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Maria A. Villalba

Maria Angela Villalba grew up in Butuan City, the Philippines and attended the University of the Philippines-Diliman, majoring in social work. After college she worked as a teacher, then with the government, before deciding to work with NGOs. After living in Hong Kong for ten years and travelling to various parts of the world, she was impressed by the Philippines' post-independence inability to develop like other countries. She started Unlad Kabayan with a long-term goal for Filipinos to find decent jobs in their own country, with overseas employment as a matter of choice, not a lack of feasible options at home.

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Unlad Kabayan Migrant Services Foundation
Hybrid Social Enterprise
Future of Work; Migration; Entrepreneurship
Areas of Impact
ASEAN, Europe, North America, South Asia, Hong Kong SAR, China, USA, Australia, Canada, Republic of Korea, Philippines, Netherlands

Unlad Kabayan Migrant Services Foundation

The Unlad Kabayan Migrant Services Foundation links the savings of migrant workers to community development. It pioneered and promoted the Migrant Savings and Alternative Investment for Community Development and Reintegration (MSAI-CDR) programme in the Philippines and provides a variety of services to migrant workers by working through overseas migrant centres.

Unlad Kabayan’s first service offering includes entrepreneurial literacy education, and savings and insurance packages negotiated with Filipino banks to meet migrant workers' needs. It helps them form savings groups, pooling funds for investments in small businesses in their hometowns. It has successfully channelled these savings pools to enterprises and community development efforts in poverty-stricken regions around the Philippines. Unlad Kabayan also operates the Social Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development Services (SEEDS) and Business Incubation (BI) programmes, providing business management and social responsibility courses, and serving as a resource for fledgling entrepreneurs starting their enterprises.

Beyond educating beneficiaries, creating space for workers to participate in people-centred development can enable them to become active agents in social change. The MSAI model has resulted in successful community enterprises, including coconut fibre processing plants in San Isidro and Kolambugan. These enterprises provide direct employment, improve the profitability of farmers and workers in the areas, enhance their position in the value chain, and provide a good return on the investment of overseas Filipino workers. As the SEEDS and BI programmes mature, future funding will be derived from services rendered to the start-up businesses, and potentially from profitable equity stakes in those enterprises. A modified MSAI model is being replicated in other migrant-exporting countries. Unlad Kabayan is also developing resilient livelihood and social enterprise models in disaster affected communities.


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