
The whole presentation was told as story of climbing a mountain. Charlene shared how she started at the bottom, encountered some rough trails along the way, almost turned around halfway through, but found inner strength to continue and eventually conquered the mountain, which fundamentally changed her. I found Charlene’s journey to be inspirational. Most of the time people talk about their success, the endpoint and don’t share the hardships they faced along the way. At the end Charlene said, “I invited you to let the mountain change you.” It’s a challenge I believe everyone should find in his or her own life. Find your own mountain, decide to conquer it and let it change you.

The third inspiration but not the last I found during the training came from one of the presenters, Hector Guballa. Hector worked in corporate marketing with major brands such as Proctor and Gamble, Coca-Cola, SC Johnson and more for over 20 years. Now he is a Business Professor at Ateneo Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Manila University. At the end, he expressed the joy he receives from teaching students and seminars like these. He hoped we truly gained something from the experience. For him there are 3 “S’s” in life – sense, success, and significance. Sense described as he has a sense of self and his life makes sense to him. Success meaning he found success in his career and felt he accomplished his goals. Finally, significance in the sense of inspiring people. He wants to have an impact on people’s lives and hopefully make a difference. That’s why he began teaching. For whatever reason, his 3 “S’s” of life stuck with me. I hope to one day be able to say I found my sense, success, and significance in my own life.

Our 3 presenters.
Me receiving my certificate of completion.
Overall the seminar was informative, engaging, interesting, and inspirational. I worried that it would be two long, boring days of experts just talking at us. However, it was quite the opposite. It reignited the flame inside me, my passion for this field. My own innovation sparked. I was reenergized to return to St. Mark’s Foundation with new ideas and possibilities. It reminded me why I’m here and why I was inspired to be here and be a part of YASC in the first place.

YASC is currently my mountain. I accept the invitation to let the mountain change me.

Group Photo 
Thanks for reading!


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