Leadership, Financial literacy and Social entrepreneurship program for migrant Filipinos

Empowerment of Filipino migrants and their families on leadership, financial literacy and social entrepreneurship

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  • Yes, I fulfill all of the eligibility criteria.

Initiative's representative name

Cristina Liamzon

Initiative's representative date of birth

December 5, 1953

Initiative’s representative gender

  • Woman

Which eligible market are you based in?

  • Philippines

Where are you making a difference?

Asia: HK, Mac, Sing, Thai, Jap, Kor,Phil Mid East: UAE, Qat, Egy Eur: It, Sp, Fr, Net, Swit, Bel

Website or social media url(s)

www.oflifealse.com Facebook: Ateneo Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship - Ateneo LSE Program Facebook: Ateneo LSE OF-LIFE Global Alumni Network

When was your organisation founded?

April 2008 was when the first OF-LIFE ALSE training program was started in Rome, Italy. It was initiated by a migrants' association called OFSPES in partnership with the Ateneo School of Government (ASoG). Two other organisations were added to the Consortium, the SE Development Partnerships Inc (SEDPI) and UGAT Foundation both of which actively work with migrants.

Focus areas

  • Financial skills and capability
  • Reskilling and upskilling the workforce

Project Stage

  • Established (successfully passed early phases, have a plan for the future)
  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways) 

Yearly Budget: How much capital do you need to accomplish your proposed project?

  • $100k - $250k

Organisation Type

  • Hybrid
  • Educational Institute

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed

We had just finished our study on the Filipino youth situation in Rome and had presented the findings of the issues of the youth in integrating in Italian society and Italian schools to Philippine embassy and labor officials, Filipino communities but still had no clear ideas on what exactly to do that could improve their situation. A visit by the then dean of the Ateneo university School of Government to Rome provided us an opportunity to explore what could be done for the young based on the study. He offered to send resource persons from Ateneo connected to their program on youth leadership and social entrepreneurship which we could run in Rome in partnership with the school. This was the start of our program for the Filipino migrants.

2. The problem: What problem surrounding employability or financial capability are you helping to solve?

Many Filipinos, including migrants face the challenge of financial literacy. Even if most migrants earn more working abroad than in the Philippines, they do not generally understand and practice personal financial management that can enable them to save and invest their earnings towards financial independence. Without this capacity, family members become over dependent on migrants' incomes and remittances; they become victims of scams, etc.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Our program seeks to empower Filipino migrants and their families not only to become financially independent, but also to become more effective leaders and to explore becoming social entrepreneurs. Our training program covers the three areas of leadership, financial literacy and SE and consists of 12 full day sessions over 6 months, 2 of which are done online. The objective is to change the mindsets of the students so that they can become positive agents of change and transformation not only for themselves and their families, and also for their communities in their host societies and the Philippines. The program uses adult learning methods/approaches to provide key concepts and basic skills in the three modules such as Self mastery, Appreciative inquiry, Communication/conflict management for Leadership. For Financial literacy: setting financial goals, budgeting, savings and social investments. For SE, it is important that students understand the SE concept first of all, then go into planning and developing their social enterprises which they can hopefully implement and which can be a real alternative source of their income and livelihood.

4. How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solving the problem?

We focus on students discovering and having a stronger mastery of themselves focusing on their strengths while not forgetting their weaknesses. They are then able to move out of a victim mode to become more empowered to change themselves and improve their and their families' situation and then also meet the challenge to give back or pay forward to their communities and to society. There are various programs giving financial literacy to migrants and their families but these tend to focus on specific skills of budgeting, savings, investing without addressing the need to first change mindsets - challenging the students to have bigger visions and to acquire more knowledge and skills which they can use for their future.

6. Financial capability: how is your organization or project creating innovative solutions that arm people with ability to optimize their current and future financial health

The Program gives basic personal financial management knowledge and skills to improve financial capabilities of migrants, inc building their passive incomes. A critical part is teaching the students to say 'no' to the wants of family members and lessen, if not remove their financial dependence. The program has also developed since 2015, a partnership with a national federation of coops in the Phil to actively link graduates to coops and to become coop members in their hometowns which allow them to avail and benefit from more financial and other services from coops compared to banks, e.g. higher savings rates, insurance. Migrants thus also contribute to developing their local communities thru increased coop lending in the local econ, etc. The coops also help migrants to serve their families, such as thru finlit sessions, business dev’t services to entrepreneurial family members.

6a. Please describe what aspect of financial capability your organization is focused on fostering and how you have measured / plan to measure progress.

The Program focuses on the importance of savings, social investments and insurance for the migrants and their families and how they can get out of debilitating debts. As a way to increase their passive incomes, we have introduced them to coops in the Phil where they and family members can save and invest with higher earnings while contributing to the local economy. By providing basic skills in business planning, the students can develop their BPs which they can possibly use to start/expand their enterprises, either in the Phil or in their host country and which can provide active incomes.

7. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Several groups and institutions, including Philippine government agencies, provide financial literacy and/or entrepreneurship training for migrants and their families,. However, most of these training programs are short and one-off which we believe are not sufficient to really change the mindsets and reinforce the knowledge, understanding and skills needed to become financially literate. Our program provides an integrated approach and is done over 6 months so there is a lot of reiteration and reinforcement of concepts and skills. Moreover, our programs are very reasonably priced.

8. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

The program covers 24 cities in 16 countries; 3,500+ graduates from 83 batches with 7 ongoing; 14-18 prog a year since 2016 and planned expansion to other countries. Post-Program assessments and a survey of alumni in 2018 showed that the finlit module greatly improved their financial knowledge and skills to deal with their financial issues, inc increasing passive incomes. Others mention the SE module helped them develop and implement business plans on their return to the Phil or in their host cities. As the program actively links the graduates to Phil coops (under a national federation of coops (NATCCO), the graduates’ savings and investments are mobilized thru the coops for local economic development of their hometowns. This is a win-win arrangement for migrants and families as the coops give higher interest rates, even more services than banks and are rooted in the local economies.

9. Financial Sustainability Plan. Can you tell us about you plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

Our business model operates on a no-profit, no-loss basis, ie the students' registration fees are generally sufficient to pay for prog costs which are very reasonable as the prog runs on volunteer labor, from loc secretariats that run the prog to the overall secretariat in Manila. Part-time admin support and a small subsidy to cover travel costs of some speakers is given by Ateneo Univ. Even with no funds from Ateneo for a year, over a dozen prog were run, fully paid from the fees ( US$/euro 150- household workers, 300 for non HH workers). Given the current COVID19 crisis, we need to develop asap more online learning for blended learning modules. This shift will need both a new strategy & funds. The prog can then have a much wider reach.

10. Team

There are 2 co-coordinators for the program who serve as volunteers. There is a Consortium on Migration and Development, consisting of the 4 organisations with oversight for the program: ASoG, OFSPES, SEDPI and UGAT Foundation. ASoG is the academic lead and provides administrative support and a small subsidy of around P2m a year to cover the admin and travel of resource persons. Most resource persons are also volunteers as with local secretariats which help in coordination work.

Help Us Support Diversity! Are you a member of an under-served , under-represented, or marginalized group in your country of residence? (yes/no) (this question is optional – if you choose to fill it out, the response will not be shared with your fellow contestants)

  • This does not apply to me

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Ashoka page or contact

11. Bring it to life: Please walk us through a concrete example of how your solution will solve the problem you’re trying to address

Upon taking our 6-month program, thru a change in their mind-sets, a large majority of our graduates are able to address major financial issues: having clearer financial goals, saving, inc emergency savings and investing, getting insurance. Some have started or even expanded their enterprises esp those who have returned to the Phil. Many take active roles as volunteers such as in civic, church activities. Many graduates volunteer to assist in succeeding batches which is part of their giving back and paying forward either as secretariats (to recruit students, arrange logistics etc) or as facilitators of sessions and eventual speakers. Several give training in other prog esp on finlit, esp after being able to address their financial issues which they are then able to share with others.

12. Skills Matching: HSBC Employees will have the opportunity to offer skilled-volunteering. If matched, which of the following skills would you be most interested in receiving?

  • Planning & Strategy
  • Monitoring Impact

13. Financial Sustainability – funding breakdown: please list a quick breakdown of your funding, indicating an estimated percentage that comes from each source.

Students' registration fees: 90%

Subsidy from university:10%

Volunteer labor: significant

14. Financial Sustainability – please tell us more about how you plan to fund and scale your project over the next 12 months.

We have a simple business model since 2008, which we believe is sustainable - students' registration fees basically cover the training costs which are kept low thru a lot of volunteer labor at all levels. A small subsidy is given by the Ateneo Univ (ASoG) which covers some travel costs and workshops of resource persons etc to ensure sustained quality of training and a small admin support. We have minimum overheads to ensure that operational costs are kept low. We have started a small trust fund from surplus from some prog which can fund activities eg meetings among secretariats/alumni asso/speakers in different regions, esp for effective management of volunteers. We also plan to generate more contributions from the alumni to add to the fund. With COVID19 crisis, we need new strategies on how to run most of our sessions online, should travel and physical meetings be severely limited.

15. Growth Strategy: What are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

Our growth strategy is to expand the prog to other countries/regions with large numbers of Filipino migrants, esp those in the household sector. We hope to open soon in NAmerica, NZ and more ME countries where there is keen interest in the prog. However, with COVID19, programs this year in old and new cities have all been put on hold. We need to move quickly to more online (blended) learning that can have a wider/faster outreach to our migrants/families. This crisis will also mean more migrants returning to the Phil and the urgent need to prepare them esp financially is critical.



16. Activating changemakers: How are you giving people the power to control their own destiny and support other people to become changemakers in their communities?

The prog challenges students to become changemakers, not only helping themselves and their families but also their communities and society.  They are asked to pay forward what they have learned to others thru their soc enterprises, as volunteers or as active leaders in their org/communities. Thus, they are encouraged to actively contribute to nation building in whatever ways they possibly can. This is explicit in the prog framework. The prog also gives much importance to changing mind sets, values formation, esp servant leadership. 

17. Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions, if any, has the project received so far?

I have been selected as one of the first Ashoka fellows from the Philippines because of this program. I also received recognitions from the ff for this program: in 2017 the Global Fairness Initiative - Fairness Award, Go Negosyo Filipino Award (2016), Standard Visionary Award (2016) and from my alma mater, Asian Institute of Technology (2013).

18. Tell us about how collaborations and partnerships would enhance the scalability and impact of your project

We collaborate with stakeholders such as Phil embassy and labor officials in cities where we have prog. Most have been very supportive, and some have invited us to bring the prog to new places. Our active partnership with coops thru NATCCO enhances the impact of the program thru mobilizing migrants’ savings/investments for loc econ dev’t, even beyond those coming from graduates. In 3 years of linking migrants with just 18 coops, over US$40m S&I have been mobilized, indicating a huge potential.


Finally - Your Selfie Elevator Pitch: Share a 1-minute video that shares a quick summary of the problem you would like to solve, how you’ve chosen to solve it, and the impact you hope to see.

Evaluation results

1 evaluation so far

1. OVERALL Evaluation:

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2. Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

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3. Does this entry have SOCIAL IMPACT?

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4. Is this entry VIABLE financially and operationally?

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6. FEEDBACK: Highlights

IMPACT POTENTIAL: You use specific numbers and evidence to describe what your project has achieved so far (or plan to achieve in the future) – and you have a concrete plan for future impact. You have specific tools for measuring impact. - 0%

QUALITY OF INNOVATION: You have a great understanding of the problem, have researched existing solutions, and have developed unique, thoughtful solutions - 100%

FINANCIAL AND OPERATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY: You have given a great deal of thought to not just the idea itself but how to make it work operationally and financially in the present and future; your plan is specific and you value sustainability. - 100%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: You have a good plan on how to activate changemakers and empower them to innovate through your product or programming - 0%

Other option - 100%

7. FEEDBACK: Areas for Improvement

IMPACT POTENTIAL: make sure to provide specific instances of your social impact (or how you plan to measure impact) – it may be helpful to describe the beneficiaries, the main activities/products, and provide evidence of (or plan for) impact evaluation - 100%

QUALITY OF INNOVATION: make sure to describe how your solution is unique and innovative – it is helpful to include the research you have done on past solutions and how your solution is different from (and/or builds upon) these. - 0%

FINANCIAL AND OPERATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY: make sure you have provided descriptive information about your financial sustainability plan. Where do the funds come from now and do you have a concrete plan for future sustainability? - 0%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: make sure you describe your plan for how to empower others to become changemakers through your programming, service, or product - 0%

WRITING STYLE. Try to be concise, descriptive, and specific. Avoid jargon. - 0%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 0%

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Attachments (2)

Two Videos on the OF.docx

The first video was prepared for the OF-LIFE ALSE 10th anniversary homecoming of the graduates in December 2018 in the Philippines. The second video covered the stories of the graduates of the first batch of OF-LIFE ALSE students from Singapore. Both videos were done by Frame 316 Storytellers.

OF-LIFE ALSE program orientation Jan 2020.pptx

This slide presentation gives an overview of the program: its vision, goals and objectives, the background and history of how it started, the modules, requirements to graduate. It also shows the current reach of the program in terms of cities and countries and the number of batches and graduates from 2008 till 2019.


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