Human Face

Association of Foundations@40

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The Philippines can be Southeast Asia’s civil society organizations (CSO) or nongovernment organizations (NGOs) capital, what with countless CSOs that include foundations, people’s organizations (POs) and cooperatives operating in the country.

Over several decades, many CSOs have come and gone, so much human effort and funding have been poured into them in the name of development, human rights, environmental protection, peace, health, education, food security, and so forth and so on. The Filipino people must be so lucky that many CSOs and the persons behind them have made it their almost-lifetime commitment to serve communities, families and individuals so that they can live dignified and fruitful lives.

Not all have fulfilled their commitments; a number have fallen by the wayside, if not failed their beneficiaries. But they are more the exception than the rule. Human frailties and other unavoidable factors do come in the way, among them financial, social, and even ideological. But on the whole, there are many unsung CSO heroes whose saintly, committed efforts have made a difference in people’s lives.

These thoughts crowded my mind during the 40th-anniversary celebration of the Association of Foundations (AF) last Nov. 16. It was a low-key but elegant gathering at the iconic Bahay na Puti in Cubao, the home of Judy Araneta-Roxas who serves as AF chair. Gathered were representatives of AF member-foundations and some individuals with NGO backgrounds now serving in the government.

The AF was founded in 1972, the year of the imposition of martial rule that sent many cause-oriented individuals as well as political figures either to the underground, the hills, and the military stockades or to their graves. Many CSOs with grassroots beneficiaries became suspect or clashed head-on with the dictatorship, risking harassment or obliteration.

There were those who tried to be above the fray and continued to fulfill their mandate come what may, but without compromising their integrity. The first members and founders of the AF were among them.

The AF’s history is rooted in “the continuous pursuit and passion for integrity and excellence in service.”  It began as a clearing house of information and a venue for sharing knowledge and expertise among foundations, as well as a center for “self-policing and accreditation” that was an important component of building high credibility.

Later, the AF would expand its services that include fund sourcing, tax incentive petitions and putting in place policies that would support the growth and sustainability of NGOs. It now has 126 well-screened member-foundations. It maintains links with those outside its membership and with national and regional networks.

According to AF executive director Norman Jiao, the association has given birth to other groups, among them the League of Corporate Foundations, which promotes corporate social responsibility (CSR) among its members. CSR now goes with profit and growth, it goes without saying.

In the last 10 years, the AF’s efforts were geared toward professionalizing CSOs and strengthening the capacity of its members through “improved governance, institutional effectiveness and stability.” Add to that strategic partnerships.

We’ve heard of fly-by-nights, corruption and financial mismanagement in NGOs, if not NGOs founded and run with selfish motives.

While helping NGOs/CSOs, the AF promotes transparency and accountability among its members and encourages them to get certification from the Philippine Council for NGO Certification. The AF shares expertise and prepares them for certification.

Araneta-Roxas takes pride in saying that with its 126 members, the AF is the Philippines’ largest network of foundations. “We take pride in bringing 40 years of collective impact into the fields of children’s welfare, education, health and nutrition, community organization and development livelihood and enterprise, and environmental protection and biodiversity. With the AF having served as mentor, facilitator, and integrator to its members, it is gratifying to see that our efforts have borne much fruit.”

Said AF president Fely C. Rixhon: “Beyond merely an indication of our being the most heterogeneous network of NGOs, our multicause orientation has become a real instrument in addressing the ever evolving, myriad needs of Filipinos in constantly changing times.”

An important AF accomplishment during this anniversary year is the publication of “Directory of Civil Society Organizations in the Philippines 2012,” a compilation of information on 1,009 NGOs, POs and cooperatives. Australian AID aided in the research and publication.

This is perhaps the only one of its kind thereabouts. The AF had published two directories in the past but this 2012 version is comparatively more expanded—and online, too. There had been no readily available data base on CSOs, Jiao said, not even at the Securities and Exchange Commission and other registering agencies. And despite the work that went into the data gathering, the printed 2012 directory is by no means complete. Not all CSOs were that conscientious about filling up forms, providing data and sending these back and on time, Jiao lamented. But data will be continuously updated at the AF website.

To CSOs out there, if you missed being included in the impressive directory, it might be your fault.

Those interested in the directory can find it online, or they may contact the AF at Room 1102, 11/F Aurora Tower, Aurora Boulevard, Cubao, QC. Telefax: (02) 911-9792, 913-7231  E-mail: af@afonline.org. Website: www.afonline.org.

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