I had the chance to discover social entrepreneurship while I was a student in France and I got very passionate about it. So when makesense offered me the opportunity to develop the makesense community of social entrepreneurs and volunteers in South East Asia, I didn’t doubt for a minute! I felt the need to discover social entrepreneurship means over there and I had specific questions in mind; what is a social innovation in Asia? How could we engage citizens with local beautiful projects? How could I also contribute? And I found myself arriving in the Philippines for the first time in January of 2015.

To start this exploration, the Philippines seemed to be the perfect playground: the existence of a dynamic youth, existing social enterprises, many students, and so much more! Like many French people who arrive in the Philippines, my first connection with the local social entrepreneurship sector was through Gawad Kalinga. Tony Meloto, its founder, knew makesense very well, as one of our co-founders (Leila Hoballah) was one of their very first international volunteers in Gawad Kalinga many years ago. He invited us to develop the makesense community in the Philippines so makesense could contribute to his mission of creating 500,000 social enterprises in the country by 2025.

Tony Meloto x Léa 

2015 in the GK Enchanted Farm

Almost 4 years later, I see how the sector is growing and the potential of development is rising. Indeed, the Philippines is a very young country (half of its population is under 24) and the youth is engaged more than ever to shape a new society. Yet despite a strong motivation and passion for their country, the local youth don’t always know where to start,  where to volunteer, what to do, etc… to tackle local issues. And this is totally understandable, as some of the questions and challenges they face are tremendous:
– How to ensure food security for a country composed of 110 million inhabitants that keep growing every year by 1.72%, and where farmers are the poorest people?
– How to offer long-life opportunities to his youth when half of the population is under 24 years old?
– How to build infrastructures based, on the assets of an archipelago of 7107 islands, to better preserve the population from natural disasters?

Hopefully, beautiful organizations exist and act every day to shape the future of the country. 


If we go back in time, the Philippines was a real pioneer in term of development projects.

 “NGOs in the Philippines have benefited from government administrations that, since the mid-1980s, have been generally supportive of civil society. This has resulted in one of the most well-developed and institutionalized civil society sectors in the developing world” says the Asian Development Bank

This contribution from the past governments in the 80’s and 90’s attracted many NGOs in the country but also multilateral funds that contributed a lot to the funding of development and infrastructure projects in the country.
Unfortunately, the situation is changing nowadays: the development sector is really big (around 500 000 NGOs) but most of the organizations within it stay small, struggle with funds and have poor resources. Moreover, the advent of digital and new technologies has resulted in the emerging of new social and environmental challenges that evolve very fast; and the reality today is many organizations have difficulties to adapt their structures to these new contexts.

This is where the movement of social enterprises started and can bring an interesting answer in the Philippines.

The Social enterprises concept is starting to become famous to the general public thanks to very nice success stories that reinvent the way we do businesses in the Philippines: Rag2riches, Human Nature, Bambike, Hapinoy, Plush & Play etc…

What is a social enterprise in the Philippines?

For me, a social enterprise is an organization whose objective is to solve a specific social or environmental challenge thanks to an agile, scalable, & sustainable business model.

In the Philippines, what surprised me the most at first is that I felt like most social enterprises are mainly fair-trade product related. I guess this is linked to the definition we give to social enterprises in the Philippines: enterprises that impact positively the poor.
If I compare, and I can only compare with what I know, which is France:) –

– In France the sector of social enterprises is quite larger: it goes from open-community of local traders offering free services to homeless people to mobile apps enabling deaf people to make phone calls. the definition of social enterprises is quite larger as it concerns any solutions answering social or environmental challenges: handicap, sustainable agriculture, waste management, etc… 
Personally, I think it’s very linked to the social and environmental challenges of a country and the stage of the sector; today one of the biggest challenges of the Philippines is poverty; a lot of entrepreneurs are trying to offer economic opportunities to the poorest of the country,  by building a product-based business.
Also, the social enterprises sector is still young; but new models of SEs are broadening the sector such as Citihub, Urban Greens or Blood Hero; and it’s very exciting!


When these impact-driven enterprises are integrated into a strong ecosystem engaged for the same purpose, we have the capacity to make a drastic change; and that’s exactly what a social innovation is.

Teach for the Philippines (TFP) is an amazing example of social innovation; the founders developed an incredible model that contribute to poverty reduction and access to education for all. What do they do? Enlist the country’s young leaders to teach for 2 years in public schools. The model is easy, TFP offers a 2-year employment contract to young graduates or professionals to teach in a public school and contribute to the development of the nation through education. TFP built a very innovative community model as they impact and engage all the players of the society:
Government & public schools (TFP developed a solution answering the lack of teachers for a population that keeps growing and partner with local schools & DOE)
Civil society (by paying their volunteer-teachers, TFP democratizes and enables anyone to positively contribute to the nation)
Companies (who partner with TFP to scale the program nationally)
Local communities as education play an important role in reducing poverty and improving the lives of individuals and their families.

(I’m only presenting the model of Teach for the Philippines but there are other amazing social innovations in the Philippines. In a next article, I will share with you my 10 favorite social innovations of the country.)

It’s very interesting because in less than 10 years we see that the way we consume, the way we address challenges, the ways we collaborate with the bottom of the pyramid are evolving.
For the moment we are only at the beginning of the movement but I believe that with more multi-actors collaborations we will be able to actually build a more inclusive and fair model for the Filipino society.


In makesense we try, as much as possible, to contribute to this new model: in September we are opening the makesense academy, a 6-month free program dedicated to very early stage entrepreneurs willing to transform their ideas into impactful social startups. Our objective with this program is to enable more people to become social entrepreneurs and be supported in the beginning of their adventures.

Léa Klein – makesense Philippines Director