ARISE Japan and ARISE Philippines successfully hosted their inaugural Knowledge Sharing Session on 13 December 2021, focusing building the resilience of SMEs. The session opened with three welcome remarks, where ARISE Board member Mr. Satoshi Hijikata, Kokusai Kogyo Co., Ltd. welcomed the session as first in a series of events on the four ARISE priority areas as unique opportunity to have a close and direct conversation with ARISE colleagues across Networks, Co-Chair of ARISE Philippines VAdm Alexander P. Pama AFP (ret), SM Prime Holdings Inc. noted that “SMEs and MSMEs make up the bulk of the private sector, so we would be hard pressed to build the resilience of the communities we all serve, without resilience in SMEs,” and Ms. Yuki Matsuoka, Head, UNDRR Office in Japan, expressed her hope that such dialogue between networks would be replicated by other ARISE Networks.
The remarks were followed by two icebreaker presentations and discussion. First, Mr. Butch Meily, President of Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF) and Ms. Camille Rae Lim, Communications Officer for PDRF, jointly presented an overview of their MSME program, which included a plethora of activities including outreach via superhero comics on resilience; a mentorship hub for MSMEs; a digital academy iAdapt, and targeted intervention toward ‘Sari-Sari’ shops, small corner shops, numbering over 1 million across the Philippines and vital to local economy, with predominantly female ownership, of whom over 70% closed under Covid-19 disruptions. “This is a project close to my heart” said Mr. Meily. “Digital tools are great, but actually seeing the people, doing focus groups to find out their needs, is also important,” he noted.
PDRF’s MSME initiatives involve a variety of academic, private, public, and civil society organizations across their MSME initiatives, including ARISE, as partners. Ms. Lim noted that “partnerships also transform the partner organizations into champions of business continuity, affecting their organizational policy, improving systems, increase supply chain resilience, and maybe even save lives.”
Following the PDRF presentation, Mr. Masato Takamatsu, President of Tourism Resilience Japan and ARISE Japan Lead, presented a joint initiative by Japan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) and Japan Travel and Tourism Association (JTTA), supported by ARISE Japan members, to enhance the resilience of SMEs in the travel and tourism sector, via engagement of actors at the local level. The tourism sector in Japan was one of the fastest growing sectors in 2019 as well as the hardest hit by Covid-19. The initiative identifies and trains resilience trainers among local chamber of commerce consultants, local government staff, and Destination Management Organizations. He noted that Covid has made tourism SMEs more aware of the importance of securing their funding, and of taking advantage of existing local resources, including the local actors engaged to deliver business continuity guidance.
The discussion that followed revealed several replicable tips for success for ARISE members and Networks working to improve the resilience of SMEs and MSMEs. Participants from both Japan and the Philippines cited better engagement resulting from interventions that boosted confidence and empowerment in SMEs. Good practices from both countries resolved resource issues – human and financial – through the identification of solutions and opportunities within the ecosystem to which the SME belongs. The discussion also effectively demonstrated how collaboration between ARISE members build on each other’s work for greater overall impact, by identifying unaddressed gaps in ongoing initiatives and designing complementary projects to fill them.
As concluding remarks, ARISE Board member Ms. Liza Silerio, SM Prime Holdings, said “there is so much to do in building the resilience of our communities and businesses, but in the long list of things to do, sharing knowledge is the natural starting point” as she expressed her hopes for continued meaningful collaboration between the two ARISE Networks, and for this event to serve as a model of inter-ARISE Network engagement.