This is an excerpt of Mr. Blair’s piece in The Guardian, dated August 30, 2011. Read more
Business leaders, microentrepreneurs, and NGO workers will gather at the NBC Tent, Fort Bonifacio, Global City from Feb. 22-23 to celebrate the work of the private sector in providing poverty-stricken Filipinos with livelihood opportunities, and to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the People Power Revolution.
The “People-Powered Markets” exhibit will also serve as venue for the participants to discuss and plan how to build on the work of companies and microfinance institutions in engaging enterprising Filipinos in poor communities and empowering them with funds, training, and outlets for their products.
President Benigno Aquino III will attend the event. Among the business leaders who will attend the event are Philippine Long Distance Company chair Manny V. Pangilinan, Philippine Investment Management, Inc. president and chief executive officer Ramon del Rosario, and renowned accountant-philanthropist Washington Sycip.
“We seek to bring about a People Power to transform the market into an instrument for shared progress for all Filipinos,” said Dan Songco, president and chief executive officer of the PinoyME Foundation, a key organizer of the exhibit.
“I am inviting all Filipinos who believe that we can bring growth to our lives and to society through hard work and unity. The exhibit will not only show models on how we can participate in supporting microentrepreneurs, but also share knowledge and encouragement for people to start their own microenterprises.”
People-Powered Markets also marks the 5th Year Anniversary of PinoyME, which was started by former president Corazon Aquino in 2006 with the aim of reducing poverty by championing microenterprise and microfinance. In one of her last speeches, the People Power icon urged Filipinos to join PinoyME in its mission.
“Over the past year, I have been inspired by the noble work of microfinance institutions which have reached out to the entrepreneurial poor, giving them the means to uplift their lives through honest and hard work. To many of us, livelihood loans of P1,000 to P10,000 may not mean much, but to those outside the fringes of the mainstream economy, these are vital in tiding them over from day to day. The small but steady income from their micro-enterprises makes it possible for them to eat decent meals, to send their children to school and to nurture dreams of a better life,” Aquino said.
In a mere five years, PinoyME has established itself as a driving force in different microfinance and microenterprise areas. Today, it is more than a source for funds; it has stimulated more academic research on microfinance, gathered information experts to help automate microfinance institutions, and helped microentrepreneurs find outlets for their products. Not surprisingly, its growth has coincided with the advancement of microfinance in the country. Microfinance now reaches more than 5 million Filipinos through the services of 500 microfinance institutions with a combined portfolio of P12 billion.
Value chains that work for the people
PinoyME has not been alone in efforts to promote microenterprise as poverty reduction tool. There have been various allies–from companies and universities to microfinance institutions and consolidators. The unity of these institutions to support microentrepreneurs will be showcased as “value chains that work for the people.”
A value chain is a physical representation of the various processes that are involved in producing goods. For instance, there is a chain between Jollibee Foods Corporations and farmers from Nueva Ecija, Bukidnon, and Nueva Vizcaya. Jollibee partners with the farmers for its requirement of fresh ingredients like onions and bell peppers. However, the two would not have been able to transact without the collaboration of The Catholic Relief Service Philippines, which promotes market-driven strategies to facilitate farmers’ participation in the mainstram market, and the National Livelihood Development Corporation, a government corporation mandated to provide for the credit needs of farmers. The chain hence is not merely between Jollibee and the farmers, but also includes CRS and the NLDC.
Labeled by Lopa as a “reverse trade fair”, the exhibit is innovative in the sense that it allows microentrepreneurs to learn of ways of doing business with established companies by being part of their value chain. This is an inversion of the traditional trade fair wherein microentrepreneurs market their goods to the companies and to consumers.
“On the other hand, businessmen can learn from these models and say ‘I want to use this model to meet my requirements and also help out the people in my community. Or a NGO could say ‘I want to be part of this value chain and organize people into a cooperative so they can meet the delivery requirements of a company’,” said Songco.
“These are not just value chains but models of People Power. In a sense that is what we are celebrating and what we want to bring about more–People Power that has transcended the political and that makes a direct impact in the lives of people,” he added.
People-Powered Markets will also feature product development clinics on niche marketing and seminars on how to partner with companies by being part of the value chain. Admission is free. For more information on PinoyME, please visit the website http://www.pinoyme.com/.