Innovation Culture Takes Over Youth in Southern Philippines

iStart Startups: I am Free to Innovate
iStart Startups: I am Free to InnovateiStart Startups: I am Free to Innovate

In Butuan City, more than two hundred students and civil society representatives from all over Caraga Region converged to participate in FNF Philippine’s I am Free to Innovate forum. The forum aimed to ignite the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation culture among the youth.

”The Philippines is an excellent playground for social innovation,” said Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, the keynote speaker at the forum. 

The most common forms of social innovation in the Philippines are social enterprises that deal with marginalized groups or communities. In an October 2017 study by the British Council Philippines, there is estimated to be over 164,473 social enterprises in the country.

Insitutionalizing Innovation 

Forum's keynote speaker, Senator Bam Aquino
Forum's keynote speaker, Senator Bam Aquino FNF Philippines

Senator Aquino wants entrepreneurship, specifically the innovative startups culture, to flourish. 

He said: “Before becoming a senator, I was also an entrepreneur, a social entrepreneur. The reason why I want to go to the Senate was because we want to create a better environment for our country, especially for startups, to achieve success.”

He authored the Innovative Startups Bill which enables the growth of Startups in the Philippines. Its salient features include salary and office space subsidy; seamless certification process; special visas for foreign partners and experts; exemption from taxes during early stages; and centers for the startup communities.

Read more on the Startups Innovative Bill here.

As a former entrepreneur, Senator Aquino pushes for legislations that aims for a better environment for Filipinos to achieve success. He admits that despite economic growth, poverty rate is not decreasing. For this reason, Senator Aquino also stressed the importance of education as key to a country’s progress. 

“If we continue to push for education, job creation and business opportunities, we will create a better framework for economic growth to be distributed over the country,” Senator Aquino said.

Successful stories that inspire the innovation movement  

“Financial freedom can be achieved through innovation,” said renowned startup entrepreneur Aisa Mijeno of SALt (Sustainable Alternative Lighting). SALt is a sustainable and cost effective ecologically designed lanterns activated by salt water.

Aisa Mijeno of SALt features a video to the audience
Aisa Mijeno of SALt features a video to the audienceFNF Philippines

Mijeno also explained the term “grassroots innovation”— a movement she promotes through SALt. “Innovative products do not always need to have a ‘tech’ component in it. It capitalises on the creators of products, which address the problems the creators themselves experience,” Mijeno said.

Miggy Azurin of Huskee Digital
Miggy Azurin of Huskee DigitalFNF Philippines

Miggy Azurin opened the session by sharing how, at a very young age, he was able to make use of his entrepreneurial capacity and establish his own startup. He is currently the CEO of Huskee Digital which offers marketing assistance to other startups by promoting and helping them sell products online.

Jessica Odvina shares her challenges building her startup
Jessica Odvina shares her challenges building her startupFNF Philippines

Also known as “Guyabano Queen”, Jessica Odvina from Butuan shared her fair share of challenges when she started her juice business using the local fruit. Now, her products have reached a wide range in the Philippine market.

Atty. Kristine Alcantara of AAA Law
Atty. Kristine Alcantara of AAA LawFNF Philippines

The growing trend of innovation also requires for the environment to keep up. Atty. Kristine Alcantara of AAA Law explains how their firm approaches corporate and technology law with focus of protecting rights for the products. Legal frameworks also have to be innovative with the emergence of Bitcoin, crowdfunding, artificial intelligence, data science and so on. 

She ended her discussion by saying that “it does not matter what industry you come from, there is always an innovative way of doing things.”

PH part of FNF’s Global Innovation Drive

FNF Philippines started working actively to promote startups in 2016. It collaborated with the EU Delegation to the Philippines and with startup entrepreneurs and innovation experts. Following the success of the first startups forum of FNF PH, Scaling up Startups, it organised the Startups Festival that showcased 22 startups to promote inclusive innovation and the spirit of entrepreneurship.

FNF Philippines' Wolfgang Heinze addresses the crowd
FNF Philippines' Wolfgang Heinze addresses the crowdFNF Philippines

“Innovation thrives in the aim to achieve social transformation. I believe that the Innovative practices have always been around because of the country’s abundant natural resources combined with creative minds who try to do things differently. Not to mention, some of these efforts are world class,” Mr. Wolfgang Heinze, FNF Philippines Country Director said.

He stressed the importance of providing platforms for the youth to harness their creativity and entrepreneurial skills: “Innovation comes from the young, those who question why something is done in a certain way, and not differently. It makes society better and is beneficial to Filipino as a whole. It fosters competition which is a key to economic growth.”

“I am free to innovate” is part of FNF Philippines’ It’s All About Freedom Campaign that aims to translate the abstract concept of freedom into everday language. The program is organized with the cooperation of People Power Volunteers for Reform – CARAGA in Balanghai Hotel on 29 November 2018.