Key Insights and Themes 

The roundtable’s purpose was to gather knowledge and reflections from select women social entrepreneur DIWA program alumni and explore possible opportunities that offer pathways and champion inclusion. The discussions focused on sharing experiences and lessons learned while building communities as women social entrepreneurs.  


Ang Nakaraan, The Past: The What and Illustrating Context 

As individuals motivated by building solutions for some of the world’s most complex problems,  social entrepreneurs have a tendency to face challenges differently. Women social entrepreneurs in particular, see the world through different lenses as they carry multiple burdens as leaders as well as caregivers in their families and communities.  

The first kwentuhan (conversation), asked participants to think back to the time before they were involved with DIWA. They explored these past versions of themselves and reflected on their experiences, challenges, and considerations on why they were interested in joining the program.  


Leaning into curiosity at a time of transition. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic undoubtedly brought confusion and chaos in its wake, it also created an interesting environment that catalyzed change and demanded innovation. For several women social entrepreneurs, this period of time brought about big changes: new roles at work, new business ventures, and parenthood.  

Cristina Gratia Tantengco (DIWA Cohort 2022) talked about discomfort and self-doubt as she found herself transitioning from her comfort zone as a creative into a new challenging role in business development with PumaPodcast. “I did not feel like I had the confidence, I did not feel like I had the training for it,” Ceej shared, “but my hope was that I could grow, and I could bloom in the position.”  

A new mom at the time of her application, Krishia Paulin Ellis of Salin PH was deeply curious about how necessary it was to continue her work – “Should I still do this? Does it still make sense? Does it still matter to solve the plastic problem in the Philippines?” She was plagued by questions wondering if transitioning out of the tech startup industry into social entrepreneurship was a good move, all the while adjusting to a new life of being a parent.  

“Should I go for this, or focus on something else,” mused Kristina Anne Ang (DIWA Cohort 2022), as she too nursed feelings of self-doubt. Having just given birth, Kaye was passionately curious about how to better create spaces for learning and growth for mothers with Mamacademy. She continued, “the changemaking journey can make you feel Isolated, alienated; especially if you don’t have that background in business.”  

Sarah Jane Fabito of Wi Tech Batangas (DIWA Cohort 2021), shared similar curiosities about social entrepreneurship. Even with “zero idea about social entrepreneurship,” Sarah clicked apply and came to understand that while she may not have had the business-related educational background, there were other ways to know more about it. 

Unfazed by feelings of discomfort and self-doubt, women social entrepreneurs like Ceej, Krishia, Kaye, and Sarah found themselves interested in applying to the DIWA program. In their search for finding new ways of doing things, as well as a community of like-hearted people who could provide comfort and support, they leaned into their deep curiosities and found a place to grow and learn.  


Longing for community and a sense of belonging. 

Feelings of loneliness were shared across the room. As new mothers, leaders, and social entrepreneurs, these women expressed their desire to find a community of like-hearted individuals who shared their concerns and challenges. 

An online campaign that spread across the Philippines, the DIWA program became a beacon for women longing for community. For Sarah Jane Fabito of Wi Tech Batangas (DIWA Cohort 2021),  with DIWA, “I was able to realize [that it] was nice to be in a room with women with dreams, with ambitions, who just want to make themselves better.”  

For Michellie Ann Sabando of TinkerHouse Inc (DIWA Cohort 2021), “I was looking for a community because at times when you really need it, and you want to find a will to continue doing what you’re doing – knowing that you’re sacrificing so much – you really need to hear stories of other women who have sacrificed as much as you.” At the time of her application, Mitzi found herself troubled by the repercussions of the pandemic, with her enterprise activities stalled because of the lockdowns. 

For Wryneth Gay Mayapit, Co-Founder of INDI and Sumika Collectives (DIWA Cohort 2020), DIWA was a timely opportunity to reconnect with like-minded women; especially since at that time she too was looking into how to pivot in her enterprise, to “covid-innovate,” so to speak.  

The roundtable was a brave space that fostered honest conversations about intimate topics. Participants not only shared the practical challenges they faced at work, but also about their personal struggles including experiencing burnout. For Amanda Bonife-Kiamko of Scoliosis PH (DIWA Cohort 2022), “My cohort really embraced me. Kahit hindi siya in-person (even if it was not in-person). It was really a life-changing support of women that I have not found in any other. There was no judgment, everyone had a listening ear. I really appreciated that journey with [everyone].” 

“One of the biggest things that make DIWA so special is because we get to meet – not just you know, fellow women social entrepreneurs, but it’s the character and warmth we get from the community.” (Zheila Santillan, Ashoka Philippines) 


Sustainability as a challenge. 

A challenge shared by many women social entrepreneurs, sustainability in this case refers to leadership and change management. What are the pathways to finding the right people to move the organization forward?  

“To pick a person who’s there for more than the salary? Mahirap (It’s difficult),” shared Felicitas Pantoja of Coffee for Peace, Inc. (DIWA Cohort 2020). Jojie continued, “I want someone who shares the same vision, who has commitment, and looking at [Coffee for Peace] for the long-term… I’m trying to look among my staff and outside also to fill in positions so that it would stand even if I’m not there.” 

For Betty Listino, Co-founder of Pansigedan Advocacy Cooperative (DIWA Cohort 2022), it was particularly difficult as the foundation of their cooperative was rooted in encouraging intergenerationality, and involved many different stakeholders. “We’ve always supported the democratic ways of owning a business,” Betty shared. “We wanted diversity in representation.” This at times however, made finding consensus about their business model and offerings difficult. 

Building support and finding co-leaders for the long-term in their organization was also challenging for Amanda of Scoliosis PH. “We rely on volunteers. While a number of volunteers have enlisted to join, assurances are still needed because they can come and go.” Similarly for Jojie, it is essential to find someone looking for the long-term, “who shares the same vision, and who has commitment.” 


Seeking for inspiration and paths forward. 

A prevailing theme amongst all the participants was their continuous search for inspiration, and hope of finding ways to keep moving forward. “Pwede pa pala (it’s actually possible).” “Oh there’s a community for that?” and other similar inferences opened up conversations about what else could be possible for the group. 

In a society where women are clamoring for positions in leadership, they too are searching for communities that are both validating and enabling. It was clear during these conversations that these women social entrepreneurs are coming to the realization that to continue their changemaking work, they would need to come together more frequently, and more intentionally, to continue affirming conversations like these, change the norms, and eventually, break through more barriers for future women leaders. 

An illustration of insights for the past versions of DIWA participants

Fig. 1: Illustration of insights from the first kwentuhan on The Past  


Ang Kasalukuyan, The Present: The How and Stories of Change 

The second kwentuhan was a conversation about the impact of the DIWA program for each woman social entrepreneur. Participants reflected on the changes that have emerged in themselves individually, in their organizations, and within their communities.  


Individual Impact: Nourishing and leading with confidence. 

Rina Lee Garibay (DIWA Cohort 2022) wanted to cultivate a community of artists that support fellow artists at Artletics Inc. For Alee, DIWA was a way to learn more about different business models, management approaches, and leadership. Beyond learning about business fundamentals, the program emphasized to her that “each of us has something to offer; and that with our combined strength and resources, we can support each other.” Through the program, and in listening to her peers at this roundtable, she’s learned that while conflicts may always arise, she would, “Start first, with trust in yourself. And that might open up to trusting the process, and then trusting again that the right people will support you.” 

Since the program, Kristel Anne Villanueva, Executive Director of SmartCT (DIWA Cohort 2020) moved back to the Philippines and gained invaluable experience working in the government. This particular experience allowed Kris to “reflect a lot on how to do things more efficiently,” and has been in the process of re-strategizing from those learnings. Fueled by the energy of this community of women social entrepreneurs, Kris reiterated her passion to provide opportunities to developing communities through smart city solutions. 


Organizational Impact: Moving from traditional leadership into collaborative co-leadership.  

For Ma. Himaya Tamayo of Angat Bayi (DIWA Cohort 2020), it became clear that they as an organization need to find time to continuously ask themselves, “Is this needed? Is this substantial? Is it important and will it push us closer to the dream of the organization?” Questions like these allowed them to evolve beyond the traditional leadership model and into collaborative co-leadership. This now helps determine how and what opportunities they would take to share about their advocacy of bringing more representation of women in governance. Maya emphasized, “we can only achieve the change [we’re hoping for] if we work together and if there’s more of us.” They have since incorporated, and are now Bayi Inc.  

Similarly for Betty of Pansigedan, questions that were asked within the program modules prompted much reflection and rethink. “I didn’t know much about social entrepreneurship then. We were all trying to find the right model. I asked myself, ‘Are we a social enterprise? An NGO? A corporation?’” In the time since, Betty has worked tirelessly to find answers. She shared that, “we started to reimagine the organization together. We [as a cooperative] have all the best minds, we need to learn how to utilize it well.” 


Community Impact: Moving from uncertainty to courage. 

“I went from uncertainty to courage,” Betty continued.The DIWA program, especially through the mentorship sessions, empowered her to facilitate important conversations within their community. “[As a community,] we really sat down and thought about it. We realized that the product we were looking for was us.” It was essential to find a middle ground so they could move together. Since the program, they have sharpened their focus and leaned on the power of collaboration alongside their expertise. 

Fawziyyah Maridul, Founder of Malingkat Enterprise (DIWA Cohort 2020) spoke about change and learning as an ongoing process. While finding it challenging to find people who, “have the heart of what you’re doing and what you want to do for the community,” she became very active in local associations and organizations. Faw utilized her learnings from the program, combined it with her passion to share a different side of Mindanao, and now prides herself and her team in knowing that many of their partners and partner artisans have become entrepreneurs themselves. 


An illustration of insights for the present impact of the DIWA program

Fig. 2: Illustration of insights from the second kwentuhan on The Present 


Ang Hinaharap, The Future: Ways Forward in Shaping the Future of Inclusive Social Entrepreneurship 

The third kwentuhan was the culminating point of the roundtable. Participants were first divided into three groups and were tasked to; 1) think about the current and expected ecosystem of social entrepreneurship in the Philippines, and; 2) identify the different ways to create a bridge between the two – How do we go from our current ecosystem, to our expected ecosystem? What are our recommendations and core hopes? They then gathered again to share their insights and ideas from their breakout discussions. The group presentations that followed, painted a picture of how the current ecosystem can evolve to be better.  

Current ecosystem of social entrepreneurship in the Philippines: What is the current landscape of social entrepreneurship in the Philippines for women? 


No clear definition of a social enterprise.  

There seems to be no clear definition of what a social enterprise is. There is also a sense that the concept of social entrepreneurship has become a buzzword or marketing trend, making it challenging to identify and differentiate between genuine efforts. This lack of a standardized definition and supporting guidelines has left room for nuance and confusion. In this scenario, it has become difficult to recognize and adequately support WSEs.  


Lack of government support and outdated policies. 

Participants describe the current ecosystem to be riddled with inequality and inequity. Stringent government policies, outdated laws, and the overall lack of government interventions like support, assistance, and infrastructure has created more red tape. This in turn has contributed to keeping progress in this field slow and overly bureaucratic.  


Misconceptions and expectations of being a woman in the workforce. 

There are existing barriers and stereotypes that continue to hold women back. While there is growing interest and clamor for more women in leadership positions, there are prevailing systemic issues, misconceptions, and social stigmas stalling progress in issues including addressing gender pay gaps and barriers, non-inclusive hiring practices, and preconceived prejudices of women in leadership. 

Participants also shared that alongside these prejudices imposed on women, there are internalized notions that also stall progress. There is a prevalence of burnout for women in the workforce as they take on more work, more pressure, more expectations compared to their male counterparts. As women leaders, they are also caretakers, caregivers; and yet, the care stops once it’s for themselves. 


Lack of or limited knowledge of opportunities in funding and capacity building. 

In the current ecosystem, there is a lack of opportunities and support for women social entrepreneurs starting and maintaining their initiatives. There is also limited access to and knowledge of and about tools, approaches, and technologies that could provide support. This knowledge gap also pertains to finding and applying for funding opportunities. WSEs find themselves at a loss and with low or no capacity to complete applications for grants and other funding mechanisms.  


Recommendations for the future: How to bridge the gap and go to the expected ecosystem of social entrepreneurship in the Philippines.  

Raise awareness of the social entrepreneurship landscape. 

In an expected ecosystem, “social entrepreneurship” is clearly defined by a government body and has specific guidelines to support its establishment. With clear guidelines, WSEs can more effectively communicate and share stories, which would then contribute to the legitimacy of their efforts. This would also open opportunities for PR and marketing amplification, as standards would be set and met more efficiently with each campaign.  


Enhance government support and benefits that support and recognize women social entrepreneurs. 

In an expected ecosystem, government support is enhanced and institutionalized. In this ecosystem, there are programs in place that provide support, resources, and mentorship for growing and established social enterprises. The government is seen as a source of information and needed infrastructure to facilitate activities and collaborations between stakeholders. These include programs on means of doing business, public and private partnerships, knowledge sharing on compliance, intellectual property, and privacy, to name a few. Benefits such as social protection, tax incentives, and longer maternity leaves can provide stronger support for growing and established social enterprises. This also includes programs in place that provide support, resources, and mentorship for growing and established social enterprises. It is also important that women are represented in the decision-making spaces, including government and other institutions that develop programs for WSEs.  


Create networks of solidarity, co-leadership, and collaboration. 

Creating an independent Social Enterprise Council, with similar functions of a chamber of commerce would be useful, as it would support in “improving the local business environment and strengthening communities through advocacy, networking, and campaigning. They would also serve as an easy line of communication for social entrepreneurs to connect with governing bodies.” 

“We want to see thriving communities and networks,” participants shared, with regular meetups in physical spaces where WSEs can connect, feed off of each other's energy, and form partnerships and collaborations more easily. These physical spaces would also be available at regional levels, allowing for greater reach and possibilities for impact.  

In addition, these networks would also usher in new ways to find and capacitate the right people. With resources and mentorship programs in place, these active networks could in turn help address the knowledge gap, as well as encourage enabling spaces for learning and collaboration. 


Diversify pathways to success.  

In the expected ecosystem, there are multiple routes to success. Questions on funding and capacity building opportunities would be addressed more effectively as there will be established sources of information within governing institutions. Alternate pathways for funding, marketing and product delivery will also evolve as digital platforms tools will be monetized. 


An illustration of insights for the ideal future of DIWA

Fig. 3: Illustration of insights from the third kwentuhan on The Future 



In a field that is still in the process of clearly defining itself, the need for strong female representation is something our WSEs see importance in striving towards. “We are recognizing such a big privilege to be in this room. Who are we excluding/not including?” Through programs like DIWA and conversations like these; and by providing community, education, and promoting professional growth, the group is dedicated to supporting and amplifying the next generation of social entrepreneurs.