“The underlying message that I want to put out there is simple. No one benefits in social exclusion. All individual should have the same rights and opportunities no matter what their preference is or group they belong to or what seemingly they lack physically or mentally.”

You can’t talk about social innovation without talking about inclusivity. Let me put that out first. If there was an overarching theme on how my 2019 ended, it would be inclusivity.

Working in the social innovation and social entrepreneurship ecosystem around Asia, I often meet amazing individuals and groups from different sectors who want to create greater impact with their social enterprise startup by including communities, minorities, or marginalized groups either as a beneficiary or part of the value chain.

The importance of inclusivity in development cannot be more emphasized in 2019 where we’ve seen a lot of discontent in different sectors of society wanting to be included and their rights protected. As a facilitator and mentor for different programs, I am fortunate enough to get invited by different organizations in different countries to be part of events where inclusivity became part of discussion.

The last three months I was invited to speak by two organizations in Taiwan. In November, Taiwan Fund for Family and Children held their international forum in Manila with education as a central theme. I spoke about how we should rethink our approach to education and the need to reach those who are marginalized.  

I also spoke and did a workshop on Social Media for Advocacy at the 2nd Leap Workshop in Taipei organized by the Foundation for Women’s Rights Promotion and Development. Here I learned how Taiwan has taken great leaps in the inclusion of women and recently the LGBTQ+.

Finally, I was invited to mentor by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Makesense Philippines for this year’s YouthCoLab and their theme was also social inclusion. I met different groups whose founder were from the LGBTQ+, Indigenous People, and Persons with Disabilities­­—serving the same as part of their social enterprise.

Why were these events significant? Why is inclusivity important? Let’s look at it initially in relation to economics. Studies by the International Monterary Fund (IMF), World Bank, Asia Development Bank (ADB), have shown that a very high inclusive society results in better economy in terms of traditional measure such as GDP and per capita income.

In an ongoing 2018 study by IMF, it points out GDP can increase between 10%-80% if the gap is closer in Labor Force Participation (LFP) depending on the initial value of female LFP. Furthermore, it emphasized that an increase in women’s participation in LFP results in significant economic gains. The gains Taiwan has made on Women’s right and inclusion for the past 37 years is indicative of the results.

Participation of Taiwanese women in all sectors resulted in the continuous increase in per capita income (USD) in the past 10 years from 10,468.35 in 2007 to 14,273.59 in 2018. The same can be said in terms of LFP of the LGBTQ+.

In a study done in 2014 by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Williams Institute UCLA where they analyzed social inclusion of LGBTQ+ in 39 countries. Results show, given that LGBTQ+ community is granted additional rights and there’s an increase in government recognition, the impact is approximately 3% in GDP per Capita.

If the research and studies point toward economic gain for the country, a case can be made in when it comes to other marginalized groups such as minorities, Indigenous People, and Persons with Disability.

However, beyond economics, working in the social innovation ecosystem should mean being inclusive. After all isn’t that what SDG 17 (Partnerships for the Goals) is all about? I can write an economics case on inclusiveness, but this is not my purpose.

I’ll cut to the chase, being invited to these events has strengthen my resolve and confirmed the value of social innovation as a tool for inclusiveness. Achieving the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, we need to engage more and go beyond dialogue by creating tangible results through social innovation and/or social entrepreneurship.

Its impact on inclusivity and community development is without a doubt effective. In the Philippines alone, a joint report released in 2017 by the British Council, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), European Union (EU), and Philippine Social Enterprise Network, Inc. (PhilSEN) indicated that the impact of social enterprise can be seen in five different sectors such as agriculture, education, business development, and employment. 

I think one of the highlights of the report is the statistic on inclusivity. Out of the 206 social enterprise involved in the study, it shows women being involved as the founder of social enterprises as 44% and 56% of social enterprise are employing women. It has highly contributed also in increasing employment and income in households. 

Inclusiveness also breaks the barriers that limits opportunities of these different groups in education, entrepreneurship, and employment. I am a staunch advocate for the radical and disruptive change in the educational system because it is archaic and doesn’t answer the needs of the world we are facing now.

There have been a lot of articles saying that we should empower Indigenous People to help us with environmental sustainability, but how can it be sustained when we don’t see them as partners in our education system?

You want your kids to learn and care how to protect the environment, learn it from them. Our system is limited to four corners and four walls of the classroom, if indeed they have walls especially in the rural areas. Community-centered approach in education, where schools take part in the development of their community through dialogue, project development, and experiential-based learning are far more effective than alleged top private schools in the Philippines.

If you abide by that system, then you’re just conforming to a system designed during the industrial revolution and producing employees. If you want deep critical thinking and problem solving that addresses the needs of our time, change the approach. I’d prefer home-schooling than conform to this tradition.

Lumiar School in Brazil and SEED school in Bulacan are shining examples of radical education. I have a lot of questions regarding our education system in terms of addressing the needs of other minority communities and marginalized group especially with mounting cases of depression and anxiety among students.

I am not sure of the numbers, but my assumption is, a lot of them want to have better access to education which accepts them and fits their abilities because in the end they want to contribute and they want to be financially capable and independent.

Anyone with knowledge, skills and has the capacity and want to work should be part of the labor force and should be given an equal opportunity to vie for the job and be hired. In an ideal world that should be the case but, we know that’s not case in reality.

We have made positive gains in the inclusion of women in the work force. In a study by IMF, it “finds that barriers to women entering the labor force—think of tax distortions, discrimination, and social and cultural factors—are costlier than suggested by previous research and the benefits from closing gender gaps are even larger than thought before.”

There are less studies when it comes to other groups in society such as LGBTQ+, Indigenous People, or Persons with Disability. Again, the economics of it all will tell you that their participation is beneficial to the economy. However, if companies and agencies, because of preconceived notion of the behavior and attitudes of the groups, would open more opportunities then the company gains more in the end.

However, workforce participation isn’t just about having everyone participate base on the condition set at the beginning of this paragraph, we must tackle the issue of equal pay and opportunity to go up the rank. That’s an entirely different article all together.

If we break the barriers in the same way we have done for women and include other minorities and marginalized groups then, in my opinion, I think we can see the same results.

The underlying message that I want to put out there is simple. No one benefits in social exclusion. All individual should have the same rights and opportunities no matter what their preference is or group they belong to or what seemingly they lack physically or mentally.

The barriers we create are inside our heads and yet I have seen individuals and businesses break these barriers all the time. In Australia, an employee with downs syndrome has retired from McDonald’s after 32 year of service. A woman with autism was recently admitted to the Florida Bar.

Roselle Ambubuyog an amazing woman, graduated from BS Mathematics summa cum laude overcoming her being blind. Cong. Geraldine Roman is the first transgender woman in Philippine congress. I can go on and on. The bottom line, let’s give them the rights afforded to them and give them the respect that they deserve by opening more opportunities.

It’s 2020, move to destroy the barriers that limits these groups and include them. It’s better for you, better for them, better for the country, and creates a better world. Happy New 2020.

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