Guiding Social Enterprises Through The Pandemic Economy

Posted under bayan on May 06, 2020
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Given the market's new behavior, this current recession, the new work conditions and rising unemployment, How can Social Enterprises continue to operate and innovate? Three speakers share their insights.

The first speaker, Mr. John Francia, from SEARCH Foundation, discussed grassroots engagement and inclusive businesses. The organization's goal is to steer the country towards building a more impactful social economy. Their research projects are made with the objective of sharing ideas, with the goal of sharing data with like-minded organizations.

SEARCH works with 2 communities in Palawan, 3 in Samar. One of these is the indiginous Nagkakaisang mga Tribu ng Palawan, producers of Forest honey. Their main market was composed of tourists who wanted to try local delights.. Given the crisis, what could be a new market for the venture? Another community is the Brooke’s Point Coco Product Producers Coop, producers of virgin coconut oil or copra oil. Similar to the first community, their main challenge is the loss of international buyers. How then do you maintain relationships with this market despite restrictions?

The Cacao Agro-Forestry Association establishes cacao plantations and forest nurseries. For this Samar-based community, the challenge is how to take advantage of the surge in demand. Agricultural products, organic produce are now in demand due to the changes in lifestyle and consumption patterns of the public. Woven is another community in the area. How can non-essentials adapt to this environment? The third Samar-based community is the Sohon Service Cooperative. They provide tourism services to guests. Given that the tourism industry is now down, how can all communities recover?

SEARCH’s developmental approach has always been value-chain centric. People, Planet and Profits are all given equal focus. Given this principle, there are initiatives that are being implemented: Business Continuity Planning for SEs, The Bahay Kubo Project and the Integration of Technology for the new normal.

The panel then points out a silver lining.The spotlight is now on agriculture. It has always been vital but now, there is a doubled initiative to move in this sector. In conclusion, challenges are addressed by discussion and sharing of best practices. One organization cannot answer everything. The discussion then tackled challenges, feasible measures and the long- term impact of this global crisis for different communities.

The second panelist, Atty. Jose Andres Canivel from Forest Foundation Philippines, discussed conservation in the Philippines. There are 4 critical landscapes: Palawan, Sierra Madre, Northern Mindanao and Samar plus Leyte. There are also projects in Batanes and the Dinagat Islands. Grow forests. Grow partners. Grow advocates. Grow livelihoods. Grow communities. These are the foundation’s principles. There are 30 partner organizations and 15 different research colleagues all working for sustainability and advocacy.

For him, all Social Enterprise efforts would depend on the millenials, the youth, the active generation of today.  His foundation works with fishermen, farmers, forest workers and even tourism industry staff. There are enterprises that support the production of bamboo, coffee, cacao, rice, herbs and wood crops. Vegetables are also produced.

Partners have worked with the foundation in a forward-thinking manner. This should be adapted by social enterprises. Harvests for this year and next year are tackled. Coffee Alliance Philippines also works with the organization. All partners are providing beneficial opportunities and equitable work. Interaction with nature and life is indeed central to the foundation.

That balance is most crucial if everyone is to recover from this unprecedented crisis.

he third panelist, Ms. Yuni from WT Foundation, a Korea-based organization, talks about boosting cooperation to overcome global challenges. This is achieved by creating quality jobs. Supporting Social Enterprise is the key to the creation of a sustainable world. The Foundation operates in Asia, Latin America and Africa. The constant hope is that no one would be left behind.

She talks about the South Korean response. PPE were distributed and Social Distancing implemented. WT Foundation also worked with the government in research, logistics and aid. This is an online world. Technology is crucial for international cooperation. Creativity and Technology matter for engagement.

In Korea, support programs like tax deferment are geared toward social enterprises, small businesses. In contrast, there is no legal definition or special treatment of social enterprises in the Philippines. Businesses are treated the same regardless of size. Legislation remains minimal. This situation might not be conducive to growth.

After her presentation, the panel entertained questions. Audience inquiries focused on collaboration opportunities and on how to establish a social enterprise.

For some who are looking to start social enterprises, where can they go? Reach out to other social entrepreneurs. As for these entrepreneurs, communication must be enhanced between their businesses and the community. For the panel, a lot of their communities are producers.

Logistics, Innovation and Creativity are central in these circumstances. A reevaluation of resources is definitely called for. Also, research on the market. What do people prioritize? Rethink all strategies.

Social enterprises will play a bigger role for sure. As of now, there are various communities, active relief efforts and different results to study.

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