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Business Matters

Oxfam sa Pilipinas partners with business

In 2016, Christian Monsod and I were approached and asked to join the Country Governance Group or CGG of Oxfam sa Pilipinas to represent the business sector. Chris and I were already then working together in the executive committee of the Bishops-Businessmen’s Conference or BBC, and we both agreed without any hesitance to help and support in our little ways an organization that has made a difference in the lives of many across the globe since 1942.

As gleaned from the local website, “Oxfam is an international confederation of 18 organisations networked together in more than 94 countries, as part of a global movement for change, to build a future free from the injustice of poverty. The name ‘Oxfam’ comes from the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief, founded in Britain in 1942. The group campaigned for food supplies to be sent through an allied naval blockade to starving women and children in enemy-occupied Greece during the Second World War. Since then, as well as becoming a world leader in the delivery of emergency relief, Oxfam implements long-term development programs in vulnerable communities.”

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Working in the Philippines for over 25 years now, Oxfam sa Pilipinas has focused on its goal “to contribute to the eradication of poverty by supporting women and other vulnerable groups in saving lives and building livelihoods, enhancing their resilience to crises, shocks and stresses, and making their voices heard to hold duty-bearers accountable.”

For fiscal year 2018-2019 alone, Oxfam is managing some 6 million euros or close to P378 million for 13 major projects and programs across the country, with just a team of 55 committed staff.

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A partner-based approach has been key to its growing successes. Steering away from direct implementation, Oxfam purposively cultivates collaboration, openness, transparency, horizontal learning and mutually beneficial working relations with national and local organizations, and the public and private sectors. These partner-based actions give the organization the opportunity to cover more areas and, as a consequence, the ability to reach more communities, families and individuals with life-saving support.

This approach has been articulated into the Strategic Partnership Model, and was first applied formally in partner-based emergency response actions during the conflict in Marawi City in May 2017. Working with partners on the ground like the Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services Inc., United Youth of the Philippines-Women, Al-Mujadilah Development Foundation, Humanitarian Response Consortium, and Community Organizers Multiversity, Oxfam implemented partner-based emergency response activities in 48 municipalities and cities in Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Maguindanao and Misamis Oriental from May 2017 to March 2018, reaching a total of 21,167 families or 128,633 individuals—about 24.38 percent of the estimated total displaced individuals.

A key initiative with the business sector is the IAFFORD Project, which aims to connect 50,000 poor Filipinos, 60 percent of them women, to affordable digital financial services in Eastern Visayas and Mindanao. It intends to empower families to manage their finances, save money, and invest in micro-social and business insurance to  protect their assets, livelihoods and small businesses.

Highly scalable, the entire card membership program grew from 500 in a few barangays to 50,000 covering 100 barangays within a few months. Formerly an Oxfam-branded card, the IAFFORD has become a digital financial inclusion project led by Oxfam, in partnership with PayMaya, Visa, the Australian government and local cooperatives like the Metro Ormoc Community Multipurpose Cooperative Inc.

At our last Country Governance Group meeting (which I now fortuitously chair), after being thanked for our presence, Chris expressed a sentiment I share: that, on the contrary, it is a privilege to be given the opportunity to work with Oxfam sa Pilipinas. Indeed, business must build more partnerships with those focused on economic and social reform, with Oxfam helping build the bridges that will inevitably close the gaps that divide us, and make inclusive growth attainable.

Peter Angelo V. Perfecto (pvperfecto@gmail.com), former executive director of Makati Business Club, is now with Phinma Corp. and is chair of the Oxfam Philippines Country Governance Group.

Business Matters is a project of the Makati Business Club.

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TAGS: business, column, opinion, Oxfam sa Pilipinas
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