I have associated the historic EDSA Revolution with systems theory in the previous posts. This reminds me of my thesis when I took up Master of Social Work studies at the University of the Philippines- Diliman. It was a study of Networking as a Development Strategy of Non-government organizations (NGOs) in the Province of Iloilo . Since then I have internalized the learnings and live with it in my whatever development endeavors I engage in.
Networking has been used by development workers and organizers as a strategy to strengthen their ranks especially during the times they were faced with the problem of either co-optation or reprisal from the government and other traditional power holders that want to maintain the status quo. Moreover, they have to deal with the proliferation of pseudo NGOs that undermine the sector’s credibility. Set up to take advantage of funding sources for dubious or narrow purposes, they are fly- by- night organizations.
Faced with such problems and threats to their credibility, NGOs have seen the need to establish linkages and networks among themselves and with other sectors of society. Melgrito (1994) has defined networking as coordination among people, groups or organizations of various interests and orientation, working together as in a chain so as to function in a specific manner. It takes place when organizations link up together and make concerted efforts for mutual advantage and greater effectiveness towards the achievement of a common goal.
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. A proper coordination of NGO activities, in networking, helps prevent unnecessary duplication or overlapping of development effort. NGOs are also protected from any form of threat because of their collective nature, while they police their own ranks through common code of conduct.
History of Networking in the Philippines
The beginning of NGO networking in the Philippines, according to Alegre (1996), can be traced 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. Alan G. 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:A Strategic Study of Philippine NGOs.
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: The Deepening American Colonial Period to Post WWII: Relief, Rehabilitation and Welfare; The Deepening Social Crisis and the Rise of New Social Movements (1965-1972); A 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).
This will be the subject of succeeding blogs.