A British Council-led consortium has been working with stakeholders from the conflict-affected Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to tackle underdevelopment through social enterprise.
While social enterprise is perceived as a viable livelihood model in some parts of the Philippines, the conflict that has engulfed ARMM has left the region far behind in many sectors, including in this area.
Funded by the European Union, Civil Society in Social Enterprise Education Development (CSO-SEED) began in December 2015 and works in partnership with the Regional Government of the ARMM, civil society organisations and the local business community to build a robust environment in which social enterprises can flourish.
In July 2017, a multi-stakeholder group, consisting of 11 leaders from the ARMM, visited Belfast to learn how civil society groups representing social enterprises in the UK have advocated and achieved policy change. They learned how the UK government has developed policy to support social enterprises in the UK and also how community led social enterprises have contributed to increasing community cohesion, by drawing on examples from Northern Ireland.
Upon returning to the Philippines, drawing on their experiences and visit to the UK, the group firmed up several initiatives. In September 2017, the ARMM’s Department of Trade and Industry launched its newly established social enterprise division to promote and develop social enterprises. CSO-SEED also opened the call for applications for a social enterprise ideation camp which will aim to discover innovative and entrepreneurial talent in the region. The camp seeks to gather ideas from local communities on market-based solutions that will address entrenched issues such as poverty, joblessness, inadequate access to healthcare and low education outcomes.
Social enterprises can offer a more participatory, community driven approach to development, which enables employees to have more of say in how the businesses are run and how profits are used. Employees also tend to receive a fairer share of the proceeds.
In the long run, it is foreseen that new and growing businesses will provide more than just jobs — they can also offer essential goods and services to local populations, and give people a stake in peace and stability in the region.