by Maria Bianca Vega

From 2003 to 2010, GK’s efforts in promoting social justice through volunteering, fund raising and other activities involving those living in GK villages have seen great successes both in the Philippines and abroad. The second phase of GK’s development, social artistry, aims to achieve complete sustainability through “re-learning, reimagining, re-designing and reinventing a decaying society” (GK Philippines Information on CSI, 2012). On the 24th and 25th of May, at Melbourne University’s Harold White Theatre and Ultima Function Centre respectively, we were given the opportunity to hear GK’s founder Mr. Tony Meloto and intern, Fabien Courteille, speak of GK’s social entrepreneurship initiatives. Future possibilities within this second phase begin at the grassroots level of small businesses; through GK, individuals from all around the world are developing new ways of channelling resources and talent to building sustainable communities worldwide.

The forum on social entrepreneurship brought together a crowd of passionate and like-minded individuals, from various backgrounds of profession, ethnicity and fields of study. The schedule for the night included an inspiring talk by Mr. Meloto and Fabien, followed by a video, and a “show-and-taste” session of local Filipino produce by GK communities. The session continued with a stimulating Q and A session spurring the momentum for GK’s next interns for the following semester. The GK Summit scheduled in October already has young entrepreneurs at the ready to get on board with GK’s movement of social change. The multi-cultural crowd included professors from universities in Melbourne, local and international Filipino students, as well as other Australian students from different areas of study. The night was finally concluded by a taste of Adobo flavoured chocolate, a showcase of local, fresh and healthy juices, and an expose of Filipino icons as stuffed-toys. Fabien’s creation of his first prototype jeepney toy under Karpentoys – bamboo toys made out of non-toxic paint – left the audience stimulated to let loose all creativity in the fight against poverty.

It is in the GK Farm Village University, that volunteers and interns from various fields of study come together to find ways of empowering GK’s communities. Here, they are able to experience living in the GK communities, to familiarize themselves with the surrounding resources available, as well as learn of the skills and capabilities of GK-community residents. Combined with experimentation and brainstorming, this environment fosters ideas for Agriculture and Agribusiness as the solution to the poverty cycle. The farm seeks to transform under-utilized arable land into land producing of essential oils and other ingredients for existing markets by GK’s third phase of industrialization. Sustainability is achieved through efforts to minimize the carbon foot print by considering the “balance ratio of built and natural environment; recycling and up-cycling of waste materials; transition towards natural and organic agricultural production; continuous greening of the natural landscape” among many others (GK Philippines Information on CSI, 2012). The village aspect is based on community-development, that is impartial to ethnic and socio-economic differences. It is built on values with the purpose of being a catalyst for good governance and citizenry. This foundation of solidarity is founded on the philosophy that aims to counter the ‘us and them’ mentality or the culture of disconnect between people of different backgrounds. Paired with the village university, the encouraged interaction between others and the environment will ultimately sustain the framework of GK’s Enchanted Farm. The dynamics of all three aspects create a learning environment for locals and foreigners alike, to achieve the same goal of sustainable development through social entrepreneurship.

Following the forum, was the GK Hope Ball. Here, GK celebrated past achievements and welcomed new-comers to the greater GK community. This night of celebration marks the move forward, beyond building houses and re-education of family values, towards an innovative second-phase of a new socially-conscious business culture. The night included performances by dancers and musicians, speeches by Mr Meloto and Fabien, social dancing as well as raffle prizes won by the lucky few. The ball also celebrated the new path undertaken by the Philippines, no longer the “sick man of Asia” but the new leading example of true democracy and sustainable development. More than 250 attendees joined us in the celebration.

GK’s social entrepreneurship opportunities are heading to new heights. With the current number of interns from Europe and North America, GK is looking forward to having more Australians partner and participate with existing GK social entrepreneurs.

For more information, GK Melbourne’s Marisa Vedar can be contacted at verdamfam@bigpond.com