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. 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
This period witnessed the emergence of voluntary, private initiatives that engaged mainly in relief and reconstruction work to support a war-ravaged country. Considered to be the first NGOs, their welfare endeavors continued even after normalization. Eventually, the welfare work was geared toward social reform, colored with anti- communist motivation, which concentrated on the problems in the countryside. The environment led to the setting up of the pioneer NGOs in the country: the Institute of Social Order in 1947 and the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement in 1952.
The Deepening Social Crisis and the Rise of New Social Movements (1965-1972)
A conglomeration of events shaped the global and national sociopolitical landscape which affected the history of NGOs in the Philippines. On the one hand, there was a worldwide questioning of the previous development approach; an emergence of new theories of underdevelopment; highlight on revolutionary anti-colonial struggles; and change in the social directions of the Catholic Church which played a key role in this stage of development.
On the other hand, as the Philippine social situation was rapidly deteriorating, there was a resurgence of nationalism and student activism and a groundswell of public outrage, which culminated in the First Quarter Storm. At this period, grassroots organizing dominated the NGOs directions.
Two NGO networks were established during this time: the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA) and the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) in 1967 and 1971, respectively. NASSA served as a clearinghouse and coordinating mechanism for the Philippine Catholic Church’s social involvement, while PBSP established itself as a network among business corporations and NGOs they supported.
This period also witnessed the emergence of the community organization approach as an alternative to the limitations of community development. This approach led to the establishment of the Philippine Ecumenical Council for Community Organization (PECCO) in 1971. As a result, many NGOs were organized bearing the new orientation/approach.
In 1972, after a series of informal meetings, ten NGOs with more traditional business and family foundations came together to form another network, the Association of Foundations (AF).
(To be continued)
Next post: Coping with Repression, Carving a Niche (1972-1978) and Expansion and Innovation (1978-1983).