When we began working on ChooseSocial.PH, we wanted to highlight the great work and community impact of social enterprises in the Philippines. But really, which organizations inspired us to embark on this journey? And why Philippines? Gelaine and I are located in Toronto and Gelaine, who was born in the Philippines, hasn’t always felt like an insider in the Filipino community. For myself, I’m not even Filipino. I was born and raised in Québec speaking French as my first language, and then moved to Toronto five years ago. What was so special about social enterprises in the Philippines that appealed to us so much?
Gelaine and I met as volunteers for the non-profit student organization called AIESEC. While volunteering, we both discovered the alluring and ambitious world of social enterprises – the idea that businesses and business skills could be forces for social good. We always knew our passions lay with social enterprises, but how this applied to the Philippines didn’t occur to us. That is, until we discovered the Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm, an incubator of social enterprises and a Filipino success that inspires many across the world. This immediately caught our eye and thus began our budding passion for Filipino social enterprises.
The Enchanted Farm was created by Gawad Kalinga, a Filipino non-profit with the mission of ending poverty for 5 million Filipino families by 2024. The Enchanted Farm itself was founded as a center of innovation in order to foster a new generation of innovative social enterprises in the Philippines. The goal is an ambitious one – to create new Filipino brands that will manufacture Filipino products for the Filipino market. Which is needed in a country where a lot of products, including food products (chocolate, dairy & coffee) that could be farmed locally, are imported.
Because the Enchanted Farm itself is on farmland, many of those products are food products. And because they are all social enterprises, they facilitate local capacity building by providing employment, job training and education to beneficiaries of Gawad Kalinga (typically low-income) communities, while also reinvesting their profits into social programs to help alleviate poverty. By hosting more than 20 social enterprises under the same roof, this hub of social entrepreneurship fosters collaboration, networking, and knowledge sharing amongst the social enterprises, while providing a unique marketplace (Enchanted Farm Cafe) to showcase their work. The innovation coming out of this high concentration of social enterprises has led many to call the Enchanted Farm the “Silicon Valey of social enterprises”.
Since I am myself an IT Professional with experience consulting for various companies big and small, I love learning about new startups and the development of new technologies, I can also witness and understand how new companies can benefit from an environment of collaboration and growth similar to the Silicon Valley. At the Enchanted Farm, entrepreneurs can constantly network and share their learnings and expertise. Because of this unique and inspiring environment, the Enchanted Farm attracts people from all walks of life – whether they want to found a social enterprise, volunteer, or are working professionals who wish to pivot from a career in corporate to the social enterprise or social impact world.
For example, Xilca Alvarez left her work as a lawyer to work at the Enchanted Farm and eventually to join Bayani Brew, a social enterprise that creates drinks from local & indigenous ingredients cultivated at the Enchanted Farm. Because of the Farm’s reputation as a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship, it now attracts lots of funding opportunities from other organizations that can help to scale those social enterprises. For me, that was a personal realization. The Enchanted Farm taught me that the Silicon Valley model of IT innovation could be applied to the world of social good and impact, and how my two passions for technology and social enterprises could intersect. I decided then that I wanted to share this unique Filipino social enterprise scene with the world.
We often hear through NextDayBetter of the successes and accomplishments of Filipino diaspora communities across the world. These successes not only inspire the Filipino diaspora but everyone in the community, both Filipinos and non-Filipinos alike. The Enchanted Farm also attracts this kind of attention. The difference is, however, they are located in the Philippines and people actually travel large distances to learn from this unique place. For example, many European students volunteer at the Farm for months at a time and many business visitors come to learn from the farm’s operation for a few days. This is how people at the Enchanted Farm have begun to refer to themselves as the “’Disneyland’ for social tourism”.
While many people come to learn, Fabien Courteille from France, decided to stay after volunteering and launched his own social enterprise at the Farm. The social enterprise is called Plush and Play, and sells children’s toys. Regardless of their origin, the farm shows that people from across the world can come in, take part and be integrated into the community, and work alongside Filipinos to help resolve one of the Philippine’s major social problems: poverty. For a non-Filipino like me, I often see the pitfalls of foreigners going to another country to bring their own solutions to what they consider are the most important problem. What I love about the Enchanted Farm is that it’s a concept entirely created for the Philippines, by Filipinos and adapted to the local Filipino needs and realities, while they still are welcoming help from everyone. Knowing that different cultures can come together to innovate and work towards a single social goal in the Philippines, knowing that I could be one of those persons without feeling out of place, what else could be more inspiring?
Our mission at ChooseSocial.PH is to bring social enterprises into the mainstream and the Enchanted Farm is great at helping us with this goal. For anyone visiting the Philippines and staying around Manila, the Enchanted Farm is a must-see. Located in Angat, Bulacan, it is a few hours drive from Manila. Not only is it possible to visit it, but they actually have various visitor packages to help you learn about the social enterprises and offer accommodations. Gelaine and I still haven’t had the chance to visit the Enchanted Farm or any of the social enterprises we feature on ChooseSocial.PH. However, this is something we want to remedy as we plan to travel to the Philippines in December this year. In case we needed any more signs of the importance of social enterprises into our lives, we even realized that Gelaine’s birthplace in Bulacan is less than one hour out from the Enchanted Farm. Really, there’s no good reason for us to miss this amazing place!
Perhaps this won’t be possible for you to visit and learn from the Enchanted Farm in the immediate future. So, what can you do? Learn and apply the principles of collaboration and innovation from the Enchanted Farm and see if there is another group in your city you can join which may help you build the next big thing!
Not sure where to start? Look at your local NextDayBetter chapter! – Jérôme Gagnon-Voyer
Photo Credits: Destination Changemakers
About NextDayBetter | NextDayBetter is a speaker and food series for diaspora communities. Its global events in nine cities celebrate the stories of changemakers from untapped global migrant communities and call them to action. It believes that diasporas like the Filipino Asian Pacific Islander global communities are hubs and inspirations for world changing ideas. Learn more at nextdaybetter.com.
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