What does the morning after a tropical storm smell like? What does solidarity feel like, and who supports whom when people are left to clean up the rubble? Based in the Philippines, The Center for Disaster Preparedness Foundation (CDP) understands that the first layer of response to natural disasters is inevitably in the hands of community members. The human experiences of resilience and solidarity make visible the fabric that weaves community - they can be recognized, supported, and strengthened.
Loreine dela Cruz, the executive director of the CDP, reflects:
“Local people don’t have the capacity to write beautiful reports, but they are the ones doing the work. This is because the people who would have the skills and education often move to the city in search of better opportunities, leaving rural communities with less visibility and capacity”.
The CDP takes local knowledge and community resilience seriously: for over 20 years it has been studying and systematizing it to develop a model of Community-Based Disaster Risk Reduction and Management. Because grassroots actions are mostly led by community-based organizations which are not legally registered (and therefore less able to access resources), the CDP has been acting as an intermediary, transferring knowledge, offering capacity building, and providing community solidarity funds.
Over the last few years, the CDP has had to reinvent itself, facing some existential questions about how to grow in a local and global context which is full of paradoxes. In fact, while its vulnerability to climate change is growing, the Philippines is now regarded as a middle-income country. What are the implications for those organizations supporting locally-led development like the CDP? Well, for those who had been ingrained in the international development structure, it means less funding available from multilateral donors.
To become less volatile to any donor pulling out, the CDP has been diversifying its revenues streams by partnering with governments and donor agencies while also providing capacity-building and consultancy services to communities, INGOs, and private companies. Yet, each funding stream implies specific know-how:
“Sustainability is not just a matter of finances, it’s mostly about the capacity to
cultivate and sustain simultaneously diverse relationships (for example, in our case with donors, partner-service providers, and local communities). It’s also about the relationships and infrastructures which enable different funding streams.”
No more subcontracting - just equal partnerships
The CDP has taken the decision they will no longer accept subcontracting. Loreine emphasizes:
“We are tired of being stuck with the outputs others decide, and with partners who dictate what they want without taking our view seriously. Most of all, we are tired of projects with unrealistic time constraints. The contracts are too quick, you cannot work well with such timelines”.
This is a bold choice, but it can be lonely to reinvent oneself. This is precisely why the CDP has been so enthusiastic about its partnership with GlobalGiving and its consortium members.
The partnership has been different because there has been space for real dialogue about power dynamics. GlobalGiving is enabling this by taking it to heart that they are also: they are interrogating their role as a funder and questioning how western funders can transform their role. Most importantly, they are openly sharing these reflections with their local partners.
For the CDP, this is a breath of fresh air. It is reminding them that when two partners are willing to listen, they can support each other by acting as mirrors – each partner can learn about itself through the other. This is only possible when two partners truly regard themselves as equals. When I asked Loreine what is so special about their partnership with GlobalGiving, she replies:
“They trust us - they know we have our track record, and they consider us experts, they respect that we understand the local culture. Simply put, they listen.”
Tips for donors and INGOs
These are the tips that Loreine and Michael Vincent Mercado share to donors and INGOs who want to strengthen locally-led development:
“Funders must dispel the notion that social organizations must not earn profit. We want to be able to get paid for what we do – it’s a necessary step to dignify and value our work”.
“Through dialogue and capacity building, international donors can support local partners to step out of a mentality of dependency from international funding. On our side, we are actively researching domestic resource mobilization – we believe in community philanthropy and recognize communities have assets and agency, so we want to invest in local resources”.
“Donors must consider indirect costs as part of budgets. Our operation costs are necessary for projects to be implemented - it’s important donors recognize when they consider budgets”.
“Donors need to create systems that enable local partners to be funded directly. We are willing to learn, experiment, take risks, and discover new ways of working with international partners. When the localization agenda has started, we were invited by USAID to submit a technical proposal which entails submitting voluminous documents as many as around 22 supporting documents to complete the full technical proposal package. We also went through a three-day due diligence check after fulfilling fixed awards – and we made it.”.
Questions for funders and INGOs to consider:
How do you engage with the organizations that you subcontract? What could you do differently to enable a deeper dialogue?
How willing are you to show yourself and share your inner questions with local partners?
How do you work with partners in middle-income countries?
This collection of stories provides concrete ideas to help design funding models that are accessible and appropriate for community-led development. It is designed for institutional donors, NGOs, development agencies, foundations, philanthropies – any person or institution who intends to resource development work within the UK and internationally.
These stories are a practical tool. We hope that you will be able to pick up concrete ideas and inspiration to design funding models that are accessible and appropriate to enable locally-led development. Download the entire report here.