Think Big Grant to start new GKonomics enterprises
GKonomics International, a social enterprise development partner of Gawad Kalinga, won the Think Big Innovation Grant (BIG) award for having the most innovative business ideas that will have an impact on poverty alleviation in the Philippines.
Out of 94 entries received from an open search worldwide, grant organizers – The Fisherman Foundation, the SEVEN Fund and the University of Asia and the Pacific-Center for Social Responsibility, selected GKonomics as its very first Think BIG winner.
As Think BIG grantee, GKonomics will receive USD $20,000 to be used exclusively as seed funding for implementing its winning proposal. It also receives the Asian Social Enterprise Incubator prize, giving GKonomics 6 months of free management consultancy in the implementation of its project.
The $20,000 grant will be used to fund three enterprises: Bicycle messenger service, Woven newspaper caskets, and Cardboard surfboards.
These projects will provide immediate full-time employment for 120 GK residents. With an average of 6 members per family, 720 people will have food on the table.
“The goal of GKonomics is to give as many jobs as possible to GK residents, by giving them the skills to earn a living and by building sustainable social enterprises that will employ them,” shares GKonomics Finance Director, Pinky Poe.
One of the social enterprises that will be built from the fund is a Bicycle Messengerial Service which will target a niche market for light deliveries and will be very aggressive in replacing motorcycle couriers to help protect the environment from pollution.
The messengers will be employed from GK communities including GK Buwayang Bato in Mandaluyong and GK Arkong Bato in Pasig which are both within 10 to 15 minutes away from the Central Business District.
"With the huge unemployment in the Philippines, this social enterprise will be giving jobs to people with little opportunity elsewhere, as most of these residents have barely finished high school,” shares Poe.
"We will start by training 100 people, which will allow coverage for the entire Metro Manila and its environs." The social enterprises for sewing and printing at GK Paradise Heights (formerly Smokey Mountain) will also benefit from the manufacture of messenger bags from recycled tarpaulins and the sewing of uniforms, using the residents’ available skills and equipment. This corollary business will provide livelihood for another 10 families.
Meanwhile, the woven recycled newspaper caskets is a social business that will allow the poor to have decent burial options for their loved ones without having to fall prey to gambling syndicates.
In poor areas, it is common to see a wake being held by the sidewalk outside the home of the deceased. The wake happens within temporary tent-like structures which also hosts gambling activities. Since poor families cannot afford the high costs of embalming and burial, a syndicate would normally approach the family and lend the amount they need, provided that the family will “host” mahjong and card games and collect “tong” which is then paid to the syndicate that lent the money at very usurious rates.
"We envision a scheme where we will have 2 pricing tiers for caskets – a “designer” one, targeted at individuals who want to be buried in an environmentally-friendly way, but not cremated, and in so doing, pay also for 3 “simpler” caskets for the poor. With this scheme, poor families will not be forced to go to a usurious lender just to bury their deceased. We are also working on urns from recycled newspaper," Poe shares.
Arlington, one of the top funeral homes in Manila, has expressed interest in purchasing GKaskets to include in their services.
"We are in the process of negotiating with other big funeral homes as well. This is just the trial phase, and we are confident of its scalability," Poe adds.
GKaskets will initially benefit 15 residents from GK Bagong Silang in Cavite. The social enterprise will help 90 of the poorest residents in Metro Manila.
The third social enterprise to be helped by the Think BIG grant is Backburn, a start-up business which will produce eco-friendly surfboards. It seeks to capitalize on the growing trend for surfing in the Philippines, providing affordable surfboards that are friendlier to the environment.
The cardboard surfboards will be produced by residents of GK Pinagsama in Taguig City.
“We will train 10 residents of GK Pinagsama, assuring employment for 5 residents immediately after completion of training," says GKonomics Enterprise Development Manager Ivan Quiwa.
“We project production of 8 surfboards per quarter, " he says.
“As this is a youth-oriented market, this enterprise will provide assistance to public schools. For every surfboard or skim board sold, one classroom will be painted and properly lit and every year, one public school will be assisted, starting with the school nearest to the GK sites,” he adds.
At an average of 60 students per class with 3 shifts per day, each surfboard or skim board sold benefits 180 public school students.
The Think BIG (Breakthrough Innovation Grant) Award is an annual competition whose very first grantee is GKonomics International.
Think BIG finds social entrepreneurs whose ideas can serve as drivers for poverty alleviation and social improvement in the Philippines.
GKonomics was chosen based on its effect on the quality of life and poverty alleviation in Metro Manila and the feasibility of its proposal which is innovative, resourceful, scalable, and fit the particular needs of the Philippines in driving wealth creation.
GKonomics’ winning proposal was chosen by the Think BIG organizers namely: The Fisherman Foundation based in Boston who is guided by the Chinese principle: "Give a man a fish, feed him for a day; Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime;"The Social Equity Venture (SEVEN) Fund, a virtual non-profit run by entrepreneurs whose strategy is to markedly increase the rate of innovation and diffusion of enterprise-based solutions to poverty; the University of Asia and the Pacific–Center for Social Responsibility which seeks to maximize the synergy of the faculty, students, and partner institutions in uplifting the social and economic conditions of marginalized groups in society. This is borne out of the Christian doctrine that every person has the social obligation to reach out to the needy.