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‘Café au’ social innovation

If there’s café au lait (coffee with milk), there is now what I would call café au social innovation. The latter is not a coffee drink per se but a café (excuse my French-English coinage), a place to be, a showcase of “a new generation of social entrepreneurs who aim to create businesses that leave no one behind.”  Here one could, of course, also drink coffee—and more.

I was at the soft launch of The Enchanted Farm Café. I have known its beginnings, having been appraised every step of the way by Gawad Kalinga (GK) founder and moving spirit Antonio Meloto. The café has its roots in GK’s The Enchanted Farm in Angat, Bulacan which I had visited and written about last year. More on the farm and the vision later.

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The Enchanted Farm Café is an “advocacy café” which showcases products sourced from and produced in the Philippines by the social enterprises in GK’s The Enchanted Farm and other partner advocacy groups and entrepreneurs “that do not leave the poor behind.”  The café is located on Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City, on the second floor of the building where GK’s fast-growing Human Nature body care products are sold.

Advocacy cafés are here to stay? There is another “advocacy café” that I had written about—Advocafé. It showcases products of indigenous peoples/communities (IPs) and staffed by IPs. My good friend Ben Abadiano, who, like Meloto, is an RM Awardee (for Emergent Leadership, 2004), put up Advocafé to support Pamulaan, a college he founded for IP students. Advocafé is on Quintos St. near Roxas Boulevard.

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Social enterprises partnering with The Enchanted Farm Café are the following:

The Enchanted Farm is a village university, the nurturing ground for social enterprises that provide “only the best for the least.” It is a place where good businesses, products, and food grow.

Bambike is a socio-ecological enterprise that makes handcrafted bamboo bicycles designed with green innovation and handmade by GK villagers. Built with locally sourced bamboo and abaca, the bikes are naturally strong and serve as a physical statement for green transportation advocacies.

Filbamboo Exponents provides high quality products in the form of food, beverages and health supplements through an integrated and holistic approach. Envisioned as a social enterprise devoted to promoting bamboo in the pursuit of health, wellness and beauty to address each individual’s needs and care for the environment, this company aims to create sustainable livelihood for rural farming communities in the Philippines.

Rags2Riches is a social business enterprise creating designer lifestyle masterpieces that embody eco-ethical style. This company partners with high-end designers to create eco-ethical fashion and home accessories out of “upcycled” scrap cloth, organic materials and indigenous fabrics. Rags2Riches gives jobs to women in poor communities.

The Golden Egg aims to grow horizontally from the Enchanted Farm platform with a vision of creating a more sustainable duck egg and meat industry. They are produced by GK families at The Enchanted Farm. The eggs shells are dyed yellow (instead of the usual toxic red) using turmeric.

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Gourmet Keso is a dairy enterprise that aims to provide artisan cheeses of the finest quality. Income from sales will help GK projects. The daily products are made from milk sourced from local farmers and made by members of the GK community.

Other social enterprises are Happy Green, makers of Enchantea; Gandang Kalikasan, makers of Human Nature; Hamlet, makers of natural meat products; Cafe de Sug Sulu Coffee; Blue Bamboo Ventures; Ecoingenuity, makers of Jacinto and Lirio; Theo and Philo, the first to make truly Filipino chocolate bars; GKonomics, makers of world-class community-produced items.

The Enchanted Farm is the venue of the Center for Social Innovation (CSI). There, product ideas are hatched and tested. CSI is part of GK’s second phase: a 21-year vision with a roadmap towards a First World Philippines. CSI suggests daring and creativity. Living the CSI way is for the big of heart, not the faint of heart.

But who says one can’t have fun in a place like this?

The farm is on 14 hectares of verdant, undulating terrain. It is farm, home, village and “university” rolled into one, where people’s dreams and ideas are put to the test, made to grow and become realities.

The Enchanted Farm in Barangay Encanto in Angat, Bulacan is, as its name and location suggest, indeed a special place like no other. The farm is rapidly transforming the Angat landscape by being a sustainable community, a place of learning, creating and, most of all, sharing.

When GK quietly began in 2000 “by building communities to end poverty,” Meloto had no idea how far he and his fellow dreamers from Couples for Christ (CFC) would go. GK began as a ministry for the poor of CFC. The story of how GK grew from its small beginnings is told in Meloto’s book “The Builder of Dreams.” There are now more than 1,700 GK communities in the Philippines plus several in three Asian countries.

When SIM visited the farm, there were about a dozen young volunteers integrating and doing their chores. They came from different countries and the Philippines. Many were new graduates, others have had fruitful, high-paying careers that they gave up to work with GK.

Last May Meloto received the Nikkei Asia Award for Regional Growth. Just recently he was invited to the World Economic Forum in Davos. To thinkers, policy makers and generators of global wealth, Meloto describes how GK is “creating a hybrid of philanthropy and social business to achieve impact, scale and sustainability.” Meloto loves to say, “Mangangarap ka rin lang, bakit ka pa magtitipid?” (If you must dream, why limit yourself?)

Send feedback to [email protected] or www. ceresdoyo.com

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