By Jesus P. Estanislao
Dr. Jose Rene Gayo, while at University of Asia and Pacific (UA&P), had been itching to put into actual field tests the ideas and concepts regarding social enterprise that he had learned from his post-graduate studies in business administration at the University of the Philippines. By his account, he soon was handed a great opportunity to do so: “Our breakthrough project for social enterprise development happened when our team at UA&P took over the management of a social enterprise project initiated at the San Miguel Packaging Products (SMPP) by Mr. Raul Hernandez, its president at the time. The project involved assisting employees of SMPP to set up social enterprises (mostly cooperatives) for employees who were at the cusp of retrenchment or retirement. These social enterprises, operating from outside the company, were being given an opportunity to become the company’s suppliers of uniforms or select raw materials needed by SMPP; or to become outsource service providers, e.g. for trucking, maintenance, janitorial services, etc. needed by SMPP.”
This was indeed a breakthrough, in particular because it provided Dr. Gayo a lesson. He says: “Working with a corporation like SMPP was very rewarding because it made the task of social enterprise development relatively easy. SMPP provided some resources and assistance to mobilize strong support for fledgling social enterprises. Moreover, the person on top, i.e. the President of SMPP, ensured that needed decisions could be made fast. Indeed, Mr. Hernandez’ support for social enterprise development was the key to the success of several such undertakings.”
Success with a few social enterprises soon opened new opportunities for others to be started up. Dr. Gayo has this narrative of the social enterprise development of the provincial government of Bulacan. Under the impetus of the governor, Josie de la Cruz, a cooperative store was established for the employees of the provincial capitol. This soon led to the setting up of a packaging center for the products of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the province. Success of the packaging center led to the planning of a North Food Exchange, intended or the farmers in the province of Bulacan. But as fate would have it, this last social enterprise idea could not be realized. And Dr. Gayo has this lesson to share: “It is very hard to work with local government units because changes in leadership can derail a project. The governor was soon subject to term limits, and succeeding provincial administrations did not give priority to the social enterprise initiatives of Gov. De la Cruz.”
Nonetheless, the actual experience in setting up social enterprises was soon put to use and deployed in a mining concession area of Philex Mining. Again, Dr. Gayo: “Our Philex project involved the setting up of Community Business Technology Centers for meat processing, aquaculture, piggery, and coffee farming. Embedded in the project was a training program for agri-entrepreneurship for out-of-school youth. This became an opportunity to adopt the program design of the Family Farm Schools, but this time applied to the post-secondary level, i.e., after high school. This led to a partnership with the MFI Foundation in launching the Diploma in Entrepreneurship with specialization in Farm Business. The Agricultural Training Institute of the Department of Agriculture then provided counterpart funds to enable scholars from farm areas to obtain such a post-secondary Diploma.
This post-secondary program was soon replicated in Palawan, Negros Occidental, Lanao del Norte, and Zamboanga del Sur. It then became a national program of the Agricultural Training Institute of the Department of Agriculture.
Dr. Gayo, however, shares this comment based on his experience: “Enterprise development is a long process. It cannot be undertaken just by giving seminars or running livelihood training programs. There is also an absolute need to provide mentoring and monitoring of the projects until they become financially viable, and they can go off on their own steam.”
Partnership is also essential, and this often would involve business corporations (such as Philex Mining), development financial institutions (such as the Development Bank of the Philippines) local government units (such as the Province of Bulacan), and national government agencies (such as the Department of Agriculture). An orchestrator for social enterprise development tobring the resources of all these partners together is also essential. And this is the role that Dr. Gayo’s Foundation for People Development has been playing.