Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm (GKEF) brands itself as a farm village university, a Disneyland for social tourism, and a Silicon Valley for social entrepreneurship.
Not only does it provide employment and livelihood opportunities for the community members, mostly farmers based in the farm and nearby areas, but it also provides support for budding social entrepreneurs. Moreover, it serves as a destination for individuals and groups who seek a novel tourism experience.
Over the years, GKEF has helped several social enterprises—mostly set up by young individuals—address the unique challenges resulting from their desire to balance their financial and social objectives. Among the social enterprises that are incubating at the farm are Ambension Silk Enterprise, Bayani Brew, The Bee Empire, First Harvest, Golden Duck, Grassroots Kitchen, Karabella, Kayumanggi Organics and Plush and Play.
How does GKEF create and deliver value as a social business incubator? This was the question that my team of researchers at the DLSU Social Enterprise Research Center sought to answer.
We observed that there is a symbiotic relationship among GKEF’s major programs and activities. For example, GKEF’s tourism activities augment the support it gives to the social enterprises incubating in the farm. That is because the social enterprises can sell their products to the farm’s visitors and guests. On the other hand, GKEF’s social incubation program has attracted social entrepreneurs—both from the Philippines and abroad—who have provided employment and livelihood opportunities to community members through their social ventures. The social enterprises themselves serve as a major attraction for GKEF visitors who are interested to hear the inspiring stories of the social entrepreneurs, many of whom left their comfort zones to help realize Gawad Kalinga’s mission.
After looking closely at GKEF’s programs and services and how these have benefitted selected incubatees, we found out that GKEF’s business model can be characterized as utilizing a multi-lever ecosystem approach, which we illustrate below.
First, it harnesses the human and natural resources of its host community. This is evident in the case of Bayani Brew, which took advantage of the quality and abundance of raw materials (e.g., lemongrass) for its iced tea formulation; and also in the case of Plush and Play, which harnessed the excellent sewing skills of community members in coming up with stuffed toys with innovative designs.
Second, it leverages the compassion and entrepreneurial talent of its selected incubatees. Given the previous success of Gawad Kalinga in helping communities throughout the country and the goodwill it has built over the years, GKEF was able to attract a lot of individuals to start their social enterprises in the farm. Many of these individuals previously worked in the corporate world. This is true for the owners of Bayani Brew, Human Nature, Karabella and Plush and Play, who brought along with them their business knowledge and industry experience when they decided to set up their social enterprises because of their desire for meaningful alternatives to corporate employment.
Third, GKEF taps the knowledge and skills of interns and volunteers, many of whom come from different countries, including Japan, France and the US. These individuals provide various types of assistance to the social enterprises based on the farm, especially with their marketing and promotion activities.
Fourth, GKEF leverages the expertise and experiences of other more established social enterprises that incubated in the Farm. Unlike traditional business incubators that provide for the exit of its incubatees after they reach the scaling stage, GKEF utilizes a different strategy. Social enterprises that reach the scaling stage are tapped to be “part of the movement” by serving as a big brother for the younger social enterprises. For example, Human Nature, which has several retail outlets throughout the country, has helped other social enterprises by carrying the latter’s products in their stores.
Finally, GKEF takes advantage of its network of partners and donors, and leverages the collaboration that takes place within this network. Thanks to the generosity of several corporate donors, GKEF now has the following structures, among others: the Arch Angel–GK Center for Arts and Culture, the Bamboo Palace Center for Development Design, the Berjaya Garden Restaurant and Culinary Center, the Hyundai Center for Green Innovation and the LifeBank Center for Bayanihan Economics. These have allowed GKEF to provide its various facilities and services for its incubatees. Equally important is Gawad Kalinga’s partnerships with various government agencies like the Department of Trade and Industry, with various academic institutions (local or abroad), and even with local institutions (e.g., Integrated Bar of Bulacan). These partnerships allow GKEF to provide a comprehensive set of services for the social enterprises incubating in the farm.
Clearly, GKEF has been reasonably successful in being a platform for social business incubation. This is due to a conscious effort to take advantage of an ecosystem that is interconnected and interrelated. According to GKEF Head Shannon Khadka, “it’s a whole different scale of managing synergistic institutions.” As stated in its website, GKEF creates an ecosystem that is “forgiving enough for social entrepreneurs to make mistakes while testing prototypes and new business models... and demanding enough for them to build global Filipino brands that have real social and environmental impact.”
Raymund B. Habaradas is a full professor at the Management and Organization Department of the Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University, and is the holder of the Ambassador Ramon V. del Rosario Chair of Entrepreneurship. He does research on corporate social initiatives, social enterpreneurship and SME development. He is also a Fellow of the Social Enterprise Research Network of DLSU. He welcomes comments at [email protected] This article largely draws from an article published in the April 2019 issue of the DLSU Business & Economics Review. The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.