by Johanna Michelle Lim
Inclusive Innovations is one of two same-day, back-to-back events hosted by IISLA Ventures last October 6, 2020. The event relaunched IISLA Ventures to chosen partners, collaborators, and stakeholders in the social impact community.
It shared IISLA Ventures’ philosophy, theory of change, vision and mission, and its reasoning behind why the social enterprise chooses to focus on rural development.
The program was as follows:
As an IISLA Ambassador and CEO of Dual Story Brand Strategy & Communications, I moderated the event and opened the program by sharing the event’s purpose. I shared that IISLA Forum is a series of digital and on-the-ground events that educates and connects changemakers for rural development. A video reveal of the new IISLA Ventures logo was played, followed by IISLA’s institutional video, and introduction of the main speaker.
Jennifer Viloria, Founder and CEO of IISLA Ventures, shared that the reason behind the change in identity was the deepened understanding of the company’s purpose which they reexamined during the pandemic. Whereas IISLA used to stand for “Inclusive Investments in Sustainable Livelihood and Aspirations,” it is now “Inclusive Innovations in Sustainable Livelihoods and Aspirations” because Viloria now believes creating the change that IISLA is striving for is not just a matter of investment.
Viloria goes on to share her life story, which also answers the question why the social enterprise has chosen rural development as the main focus.
The Founder and CEO grew up in Isabela, a quiet rural town in the Philippines. At 17, she moved to the UK to join her mother who worked as a waitress in London. Viloria shares that opportunities were difficult to come by then. She had to persevere to finish a degree in Financial Economics and became the first Filipina to be hired by a British investment bank as a global equity analyst in London.
Viloria eventually became an angel investor, part of her self-empowerment process as an entrepreneur. She was one of the first angels in Aduna, a UK social enterprise start-up that transformed rural communities in Africa, and co-founded Inspired Ventures, a travel tech company that connects donors with rural community beneficiaries through a crowdfunding platform. The latter would eventually become certified as a B-Corporation under Viloria’s stewardship as a CEO.
She would eventually go back to the Philippines and meet like-minded individuals like Bam Aquino, the Lopez Family of ABS-CBN, and Gawad Kalinga. It was during her stint in the Philippines that she co-founded Calaboo, the enterprise that created premium dairy products from buffalo milk.
Viloria goes on to explain IISLA Ventures’ core values, services, and focuses. (Go to https://iisla.world/ventures/ to find out more.), and ends by highlighting the missing gap for SMEs and the solution IISLA has to bridge it.
As moderator, I introduced Henry James Sison, Co-founder and CEO of AgroDigital PH and Dr. Glenda Antonio, Founder and CEO of Spring Rain Global.
Sison points out that farming is one of the poorest sectors in the economy. He agreed with Viloria that agriculture is a high risk, long-term, and low-return sector when it comes to capital. Capital is hard to come by when you are a farmer. Sison pointed out that investment is needed to mend the broken food system. He ended by saying that the future of agriculture will lie in equipping farmers in the digital age. He hoped IISLA can empower more enterprises.
Dr. Antonio highlighted the importance of building an ecosystem with aligned values. She says building an “ecosystem for good” is not about letting everyone think the same way but rather putting value in everyone’s role within the system. She also cites that the higher purpose of capital is not depleting assets but growing them. This is where conscious leadership, consciousness within the culture and management are important. As a strategic partner to IISLA, Spring Rain Global aims to form that ecosystem for good funded by philanthropy.
Testimonial givers Jeannie Javelosa, Winston Lim, and Konstantinos Mammasis followed. The three are collaborators of IISLA in various projects.
Javelosa, Founder of Great Women and Co-Founder of Echo Foundation, remembers her struggle as a social entrepreneur. She was always caught between vision-building and operationalization. Javelosa says IISLA’s CEO Viloria “gave the cold hard facts”, and was instrumental in making her vision for Great Women a viable investment proposition.
Lim, Founder of Light in Me Foundation, confirmed and agreed with Viloria that, as an investor, he agrees that the short-term, high return environment is perpetuated by many investors. He says IISLA was a way to invest in something long-term with positive impact in marginalized communities. He invites other investors to invest in growing an ecosystem, which is quite different from the normal financial investment environment.
Mammasis, the Founder and CEO of Of Dreams and Knowledge in Greece, the creator of the Milestone brand of nutraceutical oils, describes how Viloria believed in his vision in 2014 and provided him with seed capital as well as much-needed mentorship and advisory since then. To date, Milestone has many awards from various institutions around the world.
The program ends with exclusive announcements on potential opportunities to partner with IISLA.