ASEAN+3 in Philippines, for the next social innovation

Nov 8, 2019 · 8 min read

#WeCAN International Bootcamp

Underdogs is the host of Asia Tomorrow Network (ATN), a networking event for supporting organizations and institutions for social innovation startup in Asia. Through this network and other cross-cultural projects, Underdogs has been developing good relationships with partners from countries including Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Japan.

Check out Asia Tomorrow, online platform for social innovation in Asia

#WeCAN International Bootcamp

all participants of #WeCAN International Bootcamp with their certificates!

Last August, we received an invitation from one of our partners, Norby Roque-Salonga, development specialist and committee chair of LSEED (Lasallian Social Enterprises for Economic Development) of De La Salle University located in the Philippines.

invitation from DE La Salle University!

The invitation was about LSEED and CHED (Commission on Higher Education) running International Boot Camp for 10 days, from 9 September to 18 September, mainly for university students in 10 ASEAN countries and also Korea, China and Japan, and inviting Underdogs as a guest mentor.

The event was a 10 days festival with a focus on localization of UN SDGs under the theme of ‘participation of higher educational institutions for sustainable and inclusive development’.

Also an exciting opportunity with 11 countries, 22 educational institutions, and more than 100 participants getting together, we could not have been more excited to join this International Boot Camp!

Though Underdogs has vast experience of designing and delivering a customized training program for social innovation entrepreneurs in Korea, our experience in other countries is relatively humble, so we had below questions to ask ourselves;

  • What levels of understanding do participants from different backgrounds have for social innovation?
  • How do they define social issues and social entrepreneurs? What are the similarities and differences in those definitions?
  • Would Underdogs’ approach to social innovation startups training work for them in practice?

Half filled with anticipation and half with uneasiness, Underdogs’ Global Program Director, Jihye Ahn, flew to Manila, Philippines, on September 8th.

De La Salle University

DLSU (De La Salle University) is a Catholic coeducational institution founded in 1911, and is one of four prominent universities in the Philippines, with UP (University of the Philippines), Ateneo De Manila University, and UST(University of Santo Tomas). Keeping up with its reputation, DLSU’s leading role in social innovation is highlighted as the first university in Philippines with a focus on localizing SDGs by developing social engagement programs.

Keeping up with its reputation, DLSU’s leading role in social innovation is highlighted as the first university in Philippines with a focus on localizing SDGs by developing social participation programs.

The Base camp, LSEED@DLSU

The Bootcamp base, Henry Sy Sr.Hall, at DLSU

LSEED, which developed and delivered the Bootcamp, is a major social engagement program of COSCA (Center for Social Concern and Action) in DLSU, responsible for the major initiatives for social innovation and social entrepreneurship.

The program has a specific focus on Sustainable Development Goal 8 <Sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic development, full and productive employment and decent work for all> and 17 <Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development>.

One of the big themes of Bootcamp: UN SDGs

With a strong impression on what DLSU has been contributing to local community through LSEED and COSCA, on their beautiful campus were… so many cats!

Cats in DLSU!
Pusa’s Commencement after 6 years at DLSU

Cats are easily found on the campus, with DLSU carrying out the rights for animals along with their social responsibility. Pusa, an organization literally meaning ‘cat’ in Filipino, takes care of cats on campus and runs campaigns to match cats with good carers.

#WeCAN Bootcamp Program

Speakers at the opening ceremony, and Korean participants (Director Jihye Ahn, HYU Jungwoo Seo, HYU Vanessa Lafaurie)

DLSU was one of the best base camps ever, and #WeCAN International Bootcamp finally begun with full of people from 11 countries - Philippines, Korea, Japan, China, Cambodia, Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Laos.

From Korea, students from HYU Social Innovation Center and a representative for SK Sunny Program, SK the Happiness Foundation also joined the camp.

#WeCAN International Bootcamp schedule

Underdogs Social Innovation (Training) Camps are designed based on the Underdogs Social Innovation Startup Approach, to equip the entrepreneurs with the most precise and practical skills and understanding to start a business.

#WeCAN, on the other hand, had targeted mainly university students who may have less knowledge and understanding of social innovation, SDGs and other related topics. The program was carefully organized considering this possibility, making sure all participants experience the social innovation entrepreneurship process.

The program also aimed to embrace students who even had no interest in social innovation enterprise, with the overall program flow as below;

Defining and categorizing social mission (SDGs) → Design thinking → Visiting local communities and social enterprises → Defining the issue and searching for a solution, Developing business model → Evaluating the social value

Also with additional events such as Cultural Night for networking and mingling, it was a great opportunity to communicate and make new friends from different countries, crossing over the boundary of social innovation and imagining exciting collaborations beyond.

Memories of #WeCAN Bootcamp Program

Sharing Expectations on Day 1
Iligan Institute of Technology of the Mindanao State University students in Cultural Nights
Universitas Katolik Parahyangan students with UN Sustainable Development Goal 8
On-site SI: Citihub in Philippines

Underdogs with full of joy and happiness sharing experiences with participants and trying not to forget Underdogs was invited as a guest mentor!

Underdogs @ #WeCAN

At the end of Underdogs’ break session

On day 2 of #WeCAN International Bootcamp, Underdogs led one of the breakout sessions titled ‘What is Incubation?’

If you are already familiar with our work, you may be questioned about the topic ‘What is incubation?’, since it may seem slightly different from our focus of ‘training potential entrepreneurs.’

Underdogs’ Global Director, Jihye Ahn, on Incubation

As mentioned earlier, participants in #WeCAN International Bootcamp were mainly students not fully understanding social innovation and entrepreneurship. Some ASEAN countries have yet less developed ecosystem for startups than Korea does, so the term ‘incubation’ was very new to most of the participants.

In Korean context, since each incubator and accelerator has their own unique identity and focus area, Underdogs was given a mission to explain the concept in detail. Let us also be reminded that the work of Underdogs training social innovation startup and entrepreneurs is an important part of the comprehensive incubating and accelerating ecosystem.

This is the background on why Underdogs was leading a session on ‘incubation’.

Xinyi and Hikari from Showa Women’s University in Japan

During the session, Underdogs shared ideas and thoughts on

  • What incubating is in business
  • What are the similarities and differences between incubating and accelerating
  • How Underdogs approach is different from other incubators and accelerators

The session also included a workshop for participants from Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Philippines, to work on the ‘Perspective Template’, which is the heart of the Underdogs Social Innovation Startup Approach.

The other key message was on the importance of a sustainable ecosystem to support the growth of social innovation startups and problem-solving projects, and how ‘intermediaries’ such as Underdogs, are playing big parts in this journey.

Explaining the work of Underdogs with a specific focus on (potential) entrepreneurs training, and how it fits in the wider circle (of incubating/accelerating)

Asia, till we meet again!

Meeting people such as a professor from Japan who shared that local communities are active but the concept of social enterprises as a venture is still new in Japan, participants from Mindanao, Philippines, who shared that when hearing the word ‘social entrepreneur’ the first thing comes in mind is ‘community’, and an Indonesian entrepreneur who has started an upcycling brand.

The 10 days were a great reminder for how different the definitions and ecosystems of social innovation or social entrepreneurs are in Korea, ASEAN, Japan, and China, and it is also an exciting challenge to imagine and initiate the diversity of work in the future with new friends.

It may be too early to say our relationship is a deep friendship, but it was obvious that the depth of conversation and sharing we had encouraged us to further understand each other despite the limited amount of time. These ‘friends’, shared our challenges with us and developed ideas on what could be done in the future, and what contribution Underdogs could make in Asia.

This, definitely a ‘friends’ selfie

As they say, “It matters where you go, but what matters the most is with whom”, we are very much looking forward to work on something special with these new good ‘friends’. And, this is all thanks to #WeCAN.

See you all my friends in the near future!


In 2015, Underdogs was established by entrepreneurs who had experienced social innovation startups, with the belief in potential of the ‘underdogs’. With a mission to create both social and business values, Social Innovation Startups are the ‘underdogs’.

Underdogs focuses on the early stages of an entrepreneurial journey and provides the most beneficial program for early-stage startups. This enables innovative ideas, which can solve social issues, turn into sustainable businesses.

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