Friday, September 09, 2011

Involving beneficiaries ‘better approach’

Involving beneficiaries ‘better approach’
By Mia A. Aznar
Sun.Star Cebu
September 8, 2011

Rather than dole out cash assistance for corporate social responsibility programs, the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) prefers to involve their beneficiaries in projects and allows them to develop things themselves so they can go on without help.

That is PBSP’s thrust with Scope, or the Strategic Corporate-Community Partnership for Local Development program, which works along the value chains of Philippine-based companies.

PBSP vice chairman for the Visayas executive committee Philip Tan said the difference Scope has with other assistance programs is that beneficiaries are able to go through a complete business cycle and can be left on their own once they are established.

He cited as example food production, where beneficiaries are linked with suppliers so they have a proper market, instead of just producing crops without knowing where to sell these.

He hopes such programs, particularly a partnership between a Bohol-based bakeshop known for peanut candies, cookies and pastries, and a farmers’ cooperative will do well.

Scope consultant Jana Franke, who is also with the German Development Corp. (Giz), explained that Scope engages the private sector, determines what it needs and finds ways to meet these needs through beneficiaries.

She said many companies have problems and that their approach is to address the needs of the private sector by developing communities to meet the needs of these companies.

She said that this way, the program is mutually beneficial to both parties.

She said that in the end, communities become self-reliant and that there is local development through job and income generation. The programs they introduce integrate local communities into value chains of companies as suppliers of services or semi-processed goods.

Franke said they prefer to provide semi-processed products because they want to foster the abilities of beneficiaries without overwhelming them with the amount of work they have to do to complete a project.

She said semi-processed goods are more manageable but they can also mark up their prices because a product has undergone pre-processing.

“There is limited economic risk through a pre-defined market,” she explained.

Fellow Scope and Giz consultant Janina Wohlgemuth said that in the case of Jojie’s Bakeshop in Bohol, they learned the bakery had to import peanuts from China just so they can keep up with the demand for peanut delicacies Bohol is known for.

She explained that Scope came in by introducing peanut planting to the Carmen Multipurpose Cooperative by providing seeds, soil analysis, organic fertilizer and post-harvest facilities. The peanuts are grown during the idle period of rice production, which allows added income for the community and benefits Jojie’s Bakeshop by allowing them to expand their local supply and ensure the quality is high.

In Cebu, scrap materials from furniture company Dedon are given to fashion accessories company GracieQ, which hires out-of-school youths to weave and put together the famous “pusó” designs.

Another group of boys is not shy about working with sewing machines, accepting subcontracted upholstery projects for Interior Crafts of the Islands, owned by Kenneth Cobonpue.

For Tan, corporate social responsibility should not just be limited to donations.

“If we want to help communities, they have to help themselves,” he said, adding that donations will not last long, as donors will eventually tire of giving out money.

Tan said developing communities this way is better than donating things like a school building, saying there is little impact if the students continue to have poor grades despite the donation.