THRIVE: Where Manila’s Cool Changemakers Converge For a Sustainable Future


It’s a curious kind of convergence, happening in one of the world’s most complicated cities to navigate and live in. Artists and designers will get to hang around startups, who’ll also get to meet social media mavens and social enterprises, who’ll most likely be enjoined by bike advocates and environmentalists to support their causes. There will be art, music, green and healthy food, bikes, left and right brains, and more conscientious shopping.

Welcome to THRIVE, a first-of-its kind event series that “celebrates creativity, entrepreneurship, and design for social good and sustainability.” More than just an arts festival, a conference, or a bazaar, THRIVE aims to connect the many dots that make Manila the energetic hub that it is—but all focused on creating a more sustainable future for this megacity and its citizens.

According to Jen Horn, THRIVE director and founder of MUNI, “Manila is brimming with creativity, and dreamers and doers out to create a better world, and I wanted more of these groups to learn about each other’s initiatives, connect, and collaborate.”

Connect to collaborate

And, indeed, there is much to connect, and plenty of opportunities to collaborate for the greater good. For instance, at a THRIVE satellite event called Green Tech Startup Studio on October 19, prestigious startup incubator IdeaSpace Foundation, in cooperation with some of their incubatees will guide budding entrepreneurs on the what, why, and how of “developing business products and solutions to create a greener world.” At another caffeine-fueled “Tweetup”, hosted on October 22 by the same group that has been mobilizing #RescuePH during major calamities, social media mavens and netizens will gather to share social media strategies for advocacy. Another satellite event called CommonGround, slated for October 20, aims to bring together “foundations, network builders, community shapers, and organizations… dedicated to building ecosystems that help changemakers, entrepreneurs, and artists grow.” Hosted by leading social enterprise organization Ashoka Philippines, the event hopes to share best practices and “[create] the potential to work together towards a common goal.”

Horn says, “A lot of conversations about creating change happens in cold conference rooms, and we wanted to do away with the stiff, impersonal plenaries in favor of more intimate and experiential learning and networking opportunities.

True to form, to kick off the event series on October 17, THRIVE opens with a poster exhibit at a popular co-working space called A Space, featuring works by artists and designers such as Dan Matutina, Rob Cham, Tokwa Peñaflorida, Ella Lama, Geli Balcruz, Nice Buenaventura, Jan Pineda, Roxy Navarro, Pat Manlapas, Angelica Nepomuceno, and Foldyard & Co, all sharing their take on what everyone can do to create a thriving city, country, or planet.

“Through THRIVE, we wanted to showcase a good mix of individuals and organizations doing great work in various creative disciplines,” Horn shares. “We have people into graphic design, urban design, industrial design, engineering, entrepreneurship—be it food, home, fashion and lifestyle products and services, communication, music and the arts, too.”

She adds, “In choosing our partners and collaborators, it was important to us that they shared the values of using creativity for social good and sustainability, and that they have a track record of doing such work in their field.”

A designer and editor herself, Horn is also the Manila ambassador of New York-based 99U, which works to “deliver the action-oriented insight that you didn’t get in school, highlighting real-world best practices for making ideas happen.”

Create a more liveable and lovable city

A big part of THRIVE, which is also central to MUNI’s philosophy and Horn’s own practice of “mindful living,” is to push for making Manila more liveable—“and lovable.” Part of this is to advocate “road sharing”, enabling Metro Manila’s traffic-choked roads and highways to be shared with pedestrians and bikers alike.

One satellite event, hosted by VivaManila and Bambike on October 18, aims to introduce guests to Old Manila’s streets through bicycle. One of the culminating events, happening on October 25, is a bike ride led around Pasig City’s 17-kilometer “Green Loop”, led by National Bicycle Day Philippines, Bayanihan sa Daan, and other bike lane advocates. Bicycles from local bike makers will also be sold at the Muni Market on October 24 to 25, to encourage more people to adopt this sustainable mode of transport.

Vote with your wallet

More than just bikes, of course, the culminating activity of THRIVE will be the THRIVE Festival & MUNI Market, which will feature a wide variety of merchants who all espouse MUNI’s value of “conscious consumption.”

Horn shares, “We did our best to select only those who we felt could contribute to a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle—choosing only to accept brands or companies that promote healthy food, locally handcrafted or eco-friendly items, and other products or services that contribute to overall wellness.

This year’s MUNI merchants include: Bayani Brew, Commune, Edgy Veggy, Greens, Jertie’s Kitchen, Kayumanggi Organics, Manila Bake, Nipa Foods, Picole,  Proudly Promdi, Stanford Shaw, Take Root, The Superfood Grocer, Theo & Philo, Tsaa Laya, V Kitchen, Villa Socorro; Gouache, Guerilla Bags, Habi, Hacienda Crafts, Obrano, Rags2Riches, Risque Designs,  Rume, Sparrow, Sustainably Made By Marsse, Taclob, The Green House Project, V&M, Wonder Paws, Yadu; Bambike, Certified Calm, Cropital, Jeepneed, Kimochi, Lunchbreak, National Bicycle Organization, Solaric, The E-Waste Project, Urban Ashram Manila, and more in the offing.

Through them, shoppers will have the chance to support homegrown enterprises that create a positive impact in local communities, aside from offering well-designed and well-made products and services.

Complementing the MUNI Market’s mission to encourage responsible consumption is a lineup of THRIVE forums with partners and merchants. These insightful sessions will cover topics such as healthy and sustainable eating, ideas and innovation to address climate change, and conscientious sourcing and production for brands and entrepreneurs. There will also be a yoga sessions, terrarium-making, and a weaving workshop by Rags2Riches. Earlier in the week, on October 20, shoe lovers will have the chance to learn more about the artisan shoe-making process, featuring local material and handicraft traditions, at the Marikina workshop of award-winning Risqué Designs.

And, of course, what is a festival without great music? For Horn, “Music and the arts have a unique way of rallying people for a unified cause, and creating more of a community feel.

THRIVE Festival’s ‘live playlist’ will be curated by, with live performances by Anj Florendo Music, A Problem Like Maria, BennyBunnyBand, Fools and Foes, Hans Garcia Dimayuga, LM Cancio, Maya’s Anklet, Paola Mauricio, We Are Imaginary, and more.

For Horn, who is known to be an influencer and connector online and offline, THRIVE is an opportunity to get people involved in making Manila—and the rest of the Philippines—a better place to live in.

“More than anything else, at the risk of sounding cheesy, being part of this gives me a sense of hope, without sweeping claims of heroism, that the world can be a better place with a person-to-person planting of seeds to create a culture of caring. Once we really look beyond our personal bubble and start caring about our impact on others and the planet, that’s when we can really make a difference.”

By Niña Terol