PCDForum Column #1 Release Date October 20, 1990

by Tina Liamzon

Six current trends are reshaping the development
roles of NGOs in the Philippines and elsewhere in
Asia in ways that are likely to have important implications for our future partnerships with Northern

Trend #1: Networking: We are learning to work
more effectively with one another. In addition to a
proliferation of national networks, many of the
smaller NGOs are forming regional networks responsive to their local needs. We also find a growing number of sectoral or issue oriented networks
formed around specialized agendas, such as, agrarian reform, removal of the U.S. military bases,
debt, women’s rights, and sustainable development.

Trend #2: Collaboration with Government: We
are recognizing that: 1) the tremendous resources of
government are unlikely to reach the intended target
groups without NGO intervention; and 2) partnerships with government provide opportunities to
influence government policies and programs. The
era of generalized demands and protests, “government should…” or “down with…,” rendered us
irrelevant noisemakers, more a nuisance than a major player in policy debates. We now see the need to
translate our value commitments into specific
recommendations for policies, programs and procedures. We want to show government, look, this is
the way the land reform program should be implemented.

Trend #3: Domestic Constituency: We know that
we must become less dependent on foreign funding.
In recent years donors flooded us with offers of
money. We willingly obliged, accepting millions of
dollars to scale-up our programs. The tide is already
ebbing. Eastern Europe is the donor flavor of the
month. We are now tapping more government resources and recognize the need to raise funds from
our own middle class. Even more important we see
the need to build a domestic political constituency.
Opinion polls tell us the majority of Filipinos favor
agrarian reform, but we have failed to mobilize this
majority into a political constituency. We are now
examining how we can address this need.

Trend #4: Political Roles: Most of us have avoided
politics. However, as we watch the traditional politicians repeatedly defeat legitimate social reform
initiatives, we are realizing that to eliminate the
causes of social injustice we must reform our electoral system. The responses are varied. Some NGOs
may field candidates. Others will campaign for specific issues and press candidates to address these in
their platforms. Still others will work for clean and
honest elections. For most of us these are new commitments, but the need is recognized and the first
steps are being taken.

Trend #5: A Shared Vision: In the past, we each
worked on specialized tasks at the local level. One
did community organizing, another health, and still
another cooperatives, without regard for a larger
whole. We are now sitting with one another, as well
as with groups outside of our immediate community,
to share our concerns and aspirations for our localities and our country. Groups that once found themselves separated by seemingly irreconcilable ideological differences are finding they share a common
vision. This shared vision enables us to meld our
individual efforts into a more cohesive and powerful

Trend #6: A Distinctive Competence: We are
recognizing that good intentions are no longer sufficient. As resources become scarce, NGOs that have
nothing distinctive to offer will go out of business.
We must perform. Many of our organizations are
working to define and develop a distinctive competence.

We have talked for ten to twenty years in bold
generalizations about social transformation, but
confined our action to isolated local problems. Concerned with turf, we have exaggerated our individual uniqueness and built small isolated empires.

We are now reassessing our strategies in an effort to
achieve a new level of maturity and effectiveness as
agents of local, national and global transformation.
We realize we must develop new styles of working
based on a shared vision, complementary strategies,
shared turf and a sharing of resources. We must
become sophisticated analysts, operationalize our
agendas, and build our political constituencies.
While much remains to be done, we have taken the
first steps. We welcome partnerships with NGOs, of
both North and South, who share our commitments
and bring a distinctive competence to the table.


Tina Liamzon is a founder of the Philippine Partnership for the
Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas (PhilDHRRA), a major Philippine NGO consortium body that she
served as national coordinator for six years, a leading alliance
builder among Philippine NGO networks and a director &
fellow of the PCDForum. This column was prepared and distributed by the PCDForum based on an article by Tina Liamzon’s
in PhilDHRRA Notes, July-August 1990.