Ashley Uy

Supporting the Supporters

I haven’t been to a lot of meetups lately but when I heard SlingshotPH was doing an echo event in Cebu I was super excited.

Government and I have been in a love-hate relationship ever since in my years as a community builder (and I guess many of you know why). Despite my bittersweet feelings, the insights I’ve gained from some of the best mentors I’ve met within their team drove me to believe that there is a part of our government that is fighting for change and, through SlingshotPH, I wanted to know who those people were and how we can help support them in their push for a better innovation ecosystem.

I am sure covers of the whole event have been or will be published by many other more renowned personalities so I’m just going to skip to the parts that I care most about.

To reach the grassroots level of awareness for the importance of innovation and the support of such, communities need volunteers. Often times, these volunteers operate with their own budget, resources, and willpower with only a few supporting programs and organizations to assist them. It is hard work. Work that is unfortunately more often paralleled with government efforts rather than intertwined. Not to mention the difficulty in passing on the mantle as many know the hardship that comes with the role.

With that premise during the Critical Success Factors for Startups panel discussion’s QnA section, I asked the question:

 Are there any programs within the Philippines that support community builders?

SlingshotPH Cebu Swing

SlingshotPH Cebu Swing photo © Symph Facebook Page

As I expected, there weren’t any existing programs that directly benefited community builders but I was surprised I got a few solid examples.

The USAID STRIDE Program

Dr. Richard Abendan from the USAID STRIDE program took the mic first and talked about the various grants in their program.

STRIDE is an effort between the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Philippine government to promote economic growth.

Their grants are only available through partnership with any academic institution that are listed under their program. So what a community builder could do is to partner with a local university and apply to get funding from the STRIDE program.

They accept applications that have anything to do with academe-industry matching to commercializing and funding academic research work.

I was personally thrilled to get that information as I exchanged a few emails with Dr. Abendan and found out that our local university in Bohol (Bohol Island State University), which by the way was both the venue for Startup Weekend Bohol 2 and hosts the Philippines’ first FabLab, is one of their partners. So, I could channel efforts through them.

Dr. Evelyn Taboada then added that for community builders in Cebu, the University of San Carlos have been grateful beneficiaries of the STRIDE Program and are happy to collaborate with any efforts from the community. She is one of the researchers of the university that pioneered the process to reuse fruit waste and, with the help of USAID, commercialize their product to sustain their facility of a hundred workers who were mostly employed from the surrounding dump sites.

A Ground-up Effort

The next answer, which was more of a job assignment to me as Ms. Tina jokingly put it, was a suggestion from Karl Satinitigan, Program Director of the Office of Senator Bam Aquino. To create a program that brings together foundations, organizations, and independent community builders based on a format that already exists and was executed in Manila in 2015.

Ashoka Common Ground

CommonGround brings together foundations, network builders, community shapers and organizations – those dedicated to building ecosystems that help changemakers, entrepreneurs, and artists grow. These organizations create the necessary platforms for collaboration and growth in their respective fields.

The event is a conversation between social enterprise incubators, startup communities, artist collectives, award-giving bodies, and fellowships. Basically all networks of support are invited to attend for everyone to learn from each other’s practices and hopefully work together to a common goal.

So what Karl was suggesting was for us (and I mean us, the innovation community as a whole, and not me, pining and sniveling because nobody would take my 10 followup calls for the next sponsorship request) was to replicate their model and create our own conversation and action on supporting each province’s community leader.

Ashoka is the world’s largest association of leading social entrepreneurs.

To give credit where credit is due, Ashoka Philippines, together with co.lab and MUNI, came together to create CommonGround: Helping Connectors Thrive.

  1. SEARCH – How do you search for and select your community members?
  2. SUSTAIN 1 – How do you sustain the culture & connections w/in your community?
  3. SUSTAIN 2 – How do you raise the necessary resources to support your organization?
  4. SCALE – How do you scale the impact of your organization?
  5. STATS – How do you measure the impact of your work as a community builder or network shaper?
  6. SPACE – How do you create physical spaces that encourage collaboration / connections?

These points were designed to be breakout sessions for each conversation with a moderator for each group. What’s key here is the bringing together of the right participants to ensure that concise planning and decision making go hand-in-hand efficiently.

This program content shared to me is simply a preview of the full CommonGround methodology. You can learn and read more about it here.

Key Takeaways

As community builders, the people who do all the ground work and hustling to empower members of an ecosystem, we need at least three things to make our jobs easier. Funding for events (just anything that covers logistics), a mentors pool (a database of who is available for what, when, and where), and something I call a “therapy group” (more groups like Startup PH: Bisdak Community Builders).

If there was a pyramid of basic needs for us, these items would be at the very foundation. Without a central source to turn to, we’ll have to savagely scour our existing networks to scrap together as much as we can so we can barely pay back the vendors we owe and still be held accountable for keeping the momentum going.

Point is, there is no existing program dedicated to support us and yes, we have to do something about it. Grassroots level individuals can only do so much and the entrepreneur in me is saying: How can we get the largest point of impact with the least amount of cost and effort?

And just as I am writing this blog post, this pops up on my feed:

I don’t know what exactly they’re cooking up over there but for sure I’m keeping my eyes peeled for it.

Hopefully, this account of my two minutes under the SlingshotPH Cebu spotlight has proved useful to someone other than myself. Cheers to community builders! May you continue to do what you do best and may people now take your 10 followup calls for the next sponsorship request.

UPDATE: StartupPH.org officially launched! It aims to be the voice for all the organizaitons nationwide supporting the local startup ecosystem in the Philippines. Hoping to be the community’s official representative in government, a portal to the Philippine scene for investors, and a credible source for corporate, it’s spearheading efforts with the partnership of public and private sectors. Exciting!

 

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