Taking Flight: Accelerating Social Entrepreneurship in Cebu and Beyond

At the end of September, Senior GSBI Mentor John O’Keefe and I took a trip to Cebu City to help launch a second round of accelerator programs there. This was my fourth visit to the Philippines, and the best one so far. Twenty months into the 3-year partnership between Miller Center and the University of San Carlos (USC), the lean yet passionate and committed team at the university’s School of Business and Economics (SBE) has made incredible progress building a new center of distinction for social entrepreneurship in Cebu. 

Sewing Cooperatives, Coconut Processing, and Ecotourism....

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Each place is unique. The enterprises that began the accelerator last month include a sewing cooperative, a coconut processor, and an eco-tourism company — to name just a few. Each of these enterprises truly reflects the local needs and resources of this region. While building on knowledge and insights from Miller Center, the USC SBE Center team has contextualized, adapted, and created entirely new programs designed to address the needs of the Cebu and Visayas communities it serves. “If we hope to nurture and grow the ecosystem for social entrepreneurship in the Philippines, we must meet entrepreneurs and students where they are,” says Allan Gozon, the Accelerator Program Manager at USC SBE Center for Social Entrepreneurship.

3 Accelerator Programs, 2 Undergraduate Courses, and 800 Students

The new Center for Social Entrepreneurship (CSE) in Cebu has already had a remarkable impact.  Here is a snapshot of the impressive array of programs and activities underway in 2019:

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  • GSBI CSE Ignite! Accelerator: Through a series of monthly immersive workshops, this 4-month accelerator program provides early stage social enterprises with business fundamentals and practical tools to apply what they learn and improve their business, impact, and financial performance. 

  • GSBI CSE Empower! Accelerator: A 6-month accelerator program, combining online and in-person workshops, for post-pilot stage social entrepreneurs to help strengthen their impact models, business models, growth strategies, and to prepare them for conversations with potential funders.

  • CSE Start UP! Program: A 4-week program for micro-small businesses delivered through a series of four immersive in-person workshops combining lectures, practical examples, and tools and templates with real-time mentoring. The program teaches financial literacy and business fundamentals, and demonstrates how to apply these to improve the participants’ business and individual livelihoods.

  • Undergraduate Courses on Social Entrepreneurship: A total of 837 students have enrolled in one of the two undergraduate courses offered on social entrepreneurship. The introductory course is a requisite for all students of the School of Business and Economics and a free elective option for students from all disciplines. It builds a basic understanding of social entrepreneurship and exposes students to real-world problems and solutions through immersion trips to local communities.

  • Farmer Entrepreneurship Youth Challenge: This year the University of San Carlos was invited to participate in the 2020 Farmer Entrepreneurship Youth Challenge. Sponsored by the Jollibee Foundation, the competition is a platform for college students and faculty to develop products, services, or process innovations for small farmers. Three student teams will compete in June 2020, and winning projects will receive funding and additional support. 

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Strong partnerships, such as this collaboration with USC, combines Miller Center’s experience with a partner’s deep local knowledge and talent. It builds local leaders, and expands social entrepreneurship in ways far beyond what Miller Center could hope to achieve on its own. It has been an exceptional, fulfilling journey so far, and we are just beginning to take flight.


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Jeff is Program Manager, Growth and Innovation for Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University. He is also Founder and Chief Strategist at iEnso Consulting, a boutique consultancy which helps purpose-driven businesses and entrepreneurs to bring new products and services to market. Prior to joining Miller Center, he was the Managing Director at Inkomoko, a business accelerator supporting the growth of high-potential entrepreneurs in Rwanda. His previous experience includes work as Venture Manager at Kaiser Permanente Ventures and Director of Product Marketing for Shaklee Corporation -a $500 million global consumer products company. He has also held positions with numerous startups including: Burn Manufacturing, Gazoontite.com, Syndero, Wikimedia Foundation, and GameChanger Products. Jeff earned his MBA from the University of Washington, Foster School of Business.