Our Community Empowerment Programme (CEP) was tailored-fit to respond to the needs of our partner-communities. The CEP utilized a participative process from community organizing, people’s empowerment, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation, and most importantly, decision-making. In the process, members learned to take greater responsibility for the future of their communities.
Through the cooperatives/people’s organization and microfinance centers formed based on common issues/interests, the communities respond continuously to their livelihood, education and health concerns. Aside from providing income, the community enterprises established during the program are mostly food-based which considered the nutritional needs of the community members especially children, about 35% are malnourished. Moreover, various community activities on livelihood, health, education, environment, safety and disaster response were undertaken. Partnerships were built and networks were established with local government units, government institutions, religious institutions, public health and medical professionals, and NGOs for development collaboration and resource mobilization.
Assess: We undertook a series of consultations with local government units in the identification of our partner-communities. In our selection, we used the following parameters: (a) poverty incidence; (b) availability of natural resources, and; (c) lack of NGO and government service provision. The municipalities of Rodriguez and San Mateo were resettlement sites of informal settlers (squatters) from Manila. The integration and reestablishment of the new settlers were paramount and had facilitated the introduction of CEP in these communities. Using the parameters, we chose the landless lowland rural workers and upland rural communities in Barangay San Rafael in Rodriguez and Barangay Pintong Bukawe in San Mateo as our project communities. The barangays are adjacent to urban enclaves, yet the way of life is rustic and amenities are limited.
Plan: ABCDF’s vision is aimed towards a dynamic and innovative foundation that empowers and transforms lives of socially disadvantaged communities. In line with this vision, our goal was to provide opportunities to marginalized communities in San Rafael and Pintong Bukawe to improve their lives through livelihood, social protection and educational support. We wanted to ensure that they have the necessary knowledge, awareness, skills and networks to initiate and sustain their social, economic and political growth, and individuals/families have the economic foundation to absorb income shocks and repel potential exploiters. We also wanted to make sure that we are capable of making poverty alleviation programs effective. We implemented the CEP with three components, to wit, Community Development/Education, Enterprise Development/Microfinance and Capacity Building.
Our planning process was participatory, and to prepare our partner-organizations, the officers underwent development training courses such as Participatory Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, Leadership, and Business Planning and Entrepreneurship.
Act: The CEP is highly relevant within the national context, that is, an improved quality of life for every Filipino through people’s empowerment, education, and harnessing of human resources (Philippine vision 1995-2025). At the local context, we have made considerable achievements in the CEP in over two years. Peoples’ organizations were established in the two communities that carried out programs/projects and services in response to the urgent needs of the residents. The CEP has significantly contributed to the provision of financial services (i.e. microfinance credit, savings and microfinance insurance) for partners as an economic foundation to absorb income shocks and repel potential exploiters. We have established 76 enterprise development/microfinance centers with 2,804 members.
In all phases of the CEP, the communities/organizations have been partners in implementation and decision-making. Towards the end of the program, they have been taking the lead in the activities including monitoring and evaluation.
Evaluate: Monitoring and evaluation are intrinsic to the program design. Monitoring was done quarterly for our internal assessment of the CEP. Midterm and final evaluation were done by an external evaluator. Methods used in the both evaluation were review of project documents, interview of key informants and discussions with specific groups of stakeholders. The midterm evaluation report contained an enumeration of gaps, issues, major concerns and deviations from the original program intent. The midterm evaluation was our basis in making adjustments in the remaining time of the CEP to make the program more effective and useful to our partner-communities. Thus, more efforts were given to making our partner-organizations strong, and improving our strategy for phase-out from the communities. Result of the final evaluation measured program impact and became our basis for replicating the CEP in other communities.
Sustain: Our mission would be partially complete without a mechanism to sustain our efforts. The formation of the cooperatives and people’s organizations managing enterprise projects is considered one of the main achievements of the program and a prerequisite for sustainability. We ensured that we leave empowered organizations and communities with instrumentalities installed and resources within their reach. The organizations were unanimous in saying that they would be able to continue their projects, and sustain and build on their successes. The final evaluation recommended, however, that while the knowledge and skills acquired through the capacity-building interventions were beneficial to the participants, they would still need our assistance through mentorship in specific areas of concern to manage their organizations and projects effectively.
Other community-based structures formed are the 76 microfinance centers composed of 2,804 members. This has proven to be a substantive indicator of an economic foundation in the fight to alleviate poverty.
The community residents are more aware of their rights and also their social responsibilities to the community. From being passive observers, residents have assumed more active roles in community development activities. Local/village officials have noted an intensified spirit of volunteerism among community residents, and it is now easier to enlist volunteers to undertake community projects. Because of these positive developments, local officials view the members of community organizations as their partners in development.
Prior to CEP, most participants did not have any income source. With the livelihood projects established, many participants were able to meet the family’s basic needs and improve their economic status gradually. This economic empowerment provided the impetus for the participants to actively participate in their organization’s activities and in its decision-making. Importantly, many families are now able to avail of health services and send their children to school.