FLAF 2009: Developing a Nation of Young Social Entrepreneurs
By: Harvey S. Keh
The Manila Bulletin-February 1,2009
When Angeli Silang, Julius Falzado and Jessica Robredo conceived and started Handog na Oras Para sa Edukasyon (HOPE) during their sophomore year at the Ateneo de Manila University, one of the things they realized was even at a young age they could already start making a big difference in the lives of other people. HOPE is a summer instructional program which has helped hundreds of public elementary school students from Marikina City prepare for high school. The program which runs for two months, allows Ateneo college student volunteers to teach supplementary lessons in English, Science and Mathematics to the participants. The result has been very positive thus far with most of the participants faring well in national achievement tests given by the Department of Education (DepEd). According to Angeli who lives in Marikina City, she decided to join and commit time to running the program primarily because she wanted to do something concrete towards helping her own community particularly those who are not an fortunate as her to have received a good education. For Jessica whose dad, incumbent Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo is one of the most credible public servants in the country, she believes that her experience in HOPE made her become a better servant leader and although they voluntarily worked on the program for almost 8 months, all the hard work was worth it especially when you see the smiles on the faces of the children who benefit from the program. Finally, Julius who is a scholar and consistent dean's lister at Ateneo said that it was through HOPE that he realized that even at a young age Filipinos can already do their own share in shaping a better future for our country. Julius adds that many Filipinos don't realize that the best time to actually start developing community and outreach projects is when you are still young and idealistic since this is the time where you don't have that much commitments yet aside from your studies.
These experiences and realizations are most likely the reasons why the three of them decided to set up and organize the Future Leaders of Asia Forum on Social Entrepreneurship (FLAF). FLAF is annual conference of college student leaders organized by the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government (ASOG), Ateneo de Manila University-Loyola Schools, Ashoka-Philippines, Jollibee Foundation and Avant Change. The main aim of the conference is to be able to introduce the concept of social entrepreneurship and to encourage the participants to set-up their own social enterprises similar to HOPE. Social Entrepreneurship is defined as finding innovative and sustainable ways of solving social problems. Last year, FLAF was able to gather more than 120 participants coming from over 30 different colleges and universities all over the country. Aside from this, a tie-up with the Asian Youth Forum (AYF) led to 12 international delegates coming from Mongolia, Japan, Pakistan and Indonesia. Speakers included Harvard University Mason Fellows Steve Koon and Atty. Arnel Casanova who both discussed about the importance of social entrepreneurship in helping improve the quality of life of every person and Ashoka Country Representative. Ashoka's Country Representative and ASOG Dean Dr. Antonio La Vina gave examples of notable social entrepreneurs all over the world who are now making positive change in their respective countries. A development marketplace featuring social enterprises of Development Studies' students was also organized to give the participants a glimpse of how their own peers are able to start-up and manage their own ventures. As a highlight of the event, participants were taught how to develop their own social enterprise business plan which they were asked to present to a panel composed of practicing Filipino social entrepreneurs. The panel gave the participants feedback and suggestions on how to further improve their social enterprise plans. At the end of the 4-day event, a social enterprise business plan writing competition was launched in cooperation with the Coca-Cola Foundation. Among the winners were students from Ateneo de Manila University, Ateneo de Naga University, De La Salle University and Xavier University. The winners received seed funding which they will use to start-up and run their social enterprises. One of the more innovative social enterprises was Teatro Berde wherein students of Ateneo de Naga University would create plays that would highlight the importance of taking care of our environment.
This year, FLAF will be held from April 15-18,2009 at the Ateneo de Manila University, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. In line with the global thrust of promoting environmental awareness, the theme of the forum is, "Social Entrepreneurship: Employing Innovations in Pursuit of Environmental Sustainability." Interested applicants and schools can now log on to http://www.ateneoflaf.com to apply and to find out more about the forum. You can also contact the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government (ASOG) at (02) 426-5657 for more information.
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Harvey S. Keh is Director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship at the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government (ASOG).