Social Entrepreneurship: The Philippine Experience

Loida Lewis discusses strategic philanthropy as part of a panel at the Asia Society.
Loida Lewis discusses strategic philanthropy as part of a panel at the Asia Society.

NEW YORK, Januray 22, 2009 - Strategic philanthropy will continue to play an influential role in the advancement of developing countries with poverty, illiteracy, and health issues, said Philippine social entrepreneurship experts.

In a panel discussion at the Asia Society, top leaders of the Philippines’ social entrepreneurship and strategic philanthropy shared challenges faced by organizations attempting to achieve sustainable improvements in poor communities.

Vicky Garchitorena, founder of Ayala Foundation who describes strategic philanthropy as looking at the root of poverty with a business lens, shared her experiences with communities in need while running for Philippine Congress. Seeing the need for infrastructure and educational programs, she brought companies and government officials together to equip 2500 high schools in the Philippines with computers and Internet access.

Loida Lewis, chairwoman of the TLC Beatrice, also believes in "investing in people." She has funded 800 schools, ranging from elementary schools and colleges to nursing schools. The affiliations she established with hospitals and schools abroad also enabled many of the students to receive international training. At the discussion moderated by Sandeep Junnarkar, associate professor at City University of New York, Lewis spoke of how students brought back not only extensive skills but also a broader perspective of health practices outside of the Philippines.

Diosdado Banatao, founder and managing partner of Tallwood Venture Capital places his focus in developing science and technology in the Philippines. He stressed that in order for the Philippines to catch up with other Asian countries, “it must industrialize itself and produce ‘high value products’ such as cars, computers and other technological products.” So far, he has helped send 200 PhDs and 300 masters’ students into fields of engineering and science.

The panel also discussed the impact of the global economic crisis on government spending programs and endowments. But according to Garchitorena, there is still ample opportunity for companies “to be involved in social entrepreneurship and make money.” In the Philippines, 90 percent of the of the population make less than 600 dollars a month, and yet that population contributes to 60 percent of purchasing power. The companies that play a crucial part in social entrepreneurship will "surely reap" from growing demand and markets created by the evolution.

The reality of population explosion and government corruption will always create heavy demand for improving the lives of the poor, the panel said. Even so, we can expect social entrepreneurship and strategic philanthropy to be the creative solution for social and economic stability.