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When COVID-19 happened in 2020, we were faced with the challenge of transitioning our in-person incubation program for idea-stage entrepreneurs to a 100% online setting. All our coaching sessions and bonding moments by the water dispenser – they had to change. How could makesense Academy continue to support its startups in the midst of a global lockdown?
While it was tough for us, it was even harder for our budding social entrepreneurs (socents). As if launching a startup wasn’t hard enough. No one had planned for a pandemic; how would we scale? How would we survive?
Through the collaborative nature of our work, plenty of trial and error, we found the answer: community.
We knew this on an intellectual level – after all, community development has always been the heart of what we do. Nonetheless, the need for socents to lean on their communities to weather crises has never been more glaringly apparent, as young and established organizations alike struggled to navigate the uncertain waters of 2020.
It was a community that helped our socent massively scale after just 7 months in operation. It was a community that allowed another to sell a solution despite cultural barriers. It was a community that, once activated and involved, became the best resource of sustainable solutions for another.
If you’re in doubt, here are two case studies to show you just why your community plan matters more than your business plan.
Finding the Tribe
How do you overcome cultural taboos and convince the market to try out a new product? Answer: You don’t. You let the market itself do the talking.
Before Sinaya Cup’s success as the first and most beloved menstrual cup in the Philippines, the team faced the unique challenge of introducing a relatively stigmatized solution to women’s reproductive health. A lot of fear and misinformation surrounded the product, creating pushback in the beginning.
But through being coached in makesense Academy, they realized that the best approach in talking about it wasn’t to talk about it at all; instead, they would empower women who shared the same values Sinaya Cup stands by – body acceptance, positivity, and better reproductive health – and give them the tools to introduce it to their own communities.
Thus, the Facebook group Sinaya Tribe was born. A declared safe space for any woman, it grew into a platform where women could have candid conversations with each other about their own fears and experiences, allowing them to de-stigmatize menstrual cups and gather information to “make the switch.” Today, the Sinaya Tribe is a passionate community of 6,500 ambassadors that helped benefit 1,200 young women from underprivileged communities gain access to reproductive health education.
The House that Community Built
AUDEO’s mission is to address the Philippines’ plastic and housing problem through Bloqueplás, a unique building system composed of 90% upcycled plastic. Unfortunately, building their first pilot house was not cheap. And with a pandemic forcing everything at a standstill, who would make this big investment?
In reality, COVID-19 was exacerbating the housing crisis. Poor infrastructure that made it impossible to socially distance, the lack of access to local produce, among other things, cemented AUDEO’s mission to keep trying.
Finally, the lightbulb moment came. Through coaching with us, AUDEO realized the need to radically collaborate with like-minded professionals and organizations with intersecting values of uplifting the country’s urban planning. “We were so focused on housing, but it’s so much more than that. You can’t build houses without the foundation of a community,” Dani, founder of AUDEO, shares.
After reaching out to 15-20 organizations, a champion community, and a team of professionals, they were able to build the first ever urban planning coalition in the country. This community development practice allowed them to expand their network of potential partners and even land their first ever investment of $30,000 to build the first Bloqueplás house in the Philippines – all in 7 months of being a social enterprise.
In our own team, there’s a phrase we like to use: “radical collaboration.”
It’s understanding that one or two social enterprises alone are not enough to change the world. It’s looking at not just developing communities, but building community movements. It’s intentionally mobilizing on a massive scale – involving people all across the board – to create a strong enough wave to change the tide.
Right now, community development is a key focus in the makesense Academy curriculum. We believe that only when socents act collectively and learn from that collective can they truly ideate the future, challenge the status quo, and find lasting solutions to make their communities a better place – and isn’t that what social entrepreneurship should be all about?
Got an idea to change the world? Apply to makesense Academy’s call for solutions by February 14: https://philippines.makesense.org/entrepreneurs/makesense-academy/callforsolutions/