Jacqueline Liao

Gawad Kalinga : Building a social enterprise network in the Philippines

In my previous article (in Portuguese), I talked about how the entrepreneurial drive of Southeast Asia is powering a new era of social business in the region. One of the countries where social entrepreneurship is booming is the Philippines. And for many, Gawad Kalinga, embodies the boom.

For centuries, the Philippines of course were Spanish and later American territory. Even after its independence in 1945, the country went through a dictatorship and many corrupt democratic governments. Today, the islands are known as a place where big companies establish and harness cheap labor, but the recent economic growth has not been enough to improve living standards for people from the countryside.

Gawad Kalinga, now a multi-million dollar Filipino NGO, was founded by Antonio Meloto (“Tito Tony” as he’s also known) to reduce poverty through a geniune network effect. Tony, whose many accolades include Social Entrepreneur of the World – World Entrepreneurship Forum and the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, both in 2012, has positioned Gawad Kalinga at the center a vast network connecting local communities to programs and businesses in education, health, environment and productivity. Gawad Kalinga’s goal is ending poverty for 5 million families by 2024.

To meet that mission, the NGO launched GK Productivity to support the early stage social businesses. One of the initiatives born of the at effort is GKonomics, which develops and distributes products and services that include Gawad Kalinga communities in the value chain. The idea is to develop authentically Philippino brands, such as Kawayan Tech, which produces bamboo bikes; and Bayanihan Rentals, which rents affordable tables and chairs for all occasions.

Despite the gains, Gawad Kalinga recognized that for the business model to expand across the country, the Phillipines would need to develop a new generation of young, educated leaders to bring innovative ideas and be a bridge between communities and governments, academics and large companies. Thus, the incubator Center for Social Innovation (CSI) was created to develop a social entrepreneurship culture, allowing businesses to have access to a network of volunteers from many sectors of the society and an opportunity to obtain scale, sustainability and impact.

One of the businesses developed in the CSI was Bayani Brew, a drink made of lemongrass, pandan and a hint of calamansi – a recipe with ingredients of the local fauna. The business is an initiative of three young Filipino graduated in good schools and that were following a conventional career; they realized that poor communities had unique know-hows, but they did not know how to scale up their business so that it actually improved life standards of poor people. For this reason, they decided to create the company.

Gawad Kalinga has so far achieved significant results and its objective is to end poverty for 5 million families until 2024. More on this “GK Roadmap” is here.

As the organization likes to say, it is not charity, but a national movement to eradicate poverty.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on NextBillion Brasil in Portuguese.

Social Enterprise
Base of the Pyramid, social enterprise