Coalition renews call for passage of social entrepreneurship bill

Quezon City, Philippines, 4 November 2022 – Over 100 social entrepreneurs, civil society allies, private sector partners, legislative champions, and advocates from national government agencies and local government units gathered during the National Social Enterprise Conference (NSEC), at the Ateneo de Manila University and online to call for the enactment and mainstreaming of the Poverty Reduction through Social Entrepreneurship (PRESENT) Bill.

Photo Courtesy: ISEA

The PRESENT Bill seeks the recognition of social enterprises (SEs) as partners of the government in inclusive poverty reduction and sustainable development. It provides for support programs, incentives, and a governing body intended to provide an enabling environment for SEs to grow, become sustainable, and scale up their impact.

Dr. Roberto Martin N. Galang, Dean of the Ateneo de Manila University John Gokongwei School of Management opened the event, which focused on the theme “Social Entrepreneurship as Pathway for Inclusive Recovery and Building Back Fairer”.

“Our goal is to help and promote the passage of the PRESENT Bill so that we can mainstream poverty reduction through social entrepreneurship. The PRESENT Bill will contribute to an economy that works for all because unlike regular businesses, social enterprises reinvest profits into improving the lives of the poor. Social enterprises try to work within ecological boundaries. To be able to succeed, we need to get our 3Ps correctly – people, planet, and profit”, he said.

Meanwhile, in his keynote, PRESENT Bill Champion Rep. Jose Manuel Alba of the first District of Bukidnon, described social entrepreneurship as a way of doing business that places economic efficiency at the service of people and the environment. This is exemplified through the Bamboo Economic Enterprise Program being implemented in their district, aiming to promote the full utilization of bamboo as a poverty reduction tool. Northern Bukidnon is home to the best variety of giant bamboo in Southeast Asia, and yet its potential has not been maximized. Under the program, bamboo architectural and furniture making trainings are provided, and traditional furniture makers are encouraged to shift to engineered bamboo. This aims to help curb illegal logging in forests by reducing the demand for hard wood, among other ecological benefits of bamboo.

LGUs and barangays are also encouraged to develop bamboo nurseries, while IP communities are trained in managing existing bamboo forests. “One of the best ways to protect our IP communities is to provide them sufficient economic power,” he said.

In October, Rep. Alba filed House Bill 5554, the proposed Poverty Reduction through Social Entrepreneurship (PRESENT) Act declaring social entrepreneurship as a national strategy to reduce poverty. “This representation is committed to work for this bill with your help,” he said.

Several sessions on engaging national government agencies and LGUs and policy advocacy in the Congress followed.

On the second day of the conference, ISEA President Dr. Marie Lisa Dacanay introduced the COVID-19 Catalyzing the Recovery of Social and Community Enterprises for Transformation (CRESCENT) initiative. The COVID-19 CRESCENT initiative in the Philippines, led by ISEA and the PRESENT Coalition, was conceived to address the major challenges brought about by the pandemic and contribute to accelerating achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through inclusive recovery and building back fairer.

Participants were able to discuss and provide feedback on the evolving CRESCENT program and its four thematic thrusts – food security, digital transformation, community-based health initiatives, and sustainable livelihoods.

The conference closed with a plenary on financing social enterprise initiatives. FSSI Executive Director Mr. Sixto Donato C. Macasaet joined Catalyst 2030 Co-Founder Ms. Jeroo Billamoria and BAZNAS BAZIS DKI Jakarta Vice-Chaiperson Mrs. Rini Supri Hartanti in a discussion on the opportunities and challenges in this aspect.

Mr. Macasaet shared FSSI’s initiatives in supporting social enterprises. He emphasized that apart from financial resources, social enterprises are in need of capacity building to grow their enterprise and become qualified for financing.

He also shared that the social enterprise sector in itself is in need of financing. This would include financing for advocacy efforts which also need resources to get in place policies and programs that are appropriate and supportive for the sector, such as the PRESENT Bill. The sector also needs resources for research particularly for the social enterprise registry envisioned by the PRESENT Coalition. Although there have been some studies and projections, there is no clear list and profile of the SE sector yet, and this is essential to introduce interventions for the sector. Mr. Macasaet also identified partnership building and disaster risk reduction as financing gaps in the social enterprise sector.

To address these gaps, he identified four possible modes of financing for social enterprises and suggestions on how to bring in resources for the CRESCENT initiative and the social enterprise sector.

First is through resource institutions like FSSI, the Peace and Equity Foundation (PEF), and Oxfam that continue to support the needs of social enterprises and the SE sector as a whole.

Second is through hybrid financing, a combination of grants, loans, and equity investments which can be provided by a single resource institution or through civil society partnerships. Such type of partnerships was demonstrated in 2014 when FSSI, PEF, Forest Foundation of the Philippines (FFP), and the Foundation for the Philippine Environment (FPE) came together to support a biodiversity project in Palawan. FFP and FPE supported the environment-related component of the project mainly through grants, while PEF and FSSI supported the biodiversity-friendly social enterprises related to the project through loans and small grants.

Third is hybrid financing through civil society partnerships and funding from the government. “It may be possible to work out hybrid financing partnerships with civil society organizations (CSOs), including foundations like FSSI, and government agencies like the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). Government financing can focus on grants for capacity building and research, and funding for public infrastructure such as roads and fish ports that can support social enterprises,” he said.

Lastly, he mentioned crowdfunding as a means to support social enterprises and the SE sector, particularly in light of current digital wallet technologies which made fund transfer easier.

This year’s conference was co-organized by the Ateneo Center for Social Entrepreneurship (ACSEnt), ISEA and the PRESENT Coalition. Since its inception in 2008, the NSEC has been the longest running and largest gathering of stakeholders involved in social entrepreneurship.

FSSI along with Catalyst 2030, the Embassy of Sweden in Bangkok, Oxfam Pilipinas, PEF, and We Effect co-sponsored the conference.

The NSEC marked the start of the quarter-long series of events organized by the PRESENT Coalition.

Leave a Reply