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15 startups provide technical assistance to MVP-backed entrepreneural endeavor.

Fifteen startup firms are providing technical aid to smaller livelihood programs under the First Pacific-supported The Dream Project (TDP) that aims to fire up economic activities in the countryside.

Initially implemented in Negros Occidental, the TDP has tapped a pool of talents from the Filipino Youth Imagineers (FYI), a young innovators' group, to inspire entrepreneurship, livelihood programs, or to simply help do an "act of dreaming" among the youth in rural areas.

TDP is specifically supported by the Ideaspace that was started by the MVP Group (First Pacific) as a privately-funded technology incubator.

Ideaspace's initial incubatees include Armtech (water purification machine-maker); Mirand (total joint implants-maker); PGRS, (generator of electricity using rumble strips); WeGen, (wind turbine designer); and Gen8 (Braille developer for mobile phone).

But while Ideaspace's main focus is on giving birth to technology businesses, it supports any potential entrepreneurial-education program for young leaders -- even in poverty-stricken areas.

The volunteer founders for TDP render mentoring service for potential entrepreneurial-social initiatives.

"We're bringing 15 top talents of the Filipino Youth Imagineers here. In other programs, student leaders just attend conferences. In The Dream Project, our mentors are concrete innovators," said Prim Paypon, TDP founder and dream enabler, in an interview.

One of the FYIs comes from the Works of Heart (WOH). WOH is a design firm that collaborates with foundations like that of Ayala and United Laboratories, rendering art services at concessionary price for some livelihood programs.

"We in FYI went to Negros for one week to help LGUs (local government units) and students. We are mentoring them," said WOH Creative Director-Founder Roxy Navarro.

WOH is familiar with working on livelihood programs for marginal communities. For one, it designed fragrance products of Dela Strada community in Pansol, Quezon City in order to make these commercially marketable.

Kawil Tours is another FYI that renders tourism and environmental conservation mentoring. It is an enterprising host to travel packages like those to Culion and Coron, Palawan.

The Spark Project is a Philippine pioneer in crowd-funding or crowd-sourcing, raising funds online for livelihood projects like the Tausugs'abaca and native cake.

The other FYI mentors come from Bahay Kubo Organics (an urban farming social enterprise); Muni (creative marketing online-offline campaigner); Project POGI (Promoting Outstandiing Governance and Initiatives); Project H2O (potable water provider to tragedy-affected areas); Pinoy Travel; and Mr Kengkoy PH (backpack-maker that uses local indigenous textile).

After joining the TDP Caravan in January this year, Navarro has come to believe tourism is a real strength of Negros -- much as how even big real estate developers teem with optimism on Philippine countryside tourism.

"Negros is filled with falls, mountains, potentially world-class white sand beaches as beautiful as Boracay. It has a summer capital in Don Salvador Benedicto that has virgin forests," she said. "Its Sipalay beach already won a best tourism spot award where its contender was Boracay."

The TDP and FYIs will be helping the Negros LGU to promote its tourism sites.

"All these destinations just need online visibility, visual branding, and good organizational development which they don't yet have for now," said Paypon.

Such tourism programs should generate livelihood for rural people.

"It's not cheap to travel. It will be good if through tourism programs, livelihood will be created. In a few year's time, we'll be able to map the Philippines' (tourism and livelihood potential) from the eyes of 15 FYIs," he said.

In Negros, the tourism project may include promotion for the ancestral houses of Silay, known as the Paris of Negros, visits to the Balay Negrense, Hofilena Ancestral House, Jalandoni Museum, Victorias Village, and San Diego Cathedral.

"We have a mascara festival. There's a tuna highway in Hinobaan. That's where tuna has a migration path from Palawan to General Santos. Their tuna is as good as in General Santos. There's the Monkey Sanctuary in a virgin forest in Calatrava. The Don Salvador Benedicto is known as Little Baguio," said Paypon.

Tourists may visit a women's group in Calatrava who weave mats and baskets inside the caves. Interesting, the weaving has to be done inside the cave, or the pandan leaves for weaving will harden.

"Calatrava is famous for this weaving community. This caving technique cools the pandan leaves for better weaving," said Paypon.

Inasmuch as Negros is still an undiscovered tourist site, the TDP has started working with other LGUs in inspiring tourism development which is believed by many to be a top Philippine strength.

The TDP's program of inspiring the youth to dream is done through The Dream Caravan, a two-and-a-half-hour workshop on dreaming-planning activities.

It also has the Imagineering Bootcamp, a whole-day of mentoring students, LGUs, and young professionals on social innovation and opportunities exploration.

So far, just for more than a year now, the TDP had been on the road for 190 hours, reached 19 municipalities, visited 37 high schools, and dreamt big with 7,012 students.

All ventures start with a dream -- thus, The Dream Project was born.

"Senator Bam Aquino told me there's no non-profit organization that teaches the youth how to dream. How can you ask the youth to love the Philippines without giving them a dream they're a part of? In The Dream Caravan, we're dream enablers," said Paypon.

In its caravan and bootcamp, the TDP gives activities to 50 to 60 youth for the smallest audience. So far its biggest audience in one of its events reached 1,700.

"In these programs, I don't talk about my dreams, but their dreams. The program deals with cognitive, interpersonal, intrapersonal, developmental, inspirational, and creative activities that impact people," he said.

The caravan-bootcamp activities specifically involve asking students their dream.

"The Filipino dream is about generosity. We dream it with our parents--like one boy thought of building a pink house for his mother. We take our families with us in our dreams," he said.

At present, the basket weaving of Calatrava mothers is not yet very profitable, but their products are of high quality.

"It's suprising that even if it's not profitable, children dream to be weavers like their parents (because of the dignity in this labor)," said Paypon. "Part of the caravan is to make them understand that even if one is poor, he can achieve his dreams."

The dream caravan ends through a Dream Climate Report where the youth are asked to fill out a form reporting their names, their parents' income, and top three jobs they dream of. They are also asked what they perceive are hindrances to the dream such as poverty, the mechanisms that can support them in achieving dreams (like a scholarship), and their skills.

The TDP has so far encoded Dream Climate Report forms of 8,000 students in 22 municipalities, primarily in Negros.

This way, government is guided on what industries to focus on, considering facts on available skills locally.

"LGUs would realize these are the kinds of skills they have like sewing or arts-crafts making. They will then provide programs to help improve skills," he said.

There is also an inventory of existing resources and will link resources where these are needed.

In order to reach out to children, the TDP is working on a toy clinic. The toys come from donations.

"Maybe one toy clinic would inspire children to build houses similar to the toy clinic because how can you know if there's such a thing as beauty if you can't see it? What if the toy clinic can be the most beautiful place one has seen as a poor child? Probably the child will some day build a bigger, better house like it," he said.

The TDP is changing the mood in Negros museums.

Instead of children thinking of a museum as a place of perpetuated dead people, it becomes one where one learns about the past and present and where a young person finds an idea on what he wants to become.

Exhibited are designs, products of young innovators--like a bag designed by Reese Fernandez, one of the FYIs.

The TDP has the FYI Space, a permanent exhibit room at Negros Museum. There is also an innovative FYI Suit Case-- six wooden suit cases that are carried as a portable museum. In the suit cases are products of value from FYI products like indigenous material-made bags and backpacks.

The TDP, primarily a volunteer group, has started generating interest among advocacy groups that support enterprise and livelihood generation all over the country.

Among those that sought to support the TDP for the youth were the Ramon Magsaysay Award group and the Asian Development Bank.

The TDP is drawing attention of some funders in the form of goods like fuel supply or hotel accommodation for the FYI and the TDP team.

The Department of Education has also expressed interest to replicate the TDP all over the Philippines.

The TDP held in January a seven-day volunteerism program in Negros Occidental where the 15 FYI explored opportunities to aid the Negros LGU. However, the FYIs paid their own air fare for volunteering.

CAPTION(S):

In the Ideaspace Incubation Bootcamp held last March 20 by The Dream Project and Ideaspace, 20 finalists came as ventures to potentially nurture. These are, among others, MyChild (web solution allowing parents to monitor their children's school performance); Taxinoy (SMS-based application that curates available taxis); Unlock and Load (mobile advertising); TaxiSPA (monitors operating cabs); Zander (automated fishpond management); Tambio (mobile application that curates raffles); GrocerEase (online grocery shopping system); HubMNL(online marketplace for buyers-suppliers); iHarvestDUO (automated rice dryer); Inhenriya Sol (online energy consumption audit); iTravel PH (city information guide); R-TAP (real-time adjuster for pumping water; RHeng(rehabilitation and engineering devices for wheelchair patients); and Salt-Water Lamps (lamp powered by salt water).
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Title Annotation:Business News
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Mar 24, 2014
Words:1606
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