Monday, December 23, 2013

NGO Networking in the Philippines

Previous posts discuss the asset and liability of non government organizations (NGOs); their vulnerabilities to groups with vested interests; and coping strategies which Korten (1990) describes as “three generation strategy” to describe the stages of development of NGOs. All these lead to  linkages and networking between and among NGOs, even with other sectors of society.

Linkages and networks serve as protective mechanism of NGOs  from any form of threat because of their collective nature. Network also prevent  unnecessary duplication or overlapping of development effort.  As a strategy, networking has been used by many sectors in pursuing development endeavors. Networks link local efforts for more effective lobbying and advocacy and provide venues for the exchange of experiences and resources between similar NGOs.

John Clark (1991) associated the emergence of networks with the development of advocacy group. This is the last of the six schools  he formulated to trace the historical evolution of Northern NGOs his book Democratizing Development: The Role of Voluntary Organizations.  The first network to make a name was the International Baby Foods Action Network. Set up in 1979 by seven NGOs, it grew to about 150 NGOs from all parts of the world and led the successful campaign for international governmental agreement on a code of marketing for baby foods.

The milestone  of NGO networking in the Philippines happened in 1990 with the launching of the Caucus of Development NGOs (CODE NGOs). This solidarity, however, did not happen overnight. It was a culmination of decades of common struggle similar to what other NGOs in other countries experienced in the course of historical development characterized by diverse intensity and highlights.

Alegre (1996) traced the beginning of NGO networking in the Philippines from the formation of the Council of Welfare Agencies Foundation of the Philippines, Inc. (CWAFPI), the forerunner of the present-day National Council of Social Development (NCSD). As early as 1952, a group of social work leaders organized the Philippine National Committee of the International Council on Social Welfare (ICSW). This eventually evolved into the Council of Welfare Agencies Foundation of the Philippines, Inc. (CWAFPI), the umbrella organization of the various welfare and civic organizations, e.g., the Catholic Women’s Clubs, Boy/Girl Scouts of the Philippines, National Red Cross, etc. which, up to this day, cater to such sectors as traditional women’s groups, children, the elderly, and persons with disabilities.

The early organizational formation, however, is only one part of the story of networking with particular focus on welfare agencies. Alegre (1996) presented a comprehensive discussion of the factors that contributed to the growth and development of networking in the Philippine NGOs in his book Trends and Traditions; Challenges and Choices. This observation is complemented by a chronological presentation of the formation of nine mainstream national networks after NCSD in From the Present Looking Back: A History of Philippine NGO by Karina David (1998).   Hence, the history of networking in the Philippine is better understood in the context of historical evolution of NGOs in the country.

The story of Philippine NGOs generally follows the trend of the world history of NGOs- from relief and welfare endeavors to social reformation which eventually led to the transformation approach.  Alegre (1996) divided the history of NGOs into six distinct phases rooted in key points in the country’s recent past, as follows: American Colonial Period to Post WWII: Relief, Rehabilitation and Welfare; The Deepening Social Crisis and the Rise of New Social Movements (1965-1972); Coping with Repression, Carving a Niche (1972-1978).  Expansion and Innovation (1978-1983); NGO Support to the Surging Mass Movement (1983-1986); Ebbs and Flows of a Painful Transition (1986-1992; Maturation and Renewal (1992 to the Present). Each phase will be discussed in the succeeding posts.

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