Ateneo Development Marketplace: The Business of Giving Back

The business of giving back
By CANDY M. VENERACION
Manila Bulletin, September 30, 2007 (Sunday)

One table was piled up with rugs made of what looked like combed cotton. Next to it was a booth showing a grim picture of a disaster-stricken barangay in Albay. A girl, who was busy browsing on her laptop, manned the booth. Not far away were students checking out handbags made of tarpaulins, fancy bracelets designed from beads, and glass bottles that didn't look like they were for sale.

This is the Atenean version of a marketplace, and though the items didn't seem like much, the profits from this project will be a poor community's fortune.
The idea of a Development Marketplace stemmed from Prof. Harvey Keh who teaches social innovations to graduating students of Ateneo de Manila.

Instead of the usual thesis, Prof. Keh required his students to go out and come up with their own social enterprise that would address a particular social problem at the same time.

At the end of the semester, each group should have at least the final concept or prototype of the enterprise ready for implementation.

The group of RC Batac and his partners Mariflor Acompañado and Joy Pelino showed the most potential among the pool of "social entrepreneurs."

The business, which they aptly called "Rags2Riches," borrows the wholesale trading strategy to provide earning opportunities for Payatas mothers.

By getting rid of middle men, Payatas moms earn R15 for each rug sold while another R5 will go to a kitty fund that will sustain the business.

"Our main goal is to empower the Payatas women. Before, these mothers were only getting one peso for every rug they made which is not even enough to feed one person. What we are doing now is we invite them to sell their products directly (through us) so they will fully benefit from the fruits of their labor," said RC Batac, a social innovations class student.

He is likewise a project officer of the Simbahan Lingkod ng Bayan, the socio–political ministry of the Jesuits.
So far, the business is doing well.

"Ang sosyal na rugs," as RC playfully puts it, are in fact very popular among condo dwellers and were a sellout at previous bazaars in Magallanes and Salcedo Village.

Talks are underway with Toyota Alabang which agreed to use "Rags2Riches" to furnish their cars instead of the regular carpet. Designer Rajo Laurel has also seen some samples and plans to design bags out of them.

"We are doing this to show the Payatas mothers na may worth ang ginagawa nila…that their products are not basta basahan lang," pointed out RC.
Students Kathleen Arandela and Maurene Papa had the same idea with used tarpaulins.

With the mind of an environmentalist, the two penned their thesis proposal "Bill–a–Bag," which aims to bring solid waste management to a creative level by transforming garbage–bound tarpaulins from billboards to stylish and durable handbags.

For Justine Castillo, chairperson of the Development Marketplace, financial gain comes second to improving the self–esteem of young people through her and partner Joyce Platon's art program called "Fresh Step."
With poor yet talented youths of Barangay Ilaya, Mandaluyong, as beneficiaries, Castillo and Platon hope to mold a ballerina or thespian out of these kids via free trainings in the performance arts.

"In my barangay in Mandaluyong, I've seen so many talented kids but they're not impassioned or empowered to see beyond their present situation," lamented Justine.

"What we wanted is to have a venue where these kids can have fun singing and dancing, and have sessions with them as well that will build their self–confidence," she continued.

Castillo hopes to train at least 25 kids in the succeeding months and produce quality graduates when final grading comes.

Saving up for future disasters is the concept behind "IMPUKAN (Impok at Ugnayan Para sa mga Kababayang Nasalanta).

A personal experience taught social innovations senior Jaymee Duran that the first 24 hours is very crucial after a disaster strikes.
Thus she developed a "pre–disaster social insurance fund that would enable a more efficient disaster management response."

By donating any amount to IMPUKAN, disaster victims are assured of help and assistance from the volunteers of Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan.
"The problem with us Filipinos is saka pa lang tayo kikilos 'pag anjan na ang problema. In the first 24 hours, we could do more things if we are prepared ahead of time. What we are trying to change (through this project) is the reactive mentality of Filipinos," remarked Jaymee.

Duran has only four months to collect R50,000 — the time frame given by her professors to complete the course requirement.

Nonetheless, Jaymee plans to carry on this mission even after she leaves Ateneo which taught her how to be "a person for others."

For more information about this program and other programs on Social Entrepreneurship, you can email Reese Fernandez at reesefernandez@yahoo.com or contact us at (02) 426-4279 or (02) 426-6001 loc. 4637.