Social entrepreneurship beyond livelihood

Chris Schnabel

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Social entrepreneurship beyond livelihood
BPI and Ateneo launch a social business competition that aims to widen the focus of social entrepreneurship

Two institutions in the banking and private education sectors have teamed up to launch a new business competition that promotes the cause of social entrepreneurship. 

The Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) Foundation and Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) have partnered for a social business competition that addresses social issues but with a focus on profit and expandability.

With the partnership, chosen social entrepreneurs will benefit from business guidance provided by ADMU and access to financing through BPI’s network.

The competition, named BPI Sinag, kicked off on May 21.  Entries will be considered until the July 20 deadline.

BRAINSTORMING. The partners discuss how to best move social entrepreneurship forward.

Beyond livelihood

The combination of a bank with its wide, traditional base and an educational institution has yielded a slightly different focus from traditional social entrepreneurship.

“A lot of big business people say they want to work with social enterprises but they’re not exactly sure what a social enterprise is,” said Rudy Ang, dean of the John Gokongwei School of Management at ADMU.

Ang defined social entrepreneurship as “a business that can provide access to resources that can improve the quality of life of the poor in an affordable way.”

Another problem, Ang pointed out, is that many social entrepreneurship plans being started now are small without much hope of scaling up.

Because of this they tend to focus solely on providing jobs to the poor.

“While livelihood is a social problem, it’s perhaps the least sophisticated way of helping the poor. A regular business like SM provides livelihood through jobs, although you wouldn’t think of it as a social business,“ he said.

The key to this is finding affordable ways of providing the poor with continuous access to basic necessities.

“There’s many parts of the Philippines without access to energy, so how do we make off-grid energy available to them in a way that’s affordable?” Ang rhetorically asked.

The dean also gave clean water supply and basic financial access as examples of avenues to be explored.

The ability to expand is also important as it allows for more inclusive growth. This is where BPI, with its base of traditional business, can step in.

“One of the biggest advantages of tying up is not the competition itself but of greater awareness and connecting people who have not traditionally been involved in social entrepreneurship,” he said.

Scaling up

“What we bring to the table is that we are a financial institution, a huge organization when you take into account the whole Ayala group, and that allows for plenty of links as well as potential funding for small businesses,” said BPI Foundation executive director Fidelina Corcuera.

The bank also sees the competition as a way for it to get in touch with new business communities and ideas.

“There are new ideas and different markets now where we do not necessarily work in or have relationships in so there’s an opportunity,” Corcuera said.

POWERFUL IDEA. The idea of addressing social issues using an entrepreneurial mindset is a very powerful one, says Ayala Corporation Chairman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala.

The competition

“We’re seeking millennials, people who are as creative as they are critical thinkers, that have the passion and skills to change the world through business,” said Corcuera.

The competition is open to entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 to 35, who have business ideas or existing businesses that have been running for less than 3 years, that addresses a social issue.

The entries will be considered and screened until July 20. The top candidates will be invited to a week-long business boot camp that starts on August 24.

The boot camp, run by the Ateneo Center for Social Entrepreneurship (ACSent), will teach candidates various business disciplines such as marketing, product development, and strategy.

Attendees of the boot camp would then present their businesses to an initial set of judges who would select the 10 most promising ones.

The 10 finalists, who are already guaranteed P50,000 ($1121) for their business, would then each go through a pitch day where they will present their business plans before a panel of highly acknowledged businessmen.

The panel will pick 5 out of the 10 finalists. The chosen 5 will each receive P200,000 ($4,485).

Of the remaining 5, the judges will select one grand prize winner, who will receive additional seed money. All 5 will also be provided with access to ADMU’s business incubation facilities and 6 months mentorship.

BPI foundation expects about 300 entries, based on previous research. Interested entrepreneurs can send in their applications through the BPI Sinag website or their Facebook page. –

$1 = P44.55

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