In the Philippines, a different kind of jeepney

Erika Magdalena Pineda, co-founder of JeepNeed and Manila 40 under 40 awardee. Photo by: Devex

Jeepneys are a familiar sight on thoroughfares in the Philippines. But in a handful of towns, one social enterprise has turned this iconic vehicle into something more than just a way to get from one place to another.

JeepNeed uses the common jeep to provide low-cost, high-quality, and relevant science education “where there is none.” At the program’s pilot phase in Sarangani province, each jeep was equipped with Internet connection, netbooks, printer, scanner and photocopier, supplementary projection devices, microscpes, basic science materials and a database of hands-on activities. A testament to the project’s success was the 20-point increase in the National Achievement Test scores of students in all 20 schools tapped for the Sarangani pilot. 

The program focuses on creating experiences that spark young Filipinos’ interest in science. One such activity is called “flower power,” which teaches kids how to make acid-base indicators using hibiscus petals and painted nettle leaves – just one of the many innovative ways to pique a child’s curiosity. 

JeepNeed is the brainchild of Erika Magdalena Pineda and Shaina Tantuico. They are two of the most influential development leaders aged 40 and under in Manila.

Devex is recognizing 40 of these young trailblazers in international development. They are social entrepreneurs, government leaders, development consultants, business innovators, advocates, development researchers, nonprofit executives and journalists.

We spoke with Pineda about her work.

Did your experience running a fair trade and microfinance business while in university help in your work with JeepNeed?

It helped me bridge the gap between business and social good. By that time, Shaina and I had worked at a few nonprofits and saw that too many good programs were cut due to the lack of funding. JeepNeed has yet to become sustainable, but it’s something we’re working toward. In the midst of ideation, Shai and I thought of growing a garden on the roof and selling the produce to purchase paper! That was when JeepNeed was still a photocopier on wheels.

What made you decide to crowdsource initial funding for JeepNeed?

It had been 5 months since presenting our idea at the Milken Penn Educational Business Ventures Competition at the University of Pennsylvania, which we lost, and we hadn’t received any grants from the agencies we applied to. It was a now-or-never moment, a get-a-real job-or-make-it-happen time.

What advice do you have for social entrepreneurs who also want to crowdsource for their cause?

Use your network. Ask for help. Our friend Pepe Diokno offered to edit the video and people really enjoyed watching it. And be honest. Let your backers know where you are and what kind of walls you’re running into.

Read more about the Devex 40 Under 40 International Development Leaders in Manila.

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