By Tony La Viña* Nation building is best done place by place, village by village. The combination of social entrepreneurship and technology solutions is making this possible in many places in the country. This weekend, I went around Negros Occidental to visit the Alternative Indigenous Development Foundation, Inc. (AIDFI), a citizen organization that specializes on developing and disseminating appropriate technologies to help small and poor upland farmers improve their farm-based livelihoods. As the Ashoka representative for the Philippines, I have been on the lookout for social innovators, and a number of people have pointed me to the ground-breaking work that Nonoy Moraca and his colleagues in AIDFI have been doing, especially in water technology. They have developed and installed their technology all over the Philippines, starting with their own island Negros, but they have also gone out to other countries like Japan, Thailand, Malaysia and, more recently, in Afghanistan. Using the hydraulic ram pump as the flagship technology, AIDFI is solving an age-old problem – lack of access to water – and helping upland farmers and communities improve their communities and uplift their lives. The problem of access to water has haunted many poor communities in the Philippines. This is especially true in the uplands where water is even more important because of the role it plays in the livelihood of farmers. What is ironic is that there is an abundance of water sources in these places. The problem is taking them out of the ground or from the source and delivering them to the communities and households that need them. This is where AIDFI comes in. Working with partners – usually citizen organizations as well as local governments – they install hydraulic ram pumps in communities that need them. Their work has already benefited more than 16,000 people and they hope to reach even more. As Nonoy shared to me, “What makes me happy is helping people have water.” This is a simple dream but a challenge to implement. What is interesting with AIDFI is the model they are following in scaling up their work. For them, it is not just a matter of introducing technology but preparing communities to receive the technology, ensuring ownership by the local people. Being social entrepreneurs, they follow the principles of long-term sustainability: costs are shared by the local governments and by the residents of the barangays (villages) that benefit from the technology; because of this, AIDFI does not rely as much on outside funding as other citizen organizations do. In addition to cost-sharing, communities are also asked to take on commitments to preserve their water sources, implementing watershed and forest protection programs that produce even more benefits to them. In the end, the ram pump is just an entry point: AIDFI delivers a cluster of environmentally friendly and community-based technologies that are all intended to improve and uplift the lives of poor communities. To help disseminate their technologies, their office has a demonstration site and a coffee shop in Bacolod city. Yesterday (Monday, July 21), we had the chance to visit one of those barangays - Canlandog in the town of Murcia. We were accompanied by Nonoy Moraca, the executive director of AIDFI, and hosted by barangay captain Ernesto Pinafiel, and the Barnagay Council of Canlandog. The project has received support from the Murcia government under the leadership of Hon. Esteban H. Coscolluela. We rode a big truck for more than an hour on rough roads until we got to the site of the ram pump installed a few weeks earlier by AIDFI. Aside from the pump itself, they had also built the infrastructure to distribute the water – from the pipes, the reservoirs and the cluster faucets. For the first time, a community had water and they expressed how grateful and happy they were. Nonoy Moraca too must be very happy. *Tony is the Dean of the Ateneo School of Government and the Country Representative for Ashoka Philippines. For more information on social entrepreneurship and the Ashoka Fellowship, you can go to http://philippines.ashoka.org or send an email to philippines (at) ashoka (dot) org. For those who wish to learn more about social entrepreneurship and how to become an effective social entrepreneur, the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government together with Ashoka-Philippines will be running Beyond Bottomlines II: An Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship this coming September 20,2008 (Saturday), 8 am to 5 pm at the Ateneo de Manila-Professional Schools campus in Rockwell, Makati City. If you are interested to attend this seminar, you can send an email to youthventureph (at) gmail (dot) com or contact Katrina Wy at (02) 683-0262 local 141.
Recently in human resources Category
By Tony La Viña Philippine Representative, Ashoka: Innovators for the Public Sometime in early 2006, after eight years working for an environmental think tank in Washington DC, I decided to come home to the Philippines. It was clear why I (and my family) wanted to do this – we felt we could contribute something to make the Philippines a better place – but I was not as sure about what I could actually do to make a difference. I had accepted a job as the Dean of the Ateneo School of Government, a post that would allow me to work with national and local leaders in building a prosperous and just country. But that was not enough.
Government was only half, maybe less than half of the solution. If we are to overcome our history of “uncreative repetition” (where the politics of blame ensured unaccountability and inability to solve long standing problems from poverty to social injustice), it was important to do something that would foster, catalyze, and enable social innovation. I wanted to get out of the default mode of blaming others for the country’s problems and finding ways to actually solve these problems.It was while I was pondering on this challenge that I stumbled upon Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, the world’s oldest and largest supporter and enabler of social entrepreneurs. These are dynamic individuals who use innovation and private-sector-style entrepreneurship to create systemic solutions for complex social problems. I was introduced to Ashoka by Terri Jayme, a Filipina working for the Arlington, Virginia-based international organization. Terri, whose sister Denni once worked for me and whose uncles and aunts I went to school with in college at the Ateneo de Manila, was asked by Ashoka to study whether or not it should launch a program in the Philippines and Terri interviewed me for this assignment. I soon learned more about Ashoka, its core mission and programs, and its global fellowship of more than 2,000 leading social entrepreneurs in over 60 countries. I also got to meet its founder, Bill Drayton, a Harvard College and Yale Law School educated lawyer and management expert, who shared with me his vision of “Everyone a Changemaker” based on the realization that we are in a “historical moment” where regular citizens are poised to create and cause significant social change and progress as never before. Social entrepreneurs all over the world are thinking and implementing scalable ideas that are revolutionizing whole sectors, such as health, the environment and education. Soon after I talked to Bill, Ashoka decided to launch its programs in the Philippines and I was offered the position of Country Representative. I quickly agreed to take on this responsibility as I was convinced that the solutions for many of our most urgent social and political problems were potentially in the hands of Filipino social entrepreneurs. I wanted to accelerate this process by launching Ashoka in the Philippines. We have had a long tradition of a strong civil society that is willing to tackle the most difficult social problems. Throughout the country, we are beginning to see very promising innovative ideas take root in the different areas of social need. We can help maintain the strength and vibrancy of the Philippine citizen sector by supporting the best and most effective ideas on the ground. And with the increased involvement of business in social issues, Ashoka (whose main support comes from business entrepreneurs) is also uniquely poised to bring the business and social sectors together towards true innovation and genuine change for the country. Today, social entrepreneurs are gaining recognition, business entrepreneurs are becoming changemakers, and the most progressive companies and financial institutions are seeking ways to increase competitiveness by serving markets of the poor. The Ashoka Philippines program is in an exciting phase as we build a powerful network of partnerships and resources that will identify and support the most deserving Filipino social entrepreneurs. Ashoka would like to help harness the passion, experience, and expertise of these Filipinos by providing critical financial support and welcoming them into the Global Fellowship. Already, we have more than 20 persons identified as potential Fellows and we are positioned to elect our first set of Ashoka Fellows in early 2009. Tony is the Dean of the Ateneo School of Government and the Country Representative for Ashoka Philippines. For more information on social entrepreneurship and the Ashoka Fellowship, you can go to http://philippines.ashoka.org or send an email to philippines (at) ashoka (dot) org.