Creating the New Breed of Filipino Social Entrepreneurs through T101
by Marielle Bordado
The Innovation for Social Impact Partnership (ISIP) project aims to empower social enterprises to collectively contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). One of ISIP’s key strategies is Education. Through its Education component, ISIP aims to create a sustainable stream of social enterprises in the Philippines which will help realize this goal.
Dr. Marie Lisa Dacanay, Founding President of the Institute for Social Entrepreneurship in Asia (ISEA) explains the uniqueness of social enterprises compared to traditional businesses, “They [social enterprises] are not like ordinary businesses because they are social mission-driven and at the same time, they create wealth and distribute the wealth to the poor who are their primary stakeholders.”
The establishment of the Technopreneurship 101 (T101) as a mandated elective in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) offering Engineering courses is a significant milestone in strengthening capabilities of universities to produce a pipeline of startups with social impact. T101 introduces engineering students to the fundamentals of entrepreneurship and helps instil in them an entrepreneurial mindset.
On September 16 to 21, over 70 professors from various universities in the Philippines went through a six-day Faculty Training on Teaching Technopreneurship 101. While the activity’s main objective is to enhance the capability of the professors in Technopreneurship teaching, ISIP has facilitated the integration of social impact by providing tools, techniques, and knowledge to enhance their T101 teaching.
“The professors are really needed to guide the students, immersing the students to the realities, the social problems that we have. And before they [professors] can even facilitate T101 in their classrooms, they should have a different perspective, a different mindset, and that is the mindset of a technopreneur,” said Dr. Mary Rose Imperial, Chairperson of the Commission on Higher Education’s Technical Working Group on Technopreneurship.
Ken Singer, Managing Director of the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology at the University of California Berkeley; and David Law, Director of Global Academic Programs at UC Berkeley were the lead trainers of the Faculty Training.
“The importance of teaching a class like this where you challenge engineers to solve real-world problems is immense because oftentimes things they learn in traditional classes are very theoretical and academic and sometimes this is the first time that the students have the chance to apply these things into a real-world context. And the fundamental, real value of it is that they have to work with non-engineers in order to do it,” said Ken.
“Technopreneurship is really critical to economic development. It crosses boundaries in both developed countries and developing countries. It is a really important engine for economic growth,” adds David.
The Social Impact Aspect
The second session of the training focused on understanding the concept of social entrepreneurship and introducing the participants to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. They learned how to create solutions addressing the SDGs. Participants were grouped into teams and they had to choose which of the SDGs they wanted to address, with the guidance of the indicators, and targets listed under each SDG.
“The ISIP Faculty Training is a bit unique for us. We often, in our classes, have students or teams that are interested in pursuing an idea or a solution that has social impact. We actually taught specific entrepreneurship courses. But this is the largest scale kind of social impact training that we’ve done in the social entrepreneurship area,” said David.
Dr. Kevin Yaptengco, Chair of Agricultural, Food & Bio-Process Engineering Division of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, also currently teaching Tenchopreneurship 101, shares his motivation in joining the training, “The social impact aspect is the main reason I wanted to participate. Previous bootcamps I attended were more focused on the profit. I noticed that my students’ mindset is not very profit-oriented, so they have difficulty visualizing project ideas. Most of their project ideas were leaning towards social impact so I thought that maybe this approach would suit them better,” he said.
Other participants also shared the value they saw in integrating social impact into products and solutions.
“I learned that it becomes more engaging for people from various walks of life, with the integration of social impact. They become more curious. I think that if we remove the social aspect, it becomes more difficult to explain to others, for example when introducing a product or technology to the community,” said Laila Lavandero of the Central Luzon State University (CLSU). CLSU will start implementing T101 starting next school year.
Miguel Remolona from University of the Philippines Diliman also recognizes the significance of having a social impact on their innovations, “For me, it builds your credibility when you target social impact. When you say that your solution is trying to achieve a social impact, more people are willing to listen. In the entrepreneurship perspective, when you get people to listen, you get people to buy,” he adds. Miguel himself is also part of a startup called Retail Gate which provides data solutions based on AI or Machine Learning.
Designing the Process
One of the main challenges in teaching Technopreneurship is the apprehension of some instructors to teach the subject. It stems from their lack of experience in running their own company or startup.
“At first, I thought this would be very difficult for the students and faculty because this is relatively new, especially in our field in Civil Engineering. We were trained to focus on the technicalities of our course. As Ken puts it, we had this sort of artificial walls,” said Laila.
“Business validation was one particular area where the participants felt a bit anxious about. Most of them are engineers by trade, so when you start talking about a business model or a revenue model or value proposition, many of them get really nervous and anxious and feel like they don’t have the skills,” David explains.
To address this, the training was designed to simulate the experience for the instructors to come up with a viable solution and build their own startup. They had to go through the ideation process and develop their ideas.
Miguel relates his experience in the training to his own experience building their startup, “Apparently how I learned Technopreneurship was also the best way to teach Technopreneurship, by letting the students experience it.”
The lead trainers, Ken and David, also admit that one of the more challenging parts of this training is compressing a typically semester-long course into five days. They had to craft the design of the training, being mindful in providing time to process and explain the activities to the participants.
“What we decided to do was in the morning, treat the instructors as students, but in the afternoon we’d fold back the cover to show them how we did it, why we did it this way, and what they can do in their classrooms,” Ken explained.
The lead trainers employ the Master Class Method where they bring the teams up to present what they have done in the previous days and share it with the rest of the class. The other participants in the class are given the responsibility to provide feedback and ask questions to elicit insights.
“Master classes are incredibly important because the team gets very comfortable talking in front of people and defending their ideas. It also gets the audience active in the learning process. They become inquisitive and critical,” Ken emphasized.
The general process during the week-long training involved starting with the self; then the world or environment through social impact; then the validation of their idea through customer and stakeholders’ consultations; and lastly, the final pitch of the teams.
David describes the quality of the pitch from the participants during the training, “We were really impressed with the final pitches. There were some teams that did a week’s worth of work overnight and they really have become quite comfortable telling their story, what’s really important to convey to the audience in a short period of time.”
Creating Leaders through Technopreneurship
At the end of the training, participants were confident and keen on applying the lessons they have learned in their own classrooms. Laila Lavandero of CLSU shares, “Since Day 1, I have been thinking of what my students’ reactions would be when I start teaching Technopreneurship. Probably, just like what I felt, they will also wonder during the first day what they are doing but eventually they would discover something along the process, and in the end would be able to appreciate it.”
Dr. Yaptengco also shares how he can better improve his teaching of the subject, “Mentoring is really important. We need to learn how to mentor students. As a teacher, your tendency is to spoon-feed students, but I realized that it is better to be facilitative, just guiding them with the direction. I was able to derive practical examples on how to apply this in my teaching.”
On the other hand, Miguel emphasized the importance of teaching leadership through T101, “My takeaway is that it’s a good way to teach leadership. We’ve always been outcomes-based when it comes to learning. As teachers in engineering, how do we teach leadership to our students? I think that is an integral part of the outcome we want for our students. It’s not necessarily about the products that come out of it but handling the problems that come along while developing these products. That is the challenge and the advantage of teaching this class.”
“One of the things I’ve noticed here in the Philippines is intention. Most people have good intentions. They really want Manila to be a leader in innovation. They really want the Philippines to rise up and become a leader throughout the world. But in order for the country to become a leader in driving new technology, you’ll need to find a way to develop new leaders. Technology is not the pivotal word here, it’s LEADERSHIP in technology.” Ken concludes.
The Innovation for Social Impact Partnership (ISIP) project, supported by UNDP Philippines, PhilDev, and the Australian Embassy in the Philippines, sees T101 as a vehicle to integrate social impact frameworks produced in the academe, through innovative research, in building enterprises. The ISIP Faculty Training is one of the activities under the Education component of the ISIP project, contributing to the project’s goal of supporting and empowering local social enterprises to collectively contribute to the achievement of the SDGs.