17th LCF CSR Expo 2018

Thank you very much to the League of Corporate Foundations (LCF) for inviting me to be part of the 17th LCF CSR Expo 2018. I am glad to be with fellow champions of Corporate Social Responsibility and proponents of various programs and projects that have been benefitting Filipinos all over the country. It is good to be in the company of like-minded individuals.

This particular plenary, “Revisiting the BASICS with New Perspective”, is what any CSR practitioner takes to mind all the time—stick to the basics but put in a new and fresh perspective to what we do. There is no question that we have to keep up with innovations and trends. In doing so, however, we cannot let go of our core values and focus.

The social problem may be old and common, but the solutions need to be cast in concrete, so to speak, we need to think outside of the box every so often.  Because there are always a better and more efficient way of doing things, some solutions also become outdated even when the need or the problems is still the same. There are always more innovative approaches or better ways of doing things.

With Villar SIPAG for instance, our core advocacies are basically the same—livelihood generation, assistance to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), environmental protection, agricultural training and development among others. But we know that we have to go beyond the implementation of livelihood skills training and offering OFW support, for instance.

Many are now using enterprise development as a holistic strategy to improve the socio-economic life of indigent communities. And we keep always keep that in our mindset. We want our so-called impact communities or beneficiaries to be participative and really involved.

We of course still beleieve that livelihood skills training is still a must and should continue as our key advocacy, and we have in fact established nearly 2,000 livelihood projects nationwide. But definitely, I agree, it should not stop at skills training. It should not be a dead-end. And it is not, in our case. The people we have trained are training others already. On top of that, they are finding other ways of doing things, with the help of new technologies and equipment. In fact, even their outputs or products have evolved over the years. As I said earlier, nothing is cast in stone.

When we started the water hyacinth weaving enterprise, our weavers were only making baskets and mats. Now, they have become very creative, you name a handicraft or product, and they can most probably be able to weave it. When we started the coconet weaving enterprise, they were only producing coconets, then we discovered that we can also use the coco dusts to produce organic fertilizers and we have also started making charcoal brisquettes out of them. The same goes with our other livelihood enterprises, we keep on innovating.

In terms of challenges encountered, it is only when the innovation involves technology and equipment that limitations set in. But that is something that can be addressed since most of the enterprises are self-sustaining. Some of our beneficiaries have also formed their own groups or cooperatives, which can tap support from NGOs or government agencies.

We did not really encounter any problem with stakeholders in accepting innovations. Most of them embraced them. Maybe it helped that we really engaged and involved those who are really committed. The interest and willingness should be there. And for as long as they will get something out of it, they are open to new ideas and innovations. They are also rest assured that we have their best interests at heart. So their success is our success. At the end of the day, that is what community partnerships are all about—working together towards shared goals. That is also how we can ensure business continuity—building a strong commitment with community partners.

Because in any CSR platform, we should be in equal footing, the beneficiaries become our partners. Gone are the days of merely giving dole-outs and treating people as charity cases. We have empowered people and their communities to be in control of achieving their goals and aspirations for themselves, their families and their communities.

It is a fast-evolving world that we live in, we need to be flexible and adapt to changes. Thus, when methods (even time-tested ones) do not work and are not practical anymore, it is a cue for us to re-think the status quo. In doing so however, we need not forget about the basics, we just need to leave room for new perspectives and adapt accordingly. On that note, thank you once again and more power to all the members of LCF and all the CSR practitioners!