Cebu City, Philippines may not have been a top-of-mind destination for Miller Center’s largest university partnership to date, but when the University of San Carlos (USC), declared itself all-in for social entrepreneurship, Miller Center saw an amazing opportunity.

 Andy Lieberman shares GSBI methodology with USC faculty Andy Lieberman shares GSBI methodology with USC faculty

Rather than starting from scratch in building their Center for Social Entrepreneurship, USC has chosen to work with Miller Center to adapt our programs to their needs. We knew going into the partnership that Miller Center’s location in Silicon Valley and global impact focus meant that our models would need to be recreated by the USC team to fit into the context of their university and their focus on the Central Visayas region of the Philippines.

The partnership was formally launched in February, and all early signs point to a synergistic collaboration. Miller Center’s model for working with social entrepreneurs and university students has evolved over the last 15 years. The USC is studying every aspect of Miller Center ranging from curriculum to process guides to job descriptions so that they can build from what we have found to work.

Of course, each aspect of the Center will need to be localized to fit into USC’s mandate and structure. Miller Center is committed to accompanying USC through each step. As with Miller Center, the two areas of focus for USC will be on student formation in social entrepreneurship and on providing training to operating social enterprises beyond the walls of the university.

 95% of Gibitngil Islet residents earn their livelihoods by fishing. These fish are being dried in the sun for later sale. 95% of Gibitngil Islet residents earn their livelihoods by fishing. These fish are being dried in the sun for later sale.

As part of their vision to make social entrepreneurship a distinguishing feature of the university, beginning next year, all students in the School of Business and Economics will be required to take two social enterprise courses, modeled after Miller Center’s Global Social Benefit Fellowship (GSBF) program.  The students will learn the fundamentals of social enterprise business models through case studies from Miller Center’s Global Social Benefit Institute’s (GSBI®) global alumni base and newly created case studies more local to Cebu. They will also engage in practical field-based learning experiences. The top performers in the courses will be eligible for a full action research experience modeled after GSBF in which they implement projects that marshal key resources of the university – critical thinking and expert knowledge – and apply these to the practical needs of social enterprises and the economically excluded communities they serve. In addition to business students, these courses will be open as electives to all of USC’s 22,000 students.

A recent report entitled Reaching the Farthest First: The State of Social Enterprise in the Philippines indicates that social enterprise is taking off in the Philippines with the number of enterprises tripling in the last year alone. We also see macro trends that led US News and World Report to declare the Philippines as the #1 country to invest in. This rapid growth indicates potential for great social impact but also makes it clear that the social enterprise ecosystem is nascent and can benefit from support. USC will launch social enterprise training programs built from Miller Center’s methodologies. Early-stage enterprises will be trained locally through GSBI Boost workshops, which will initially be co-facilitated by Miller Center and USC, but over time will be fully run by USC. More established social enterprises will be invited into GSBI Online cohorts and accompanied by seasoned GSBI mentors and Cebu-based mentors that USC will recruit and train.

 Miller Center, USC, and RAFI staff visit Gibitngil Islet to explore social enterprise opportunities Miller Center, USC, and RAFI staff visit Gibitngil Islet to explore social enterprise opportunities

This collaboration would never have been launched had it not been for SCU alumnus and Cebu City native, Jon Ramon Aboitiz, who saw the potential of bringing both universities together. His family’s Ramon Aboitiz Foundation (RAFI) is providing financial support and getting hands-on by providing technical assistance, including digging into their database of 250,000+ microloan recipients to identify candidates for social enterprise training.

Dr. Lauro Silapan, Coordinator of Graduate Programs at USC’s School of Business and Economics and point person for the Center for Social Entrepreneurship said that, “The partnership constitutes a force that pools together human and physical capital, processes, and technology to promote social entrepreneurship in the Philippines in general and Central Visayas in particular. The shared pool of expertise and experiences is crucial to capacitate USC-SBE’s Center for Social Entrepreneurship to be able to contribute meaningfully in creating a network of social enterprises in Central Visayas through the trainings for faculty, social entrepreneurs, and business mentors.”

He added that, “The recent visit of Andy Lieberman and Mark Correnti clarified earlier preconceptions on the operation of a center that brings together social enterprises, academe, business mentors, investors, and other stakeholders to create scalable and sustainable solutions to alleviate poverty. The sessions they led devoted to understanding social entrepreneurship, impact investing, action research, and running a center for social entrepreneurship emphasized the need to contextualize the GSBI methodology to local conditions to be effective.”

All of us engaged in this project believe that this three-way partnership will create a model that is not only sustainable for USC, but also replicable to other universities around the world. In this way, Miller Center will truly have the best of both worlds by having our global reach from Silicon Valley and deep local connections through our partners.

For more information about this project, please contact me via email.