Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Enterprises for & with the Poor & the Lowly

Get to know Filipino social enterprises like CARD-MRI, Hapinoy, Gawad Kalinga, and Rags2Riches, which has succeeded in enterprising for and with the poor, who constitute the base of the social pyramid in developing countries. Rags2Riches is an internationally recognized social enterprise that has empowered poor mothers living around the Payatas dumpsite to transform scraps of dirty cloth into fashionable bags and accessories and thus raise each homemaker’s weekly earnings from P200 to P2,500.

You can read about Filipino social enterprises in the recently launched (2009) book, “For the People with the People: Developing Social Enterprises in the Philippines,” edited by Regina Hechanova-Alampay and published by the Ateneo de Manila University Press. To buy a copy, email

In light of the cases discussed in the book, Hechanova-Alampay and Leland dela Cruz define a social enterprise as “a new sustainable endeavor (whether in the form of a new model, a new organization, or a new program within an organization) created through the investment of assets and the assumption of risk-taking activities to address social problems” like inter-generational poverty and inadequate access to credit, education and housing (118).

Reese Fernandez, the intelligent, friendly and young External Vice President of Rags2Riches, describes the challenge of entering and understanding the world of the Payatas mothers and the continuing challenge to fuse it with the world of the competitive market:

“There’s a community that has lots of needs that you want to fulfill but at the same time there is the market, the demand side that you have to take care of also. You have to balance the two and it’s always more tricky if you’re working with a community that you want to empower rather than just a pool of laborers. We want them to be our partners, so we always have to include them in our decision-making. It’s really difficult to make them understand long-term matters, make them understand the things you understand.” (78).

Our country needs more people like Reese and her partners in Rags2Riches who have succeeded in fusing horizons or worlds that are easily alienated from each other.

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