In Research


Year: 2017
Published in: ICSEM Project
Cited as: Dacanay, M. L. (2017) “Social Enterprise in the Philippines: Social Enterprises with the Poor as Primary Stakeholders”, No. 49.


Collaboration between scholars and practitioners in the Philippines has resulted in the development of a rich tradition of social entrepreneurship that focuses on the poor as key stakeholders in finding innovative and sustainable solutions to poverty and inequality. In this context, social enterprises with the poor as primary stakeholders (SEPPS) emerged as a unifying conceptual construct of a major type of social enterprise. Three major research studies on SEPPS have been undertaken by the author and the Institute for Social Entrepreneurship in Asia in the period between 2008 and 2015. The major findings of these research studies helped to shape the national discourse on social enterprise, and are shared in this paper. SEPPS are social-mission-driven organisations that enable the poor to participate in the creation and distribution of wealth. They are a response to the failure of state and market institutions to serve the poor and address the Philippine development paradox, characterised by economic growth combined with high poverty and inequality. In this sense, SEPPS are potential game changers. Two models of stakeholder engagement are evident among SEPPS: the collaboration model, in which the poor are engaged as transactional partners, and the empowerment model, which engages the poor not only as transactional partners but also as transformational partners. The multidimensional nature of poverty—which involves a state of capability deprivation and exclusion from the market and the economy—explains the relevance of both models. The collaboration model, in which the excluded poor are enabled to become workers, suppliers and clients of SEPPS, results in the development of inclusive and ethical markets. The empowerment model, in which the poor are also enabled to become full-fledged owners and decision makers of SEPPS, results in the transformation of the poor and development of the social economy. The institutionalisation of SEPPS is being catalysed by a coalition of practitioners and their supporters, who are engaging state and market in a dynamic process of innovation and transformation. As responses to state and market failures and as hybrid organisations engaged in this process of transformation, SEPPS play a dual role in building an equitable and plural Philippine economy. As such, they are important actors in developing a strong social economy and in catalysing the building of inclusive and ethical markets.