'Trust us too' — Filipino grass-roots NGO to donors

The interactive panel session, “Organizational Development for Enhancing Impact an Cultivating Sustainable Partnerships” during the Devex Partnerships Forum in Manila. One of the topics discussed during the event is aid localization. Photo by: Wilson Q. Tan / Devex

As aid officials emphasized at this week’s Partnerships Forum in Manila, donor agencies across the board are funneling more money directly to local organizations.

But amid the buzz over aid localization, what is often overlooked is that donor agencies already have a long history of working with local partners — albeit indirectly through subcontracts and subgrants.

As they “go local,” many of these donor agencies are increasingly turning to well-established local organizations — in addition to their traditional partners from home — to oversee subcontracts and subgrants to nongovernmental organizations at the grassroots level. Case in point: In the Philippines, the U.S. Agency for International Development has tapped one of the country’s oldest private foundations to manage a five-year, $24 million grant facility for local NGOs.

One grass-roots NGO believes this approach doesn’t go local enough. Instead, donors should be funding community-level organizations directly — without the need for middlemen.

“Trust us too,” Joy Cevallos-Garcia, chief operating officer of Tahanang Walang Hagdanan, told Devex. “Give us a chance to prove ourselves.”

Founded back in 1973, TWH provides livelihood opportunities for people living with disabilities in the Philippine province of Rizal, just outside of Manila.

Even as she acknowledged their sincerity to go local, Cevallos-Garcia emphasized that donor agencies — particularly USAID and the European Commission — not only need to simplify their procurement procedures, but also change the mindset that grass-roots NGOs lack the fiduciary and managerial capacity to handle aid funding directly.

She pointed out that TWH had already successfully managed millions of pesos in grants for a training center from the Japanese embassy in Manila — a grant-making relationship that dates back more than two decades.

Cevallos-Garcia added that embassies’ grant-making strategies and activities seemed far more tailored to grass-roots groups than those from the major donor agencies — as Devex’s Manola De Vos also recently reported. For instance, the Japanese embassy in Manila runs a grant-making program dedicated to grass-roots community development projects. TWH has also received direct funding from the Australian, Spanish and Belgian governments through their diplomatic missions in the Philippines.

Do you think donor agencies should be funding grassroots NGOS directly — without larger implementers as middlemen? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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About the author

  • Lorenzo Piccio

    Lorenzo is a former contributing analyst for Devex. Previously Devex's senior analyst for development finance in Manila.