In the previous blog, the vulnerability of NGOs was discussed as they frequently pioneer new approaches and challenge development orthodoxy. NGOs are vulnerable to groups with vested interests. Consequently, the NGOs face 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. A number of these pseudo NGOs set up not for any other purpose than to take advantage of funding sources for dubious or narrow purposes, according to Abad (1990).
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.
In the Philippines, NGOs have reached the highest level of unity in networking during the launching of the Caucus of Development NGOs (CODE NGOs) in 1990. This solidarity, however, did not happen overnight. It was a culmination of decades of common struggle similar to what other NGOs in other countries experienced in the course of historical development characterized by diverse intensity and highlights.
The united effort of Philippine NGOs evolved from relief and reconstruction work to welfare activities geared toward anti- communist inspired social reform. Affected by the social context, which witnessed worldwide questioning of development approach, Philippine NGOs found themselves doing grassroots organizing for transformation. Such approach, however, faced a momentary halt when confronted by a repressive regime that used an iron-fist policy in dealing with oppositions. Overcoming the threat, NGOs became instrumental in the qualitative growth of the organized mass movement, which culminated in the EDSA phenomenon. Thereafter, NGOs have maintained their legitimacy and prominence in Philippine society. The gains of networking in the national scene inspired the NGOs to translate it to the regional and provincial level.
In Iloilo, NGOs have formed themselves into various networks, some even earlier than the CODE NGOs. So far, there are about four networks existing in Iloilo. The oldest of these is the Iloilo Council of Social Development (ICSD) which traces its roots to the oldest NGO network in the national level, the National Council of Social Development, formerly Council of Welfare Agencies Foundation of the Philippines, Inc. (CWAFPI).
With the highest level of networking or coalition building ever reached by the NGO Community, it has been assumed that issues and problems among NGOs have started to diminish. Reality, however, proves otherwise. Despite the gains of networking, various tensions continue to exist between and among NGOs.
The success of NGO coalition building could not hide the fact that the Philippine NGO community remains riven by three cleavages, namely: ideological, professional, and proliferation of pseudo NGOs. Conflicts and differences ranging from competition for declining development funding to sectarian tendencies affect even the largest NGOs of the country (Alegre 1996). These problems and other issues, concern, and challenge confronting NGOs lead to the question: How effective is networking in development endeavors?
Second of the series of posts on Networking as Development Strategy of NGOs in the Province of Iloilo. Thesis requirement for my Master of Social Work degree from University of the Philippines-Diliman in 2000.