Partnerships for capacity building

FILIPINO WORLDVIEW - Roberto R. Romulo - The Philippine Star

The Philippine private sector has been pro-active in assisting the national government to address key governance challenges particularly in helping the disadvantaged sectors to cope with disasters – most recently COVID-19, and poverty and its consequences on access to health and education resources. Two private sector foundations are setting the way forward in their approach to assisting the public sector to deliver key public services by focusing on capacity building at the local government unit level.  They also pioneered a new role for the private sector – that of an active partner in implementation and development action, beyond the traditional one as a donor.

The National Resilience Council (NRC) is a public-private sector partnership that aims to improve local government risk governance capacities in order to prevent disasters as a consequence of all hazards, including the impacts of climate change. In line primarily with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR), its goal is resilience, which is the ability to survive and thrive amidst risk and future shocks that goes beyond emergency response. The Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF) is the philanthropic arm of the Zuellig family focused on improving local government capability to provide for public health services aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG) health goals of addressing maternal and child health, malnutrition and its reduction, stunting and adolescent pregnancies.

I have written about both organizations in the past but this time, I would like to focus on what makes them unique in their approach.

The NRC has private and public sector co-chairs to ensure alignment with international agreements and national and local policies. It has four vice-chairs to ensure multi-stakeholder engagement namely: government, as represented by the Department of Local Government and Department of Defense; business, represented by the Makati Business Club; academia as represented by the Manila Observatory; and, non-profit organizations led by the Zuellig Family Foundation.

Its DNA is best defined by its current three-year Resilient LGU Program that has a whole-of-society, all hazards and systems approach consisting of two tracks – Science and Technology and Leadership and Governance. Designed to confront disaster risk beyond emergency response, the program involves knowledge co-creation, building capabilities, competencies and processes that translate disaster science into policies and action.

NRC works directly with committed local governments to measure and track capacity-building in evidence-informed risk governance focusing on the need for investment planning, budgeting and actions over the immediate, medium and longer terms.

It employs a nexus approach to risk governance, partnering local chief executive with resilience pillar champions and local academic partners who participate in making decisions that have impacts across the intersecting pillars of human development, sustainable local economy, resilient infrastructure (includes buildings and households), environment and human security (all threats). NRC has two critical innovations. The first is that it works closely with the private sector as a partner, not a donor, by encouraging investment in risk reduction and resilience “beyond their fence lines” and as component of their core business value cycles. Second, it supports and establishes institutional links between knowledge creation in higher education and local risk governance. Both innovations enhance prospects for learning and policy coherence and continuity.

NRC president Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga sums it up nicely: “Disaster risk is complex and dynamic. With the pandemic, hazards compound and cascade throughout our weakened systems. Resilience requires commitment to decisions informed by science and enabled by appropriate technologies. This is a development journey that requires evidence-informed leadership and not just a sprint fuelled by the flurry of disaster relief.”

ZFF, on the other hand, is a family foundation focused on improving health of the disadvantaged by providing capacity building support for local chief executives (mayors and governors) and their health leadership teams to improve local health systems, reduce malnutrition and stunting and adolescent pregnancies.

ZFF chairman Ernesto Garilao explains: “Our interventions must result in better, evidence-based health outcomes and achieved faster considering national indicators have only improved incrementally. We want these approaches mainstreamed at the local level so that health outcomes improve faster.”

He adds: “Our approach carries a life cycle  – addressing a health challenge by having a theory of change, a proof of concept, learnings captured through operations and training manuals, case studies which are used for scaling up and learnings dissemination, also bearing in mind the societal return of the intervention. We are a learning organization: we capture learnings from the project and apply the learnings to improve the next project cycle.”

The Foundation’s scaling up approach is done with academic partners which do the capacity building interventions for mayors and governors. This is because it believes that the change maker on the ground is the local chief executive who empowers his internal bureaucracy and mobilizes external stakeholders, and together address the health challenge.

What makes ZFF’s approach even more unique is that it is aimed at developing trust (rather than transactional) relationships with local government partners. Addressing complex health challenges require long-term relationships among local government units/executives, academic partners as well as with resource and co-funding partners. Part of that approach includes an extensive staff development program which produce effective health professionals for the public health sector.

In the coming years, Garilao said that they would begin to develop programs that address health and with other partners, social determinants of health: education, incomes, social protection, and public safety.

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