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Newsletter, What's New in FSSI

Impact enterprises solving the most urgent social and environmental challenges through market-based models are important actors in the socio-development landscape. Geared towards the development of products and services that address the fundamental problems of poverty and sustainable development, they solve social problems by challenging traditions, combining creativity with intelligence.  

In the Philippines, social enterprises serving the poor are often pioneers, facing challenges and risks referred to as the “pioneer gap.” These challenges include difficulties in the operating environment, finding resources and raising capital, and growing their business with few investors willing to finance to absorb the risks involved in pioneering new business models. As a result, many of these enterprises fail because of lack of support, not just financial but also mentorship, to enable them to make it to a later stage. Impact investing targets to bridge these gaps.   

The Pioneer Gap – Courtesy of Impact Pioneers Network

With the mission to leapfrog the impact entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Philippines, social enterprise incubator xchange has partnered with India’s Villgro. Villgro and xchange have combined decades of experience in investing in impact entrepreneurs to address gaps in the Philippine ecosystem. Villgro is India’s oldest and one of the world’s largest social enterprise incubators. xchange is an incubator in the Philippines that invests in early-stage social enterprises while providing tailored mentorship and support to help them achieve scale. Together, they designed and developed the Impact Pioneer model that would encourage collaboration with other individuals and organizations or “impact pioneers” who believe that entrepreneurship is a key tool in solving social and environmental challenges.  

In its first year, the network will focus on building resilience during the pandemic economy by providing a variety of investments including zero-interest loans and quasi-equity through a Resilience Fund, as well as six months of tailored support to build resilience and to adapt their models for a recession year. It is also expected to launch new services for enterprises and impact pioneers, while continuing to grow the network of individuals and institutions and engage the larger ecosystem.  

The network’s priority sectors are agriculture and fisheries, climate crisis, education and employment, and affordable healthcare. It will adopt a gender lens in all aspects of its operations and will actively source enterprises which impact the lives of women and girls.   

You can learn more about the Impact Pioneers Network here. Also check out this guide on angel investing by infoDev.



Cautious Optimism and Perseverance in 2021  

Sixto Donato C. Macasaet

We’re now two months into 2021; how are you with your resolutions and intentions for the year?  

2020 was fraught with challenges, including the crippling effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and destructive typhoons that hit parts of the country. Yet, optimism remains. A Pulse Asia survey released in December last year revealed that 9 out of 10 Filipinos are optimistic about 2021, a sentiment shared across populations in geographic areas and socio-economic grouping. 

With significant progress in the development of COVID-19 vaccines, the economy expected to regain its momentum, and programs in the pipeline to assist in the recovery, there is cautious optimism that 2021 is the year that we start to rebuild. We are hopeful – with a sense of readiness for difficulties that lie ahead. Hence, we persevere.  

At FSSI, we are looking forward to be part of the solutions, even as we deal with challenges that COVID-19 has brought upon us.  

We have recently joined the Impact Pioneers Network, a first-of-its-kind angel investing network in the Philippines to catalyze local capital to exclusively support impact-first enterprises with potential to grow and create social impact at scale. In its first year, the network will focus on building resilience during the pandemic economy by providing a variety of investments and tailored support for social enterprises to adapt to the recession year.  

We have also launched a partnership with the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) to collaborate in capacity building, advocacy, and research efforts to support inclusive agricultural and rural development.   

As an organization built upon the collaboration of various civil society organizations and government, we believe in the importance of partnerships and working together as we navigate the road to recovery and resilience.   

I would also like to take this opportunity to enjoin you all to support the PRESENT Coalition’s campaign to pass the Poverty Reduction through Social Entrepreneurship (PRESENT) Bill. On Friday, February 26, the coalition will be launching the PRESENT Bill Petition Campaign to raise 1 million signatures to support the bill’s enactment into law. You can support the campaign by signing the petition here:  

I look forward to seeing many of you in future events. May you and your loved ones always be healthy and hopeful.




For the Common Good 

Mr. Norman Joseph “Oman” Jiao

For the common good.

Twenty-five years ago, this guiding principle birthed the Foundation for a Sustainable Society, Inc. (FSSI). With an endowment of P454.8 million, FSSI geared up to battle poverty by financing sustainable development projects. We could only imagine the exhilaration and the joy of that moment, the minds of enthusiastic development workers already churning out the many possibilities on how to reach out to as many of our less fortunate fellowmen as possible and help in making their lives better.

Today, FSSI’s fund balance has grown to Php 922,305,2221 and over the past 25 years, we have invested in and supported more than 230 social enterprises through loans, equity investments and grants.  Our loans and development deposits to partners now amount  P 410 million and our net equity investments in enterprises total to P 46 million.  The numbers are big, but we cannot rest on these achievements. Poverty and inequity are still on the rise, many are still struggling to make a decent living. As we pause and look back to 25 years, we also ask the question, “Have we done enough?” Being a steward of the Fund is an opportunity, putting us in a unique position to make a difference and effect change in the quality of lives of individuals, families, and communities.

In this milestone year, let us re-live that moment of exhilaration and joy 25 years ago and, with renewed enthusiasm, think of innovative ways to contribute to achieving the country’s development goals, because truly, we can do much more.

We cannot talk about development and not talk about the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected and is drastically changing our lives. As it affects our communities and our ranks, it has become our own battle to take on. We pray for wisdom to guide us through strategic actions and significant engagements to address the challenges brought forth by the pandemic. We are determined not to be deterred by it, rather, we will do our best to continue serving our communities and find ways to cope with the “new normal.” We should be able to use the Fund to continue supporting meaningful and relevant interventions for development, while ensuring that the Fund is sustained and its value maintained. As we move forward, let our core values of Stewardship, Inclusivity, Good Governance, and Excellence (SIGE) be our guide. We survived many economic, social, and political unrests and we will get through this pandemic because we believe in the resilience of the Filipino spirit.

Let us not allow this pandemic to take the joy away from celebrating our 25th founding anniversary. On this milestone year, we honor our Swiss and Filipino colleagues in the sector who, 25 years ago, vigorously campaigned for the debt agreement, and the citizens and government of Switzerland for the generous consideration. We look back with gratefulness to the management, staff and trustees who came before us and steered FSSI to where it is today. We give credit to our development workers for the work that they do and their genuine compassion for the respective communities they are assigned to. Without their hard work, we could not have accomplished as much.

To all of you, maraming salamat po.

FSSI commits to uphold its mandate and engage in significant undertakings for the common good. This is what we are here for. This is what FSSI is all about.


Newsletter, What's New in FSSI

Foundation for a Sustainable Society, Inc. (FSSI) Executive Director Sixto Donato C. Macasaet spoke about COVID-19’s impact on social enterprises and its partnership with Australia’s Investing in Women on CNN Philippines’ Newsroom Ngayon, hosted by Senior Correspondent and News Anchor, Ruth Cabal.

Watch the interview here:

Click here for the interview transcripts in English and Filipino.


Newsletter, What's New in FSSI

Investing in Women, an initiative of the Australian Government, provides an analysis around the impacts of COVID-19, previous pandemics and recessions, on the economic position of women through a rapid review of academic and grey literature on gender, COVID-19, and women’s formal employment. It also presents risks and opportunities looking ahead. Here is a summary of some of the key report findings. You can access the full report here 

What Previous Recessions and Pandemics Tell Us 

There are unequivocal findings showing consistent common themes that women’s economic security, formal employment participation, political representation, health outcomes, and educational achievement are negatively affected by economic and health crises, more so than men’s. These outcomes have a long-term negative impact on women’s human capital formation and economic security. Further, economic and health crises exacerbate pre-existing inequalities and set gender equality back.  

Women and girls are disproportionately vulnerable to economic shocks compared to men. Pre-existing gender inequalities mean that women have less access to productive resources, which translates to lower earnings and bargaining power; thus, women’s limited ability to develop their capabilities, make strategic choices, and participate on equal terms with men in the economy.  

The negative consequences of economic and health crises on women are compounded by the systematic lack of women’s participation and leadership in crisis response and recovery strategies and the failure to include gender-specific analyses in these strategies. The recovery period following recessions is estimated to be 3–7 years and previous crises demonstrate that a lack of attention to gender equality in national and business response recovery strategies will set gender equality back decades.  

Women and COVID-19 

The COVID-19 crisis is more significant than previous economic or health crises in both depth and scope. Women have been affected immediately and are likely to be more adversely affected in the longer term unless gender progressive interventions are made.  

The worst affected sectors include retail trade, accommodation, food services, tourism, and manufacturing – all of which are highly feminized, making women exposed to the heaviest burden of job loss and a prolonged decline in income and labor force participation.1 

Women are also disproportionately employed in the health sector and associated industries operating at the frontlines. The World Health Organization estimates that 70% of the global healthcare workforce are women. While health workers represent a relatively small proportion of the total workforce in Southeast Asian countries where Investing in Women works – the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Myanmar -they are exposed to the direct health risks of COVID-19, often without adequate personal protective equipment and for very long hours, vulnerable to infection and worried about passing infection to their families.  

COVID-19 has also intensified pre-existing gender division of labor and the double burden of paid and unpaid work. Social norms mean that many women have found themselves responsible for home schooling their children, caring for elderly family members, and doing household chores even while working. Where working from home has been implemented, there have been some reports it has driven a more equitable division of work and care2 while others have reported this has contributed to an elevated risk of domestic violence.3 

Post-COVID-19: Risks and Opportunities  

In a crisis context, there is a risk women may face a ‘new normal’ or a return to the ‘old normal’ of reduced employment opportunities as employers prioritize male employees in the allocation of work and in the rehiring and promotion process. Women may also face work conditions being degraded due to financial pressures, reflecting the prioritization of economic efficiency over labor rights. 

The COVID-19 crisis is an opportunity to revalue economic and care work. If gender-sensitive policies, including work from home arrangements, are carefully implemented, this could improve pay and conditions for the female workforce. Men’s exposure to the full domestic experience during lockdown could also prompt a positive shift in the gendered division of labor. Sharing the burden of essential unpaid work could have positive normative and economic effects on women’s economic participation. 

There are opportunities post-COVID-19 to embed gender equality at the center of national recovery strategies in line with the global commitment to improving women’s workforce participation (G20, 2017).  

As governments and businesses focus on immediate concerns of health, livelihoods and the economy, gender equality may take a ‘backseat’ in crisis management. However, gender-blind policies could have damaging consequences for workplace equality. Previous recessions have shown that diversity and inclusion strategies also fall in priority. If economic recovery strategies are gender responsive, there is an opportunity to ‘build back better’ with women and girls as a focus in crisis management and recovery (UN, 2020).  

Gender equitable recovery strategies will also boost national productivity, deliver inclusive growth, and underwrite the Sustainable Development Goals 2030. These strategies should include policy measures that support women’s formal employment opportunities, women’s entrepreneurial activity, and unpaid care work.  

Investing in Women, an initiative of the Australian Government, catalyzes inclusive economic growth through women’s economic empowerment in Southeast Asia. Established in 2016, Investing in Women uses innovative approaches to improve women’s economic participation as employees and as entrepreneurs and to influence the enabling environment to promote women’s economic empowerment in the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar 


Newsletter, What's New in FSSI

The Foundation for a Sustainable Society, Inc. (FSSI) is extending a business rehabilitation loan to social enterprise (SE) partners affected by COVID-19 and the ensuing community quarantines.  

The loan with discounted interest rates is one of the identified needs of partner SEs to help them recover from the effects of the quarantines on their business and cope with new or additional business requirements through access to financial services.  

The Business Rehabilitation Loan will cater to current partner SEs of FSSI significantly affected by COVID-19 and the community quarantines, including those which have suffered a 20% or more decline in their revenue or income in the past months and in their projected revenue or income for 2020 and 2021.  

The loans may be used for working capital or fixed asset acquisition, and priority will be given to SEs providing essential goods and services, such as those in food production and distribution.  

With the travel limitations being imposed under community quarantines, FSSI is making adjustments in its operations by tapping local coordinators to ensure processing and approval of loan applications are unhampered. FSSI is also working with member networks to continue to provide development and technical assistance to SE partners.  

In March, FSSI announced extension of due dates for all loan payments during the quarantine period.  



Building Better in the New Normal

Sixto Donato C. Macasaet

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us on a “new normal,” with many of us still coming to terms with the radical changes enforced in our lives.  

From the way we do business, to our health habits, and even in our social interactions, COVID-19 has pushed us to rethink our priorities and strategies.  

At FSSI, since the start of the enforcement of community quarantines in March 2020, we have implemented work-from-home schemes, with targeted planning of the delivery of urgent tasks so we can still service the needs of partner social enterprises (SEs).  

We have also announced extension of due dates for all loan payments during the quarantine period and are discussing loan restructuring for some partners. Aside from these, FSSI has developed a Business Rehabilitation Loan, a loan package with discounted interest rates to help current SE partners cope with new or additional business requirements as they work to recover from the effects of COVID-19 and the ensuing community restrictions.  

The government has announced it is ramping up support to workers of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), including SEs, whose workers have lost their wages and/or whose business operations have been affected. You can find a compilation of the summary of 

 these programs in the newsletter. What we aim to do at FSSI is to complement or help fill the gaps for social enterprises, especially those of the poor and vulnerable. We are currently revisiting and adjusting our plans for the rest of the year so we can be more responsive to the challenges brought by COVID-19.  We also intend to review our Strategic Plans for 2020 to 2024. 

Even when the lockdowns end, experts forecast that the fight against the coronavirus would be far from over.  

In addition to the pandemic, our country has also been recently hit by attacks on our democratic rights and freedom of expression.  In early May 2020, the government shut down ABS-CBN.  Earlier this month, it rushed the approval by Congress of the Anti-Terrorism Act, and on June 15, Maria Ressa and Reynaldo Santos, Jr. of Rappler were convicted of cyber-libel.  These certainly run counter to FSSI’s vision of “Empowered communities upholding social justice, respecting integrity of creation, and realizing fullness of life” and to our core values of inclusivity and good governance. 

Facing these medical, socio-economic, and political storms, what we can, and should do for now is to hold the line, brave the winds, act in solidarity with one another, and collectively build a better normal and a future with fullness of life for all. 



Chairperson’s Message

Norman Joseph Jiao

As I am writing this, Luzon is under an extended Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) until the end of April 2020 and the whole country, in fact, the world, is reeling from the effects of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

We started 2020 with high hopes.

Building on an external evaluation we commissioned late last year which showed that FSSI’s partner SEs were satisfied with the services of the foundation, as well as an assessment of the internal conditions of FSSI and the external environment in which we operate, we crafted our Strategic Plan for 2020 to 2024. This Plan includes the refined Vision, Mission, and Core Values of FSSI. We have also set our strategic goals for our four key result areas of Financial Services Delivery, Social Enterprise Development, Asset and Investment Management, and Organizational Development.

This year we are also celebrating FSSI’s silver anniversary. We have crafted plans to mark the event, including holding a series of forums, publishing a book, and launching an accelerator program focused on sustainable agriculture SEs.

And then COVID-19 came.

Some social media commentators have quipped that we should re-start the year 2020 because it has a virus. As that is not possible, we need to face the difficulties that lie ahead. In doing that, we draw strength from the courage and dedication of the ‘frontliners’, both those inside health facilities and those outside, attending to our essential services.

We also draw energy and inspiration from the many volunteer efforts – big and small, national and local – that have independently sprung up to provide the needed personal protective equipment (PPE), transportation service, shelter, food and other necessities needed in our people’s fight against COVID-19. Within our network, various efforts have been launched to help support our frontliners and the most vulnerable Filipinos affected by the crisis.

So, even with COVID-19 and the extended quarantine, we look forward to celebrating FSSI’s 25th year, launching our new 5-year plan, and jointly creating a virus-free future for 3BL enterprises and for all Filipinos.


The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has resulted to an unexpected slump in the Philippine economy. The latest report from the National Economic and Development Authority estimates that the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth will likely be at 4.3 at best and negative 0.6 percent at worst, assuming the impact of the crisis is felt until the middle of the year.1 This is a staggering decline from the target growth rate set for 2020 which is at 6.5 to 7.5 percent.2 Midway last month, Metro Manila was put under a community quarantine, which was eventually expanded to the entire Luzon, in an effort to contain the spread of the disease. Other provinces in the Visayas and Mindanao have also announced lockdowns.

The “enhanced community quarantine” in Luzon, now extended to April 30, has included the suspension of public transportation, classes, and work for non-essential businesses. Big and small businesses alike have continued to bear the brunt of the crisis as the general population is encouraged to stay at home. Social enterprises are not spared. Among FSSI partners, 31 out of 35 surveyed said that reduced mobility has affected their enterprise.

LiveGreen International is one of the few social enterprises that are able to operate, despite limited personnel. LiveGreen is engaged in the production, processing, and distribution of 100% fresh organic vegetables. Paris Uy, President and CEO, shared that their ongoing production is due to farmers continuing to work despite the crisis. Crops were planted in January and there is still a steady supply of farm produce. LiveGreen has around 30 to 40 partner farmers in Benguet, and some 10 to 15 in Batangas, Cavite, and Tanay.

Helping farmers who feed us

For Uy, the crisis is a wake-up call for society to support the farmers who are relentlessly producing our food. This calls for stronger links between the national and local governments and a better logistical support in transporting produce from farmers especially in the north to where the demand is across the country. Uy shares that they had difficulty transporting vegetables in the first few days of the lockdown, “Tuloy-tuloy ang production. Ang problema lang ay confusion and intervention of the LGU shutting down while the national government said food-related [cargo] can pass through.”

LiveGreen hauls five tons of vegetables from Baguio to Manila daily. In Baguio, farmers who come down to deliver goods to their La Trinidad warehouse often encounter delays due to the lockdown. Fortunately, it became easier when the Department of Agriculture (DA) issued food passes to ensure the unhampered movement of agricultural products through the numerous checkpoints across Luzon.

Uy also identifies the importance of coordination between government agencies concerned in the food supply chain and bringing food from producers to consumers. Come harvest time, if farmers are unable to bring their goods to Manila and with the decline in purchase orders from big businesses due to closure as what they have experienced during the lockdown, farmers are forced to dispose their produce — when local governments could have purchased these to be given out to families as part of COVID-19 relief efforts.

The DA has recently moved to consider workers in the agriculture and fisheries sector as front liners in the country’s fight against COVID-19. Various programs are also lined up to empower these front liners and boost local food production and manufacturing.

This crisis is changing the way we understand our health and even our food. For LiveGreen though, it is more than buying and eating local.

“Natural food is still the best food. Eventually the best way to keep ourselves healthy is to boost our immune system,” Uy shares.

Naturally growing products is the way to go. LiveGreen has always put prime in making sure that they provide organic, clean, and healthy food produced without the use of harmful chemicals. He also encourages backyard farming, as growing your own food makes a lot of difference now when most are confined in their homes and are finding limited access to groceries.

Opportunities ahead

As with every enterprise, the crisis is a continuous learning experience on resiliency and business continuity. This year, it has become clear to LiveGreen that their strategy must be scaling up online. Aside from physical distribution to supermarkets, the enterprise saw triple sales through online deliveries. They also saw an increase in the demand for other vegetable besides lettuces. People buy tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrots more than usual, most likely to secure healthy food options for their households.

LiveGreen is determined to bring their systems online for the long term. Along with this is their vision to help farmers build among them a consortium that could potentially bring the price down by cutting off the middle man through an online database where consumers could readily access information on where to source fresh produce.

There may be a long way ahead in the fight against COVID-19, but the end of this pandemic is not about returning to normal; it’s about learning and thinking of ways to become better, and ultimately putting investments where our priorities should be. Our front liners such as our partners at LiveGreen and their partner farmers are seeing us through this crisis. It must be our turn to take care of them as well.





Happy new year, everyone!

The start of any year offers us a chance to look back at what we have done in the past year, and to plan for, and look forward to, a fresh start. For FSSI, we are marking the beginning of our Strategic Plan for 2020 to 2024.

In this new medium term plan, we are shifting our focus from geographic- to commodity-based value chains so that we will not be limited only to priority areas, but will instead optimize opportunities from various sectors. Based on their potential for growth and improved outcome, and the presence and involvement of FSSI’s partner social enterprises, members and groups already working on the value chain, we have decided to focus on organic vegetables, cacao, bamboo, and renewable energy. While focusing on these four, we will remain responsive to proposed projects in other value chains.

Our new strategic plan also calls for more initiative in exploring the use of equity investments, in addition to loans, to support selected social enterprises, both those in the start-up and in the growth stages.

As we act on our strategic plans, we recognize the value of multi-sectoral partnerships. Related to this, one of the articles in this newsletter summarizes the lessons of Grow Asia in developing inclusive business in agriculture, such as the importance of building effective working groups which have a good mix of stakeholders (farmers’ groups and co-ops, agri-business, NGOs, government and others). There are also updates on programs of the Department of Agriculture (DA) that aim to support farmers, fishers and agri-entrepreneurs, and especially the youth. We are also sharing here some information on the latest Civil Society Organization Sustainability Index (CSOSI) for the Philippines.

This index looks at the status of the civil society sector based on seven dimensions: legal environment, organizational capacity, financial viability, advocacy, service provision, sectoral infrastructure, and public image.

Rounding up this issue of our newsletter, we also have articles on the relief assistance for Mindanao earthquake victims, which was undertaken by the Mindanao Coalition of Development NGO Networks (MINCODE) and Kapwa Upliftment Foundation, Inc. (KUFI), with support from FSSI, and on recent FSSI institutional events. At the start of the year, we usually greet each other “Manigong bagong taon!” which is commonly translated to “Prosperous new year!” Another translation of “manigo” is to be able to attain what one hopes for, which is very appropriate for us now with our new strategic plan.

So, here’s wishing all of us ‘Manigong bagong taon!’