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AVPN Webinar Series: Key opportunities for social impact in the Philippines

News Stories Videos /10 February 2021

Before COVID-19 swept through the world, the Asian social investment landscape was maturing; yet growth was uneven. The impact investment sector remained relatively underfunded, and access to financing for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), particularly women-led, was difficult. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of these enterprises show strong resilience and are delivering critical services in the severely hit economy. Such companies will be crucial to economic recovery and need to be included in the broader economic response to the crisis.

Sponsored by Investing in Women (IW), an initiative of the Australian Government, the November 2020 AVPN Philippines Conference provided a call to action for the local social investment community. Through a panel discussion of industry leaders, a learning workshop, and a women’s SMEs showcase, the AVPN event aimed to raise awareness of the importance of mobilising the private sector to ramp up their impact investing activities with a gender lens to support immediate and long-term economic recovery.

Collectively, the three sessions explored:
(1) The role of the private sector and social finance in spurring inclusive economic recovery;
(2) How to adopt gender lens investing practices in one’s work; and
(3) Showcase of four Filipino entrepreneurs creating links to local and regional investors.

What is the Role of the Private Sector in Post COVID-19 Economic Recovery in the Philippines? (11 November 2020)

The first webinar allowed participants to take stock of the ongoing pandemic and resultant economic downturn. The session underscored the need to sustain gains from response and relief efforts, both from the private and public sector, to hasten a recovery and build long-term economic resilience in the Philippines.

The discussion revolved around the following topics:

  • How the social investment ecosystem can co-create a post COVID-19 agenda for inclusive economic development;
  • How corporate foundations and their partners can be vehicles for driving capital towards supporting new enterprise models; and
  • Why women-led enterprises are critical for the path to post COVID-19 recovery.

The participants determined that one means by which economic resilience can be accomplished is to improve access to capital to SMEs, in particular women’s SMEs, which bore the brunt of the downturn but have the potential for wider social impact. Beyond giving immediate financial aid, the panelists discussed involving these enterprises in relief efforts, as vendors and service providers, and incorporating them in the larger supply chain as part of their business continuity strategy.

Watch the webinar to glean insights from industry experts Julia Newton-Howes, IW CEO; Sixto Donato C. Macasaet, Executive Director of the Foundation for a Sustainable Society, Inc.; and Lisa George, Global Head of the Macquarie Group Foundation, who are at the forefront of supporting the economic recovery of micro-, small and medium enterprises in the Philippines. The conversation was moderated by Patricia Mathias, Head of Gender Platform at AVPN.

Key Insights:

  • Private sector, in responding to the pandemic, should work towards positive social and environmental outcomes and not just economic gains. Foundations, philanthropists and impact investors are critical actors in helping to build resilience for communities.
  • The pandemic exacerbated inequalities, from gender to geographic divides (urban and rural, inter-regional gaps), to uneven access to technology and education. Strengthened cooperation among stakeholders to tackle structural (root) causes, especially between government donors and the private sector, is needed to address these inequalities.
  • In the post COVID-19 environment, women entrepreneurs and their businesses will be crucial to building back better, so an infusion of capital in these businesses will achieve both philanthropic and commercial outcomes. Companies should also be prepared to provide technical assistance and capacity building when bringing women’s enterprises and other SMEs into their supply chains.
  • The private sector will be more resilient and could fuel rapid economic growth by adopting a clear commitment to workplace gender equality and job desegregation. Impact businesses can lay the groundwork for rebuilding an inclusive and equitable economy.

Gender Lens Investing in the Philippines: An Interactive Workshop (18 November 2020)

Solutions driven by women/women-led startups—particularly in the finance, healthcare and technology sectors, but also in other sectors—present a significant opportunity, and are under-financed. This interactive workshop explored the business case for Gender Lens Investing and guided participants on how it can be applied to their investing practice. Participants also learned how advancing gender inclusion in their own companies can simultaneously enhance business performance and promote social outcomes.

Watch the webinar to learn more from expert speakers, namely Rebecca Fries, CEO and Founder of Value for Women; Aparajita Agrawal, Director of Strategy and Development of Value for Women; and Luis Marquez, Gender and Business Advisor of Value for Women.

Questions answered in this session include:
(1) What is Gender Lens Investing?
(2) Why should you invest with a gender lens?
(3) How do you apply a gender lens to the investment process?
(4) What are the challenges and incentives of investing with a gender lens?
(5) How do you enter this field and what are the best examples in practice?

AVPN Virtual Deal Share Live: Showcase of Women-Led Enterprises in the Philippines (25 November 2020)

This session presented women-owned/led enterprises with the aim to showcase their business models and link them to funding opportunities in the Philippines. The webinar kicked off with a discussion led by Andrew Rowell, Director of Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning at Investing in Women, on the growth of impact investing with a gender lens in South East Asia. This research, conducted by IW and Intellecap, may be accessed on the IW Knowledge Hub.

The Deal Share Live session featured four women-led and Philippines-based social enterprises, currently poised for growth and seeking funding. The female founders shared their high-impact business models, the ups and downs of their entrepreneurial journeys and strategic growth plans to the social investing community. An interactive Q&A during dedicated segments for each speaker, as well as a group discussion panel, offered opportunities for the investors and the fundraisers to engage directly.

Transformative Enterprises:

  • InvestEd, a fintech company, is bridging the gap between education and employment by catering to the underserved youth market (aged 18 to 25 years old). InvestEd uses a proprietary risk engine to minimise student loans, while building the financial literacy and resilience of young borrowers. Speaker Carmina Bayombong, Co-Founder and CEO of InvestEd, answered questions fielded by Priya Thachadi, Co-Founder and CEO of Villgro Philippines.
  • Connected Women upskills and reskills women for the future of work, ensuring that no woman gets left behind. During the pandemic, they focused on remotely training disadvantaged women to leverage technology to access job opportunities via their Artificial Intelligence Data Annotation (AIDA) program, which is supported by UN Women. Speaker Ruth Yu-Owen, Co-Founder of Connected Women, answered questions fielded by Apple Evangelista from Globe Telecom, Inc.
  • Fortuna Cools turns agricultural waste into premium insulation products, or “coconuts into coolers,” in the process transforming the packaging industry by providing a sustainable, less expensive and better-performing alternative to plastic foam. Currently, they cater to the perishable goods industry, but will be venturing into the recreational market with their patent-pending designs. Tamara Mekler, Co-Founder and COO of Fortuna Cools, answered questions fielded by James Lette, Executive Director of Manila Angel Investors Network (
  • Agrabah Ventures empowers farmers and fishers, including those belonging to indigenous groups, to earn fair and stable profits through online platforms that connect them to institutional buyers and consumers. Besides streamlining and reorganising the supply chain to ensure more efficient delivery of better-quality products, Agrabah also connects farmers and fishers to partner financial institutions for faster approval of credit. Around 40% of the farmers they currently serve are women. Jojo Gumino, Co-Founder and COO of Agrabah Ventures, answered questions fielded by Priya Thachadi, Co-Founder and CEO of Villgro Philippines.

Visit AVPN’s Gender Platform page and join the community of leading practitioners and thought leaders who are championing women and girls empowerment in Asia.

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