FSSI: Lending a helping hand-A A +A
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
WE MAY not know it but the Foundation for a Sustainable Society (FSSI) has been helping Negrenses for years already. This foundation advocates social entrepreneurship and local economy development by partnering with Bind (Broad Initiatives for Negros Development Inc.), GAIC (Grassroots Agro-Industrial Corporation) and Tumandok Crafts among others.
Bind is a non-government organization pioneering in projects on food security and organic agriculture. GAIC is into organic fertilizer production and Tumandok Crafts produces high-end furniture utilizing indigenous materials from various farming communities.
At the first press conference last February 20 for the discussion of the proposed Social Entrepreneur Bill i.e. Magna Carta for Social Enterprises of 2012, Glaiza Veluz (FSSI Project Officer for Visayas) talked about the triple bottom line defined as a social entrepreneur's profitability, ownership of a community on a social enterprise, and its ecological soundness.
"Social enterprises create social values that benefit the marginalized," she said.
The triple bottom line's meaning is based on a United Nations definition.
Veluz added, "We do not only focus on the profits (unlike capitalist markets) but [we see to it that] this profits the people, the poor. We also work to protect the environment for the future generation through organic-based agricultural enterprises, handicrafts, etc."
Very few countries, so far, have embraced Social Entrepreneurship (SE) as part of their law and they are Italy (a pioneer of this program), the United Kingdom, and South Korea (which employs the handicapped). These have legislated measures on SE.
Dean Tony La Vina of the Ateneo School of Government (ASOG) stated that "it is about time that we push for a bill that deals with poverty on a social enterprise approach."
Why is a bill needed for SE?
"We want the government to take part in social entrepreneurship," Veluz explained. "We have limited resources and there are many communities to help. We hope that we will get the attention of the President."
This is in reference to President Aquino's desire for the Filipinos to travel the straight path (ang tuwid na daan).
While there are many social enterprises in the Philippines, this is a fragmented organization. To date there are about 28,000 cooperatives around the country.
FSSI's vision is for just, sustainable and empowered communities, recognizing diversity of cultures, respecting integrity of creation and realizing the fullness of life. Its mission is for a sustainable resource institution committed to social investments. The FSSI core values of social justice (addressing poverty, disregard for basic human rights, and environmental degradation), stewardship (innovative fund usage that will maximize social and financial returns), gender equality (to recognize women as agents of development), environmental sustainability, good governance, and culture of excellence hope to improve the lives of the locals.
Veluz emphasizes that "this is not a dole-out thing. It's actually empowering the community, empowering our partners. We are just here to guide, to provide financial assistance."
Eva de la Marced of Bind says that the 23-year-old organization helps mountain communities and advocates organic farming in those areas while its reforestation program focuses on endemic trees and seeds. A remarkable improvement in the lives of their beneficiaries can be measured.
In Northern Negros, for example, specifically in Calatrava, after three years of integrated farming, the pitiful income of P1,200 per annum increased to P85,000. Bind's program has a 75 percent success rate.
A socially significant part of FSSI's program is the provision of loans for those needing capitalization. A powerful testimony was made by Jojie Locsin of Tumandok Crafts Industries.
In 2003, her factory burned down and it was FSSI who helped her by giving her a loan despite her insufficient collateral.
"You can see the heart to help," she recalls.
Tumandok was given not only a loan but also extended a credit line. (Beneficiaries can pay back their loans with post-dated checks.) This generous act helped the company get back on its feet and now it's even bigger and better than ever.
Jojie excitedly talked about the transformation she sees in her workers. Success breeds success and with FSSI supporting the business, morale is high.
Incidentally, Jojie is presently Association of Negros Producers (ANP) president and ANP has also the same thrust now of social entrepreneurship.
In Negros, there are about 15 grants and loans. Access to capital isn't the only benefit the bill can give. It is pushing for tax exemptions; marketing, research and systems development support; and even the granting of cash incentives to start-up SE's employing persons with disability.
With the approval of the Magna Carta for Social Enterprises of 2012, FSSI hopes to promote and develop social enterprises as a tool in the government's poverty reduction program.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on February 28, 2012.