Economic Inclusion from Below

The year witnessed the intensifying claim-making of the enterprising poor and marginalized sectors of Philippine society. Economic and enterprise sectors traditionally dominated by the well-endowed and politically connected conglomerates find newly assertive economic players in the market space. Social enterprises or businesses that have multiple bottom lines — from the corporate social responsibility and philanthropy tradition, cooperative federations and microfinance institutions, to the innovative social-mission driven ventures by young social entrepreneurs with education and political pedigrees — have increasingly occupied the limelight of business and economic news, both in print and cyberspace.


We at FSSI fully support this groundswell. We see triple bottom line entrepreneurship – economically profitable, socially equitable and environmentally sound community enterprises– as a sustainable pathway to poverty reduction and more inclusive economic and enterprise system. The move is timely with the sobering reality that the full-year 6.6 percent economic growth achieved in 2012 has not been felt by most of the ordinary Filipinos, much less the poor. Poverty incidence has remained “practically unchanged” at 27.9% in first semester of 2012 compared with the same period in 2006 (28.8%) and 2009 (28.6%), as reported by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB). Economic growth has not trickled down to the poor because large conglomerates dominate the economy and the nation’s wealth is in the hands of a few oligarchic families. Our economy is simply far from being an inclusive one.


There are many pathways towards a more inclusive economy. At FSSI, even as our advocacy works for a policy environment conducive to social enterprises at the macro or national level, we choose to go local by putting on ground, and share in the economic inclusion of the marginalized by facilitating the growth and development of their enterprises at the community level in their respective ecosystems. We focus on the SEPPS or social enterprises with the poor as primary stakeholders, enable them become well-rounded 3BL SEs, and eventually link them with other SEs, cooperatives, NGOs, microfinance institutions (MFIs) and complementary programs and projects of the national and local governments.


In 2012 and the rest of the remaining years of our medium-term strategic plan, we will continue to work for the economic inclusion of the SEPPS so that they grow into a critical mass in their economic value chains, communities and ecosystems.


In the coconut communities where we oversee coir enterprises, we help transform twiners and weavers into organized, enterprising multi-purpose cooperatives. With the help of established cooperatives and microfinance institutions, they will later serve as vehicles for empowering the coconut communities move up and take the helm of the whole-nut value chain and related agricultural activities and not merely supply raw and semi-processed copra during harvesting season.


We see farmer cooperatives and agrarian reform beneficiary organizations sustaining and expanding their practice of sustainable organic rice and corn production coupled with compatible sunrise industries like cattle dairy production. Small SE-based partnerships at the community level — with LGUs, DAR, DA-NDA and the mature SEs and NGOs in the field – prove nimbler than those conceptualized, discussed and forged at the national level.


We forge solidarity with established SEs and fair trade advocates in organic muscovado communities and help address the damaging effects of the progressive reduction of tariffs on imported sugar until 2015 brought about by the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA).


We seek small fishing communities and coastal ecosystems, their NGO enablers and together, find ways to help fishers manage and nurture mangroves and fish sanctuaries. In the process of regeneration, we mount capacity building for SEs and disaster risk reduction activities.


We partner and help orient small, far-flung yet SE-oriented LGUs and the myriad of POs wanting to scale up their livelihood and support the island town’s potential for eco-tourism that showcases community enterprises.


In our own small work at the local community, we help in the economic inclusion of small and marginalized players through social entrepreneurship that features the poor as primary stakeholders. We envision that they meaningfully take part, or in the future, take the helm of production, distribution and consumption of goods and services in their communities in a sustainable way. Among them, they cooperate along the value chains so that they grow into an economic force, formidable enough to negotiate, explore tie-ups and compete healthily and ethically with the large enterprises and conglomerates.


Oyen Dorotan