The Courage to Do Things Differently: How Trust-Based Philanthropy Emboldens Impact Leaders to Innovate


Amanda Kee


4 minutes read

“30 years on this journey, and we are still not short of dreams, ideas, and passions.
But, innovative minds are limited by resources.”
–  Nanette S. Antequisa, Executive Director of ECOWEB, Philippines

The Maranao community has been hard-pressed on every side. It is one of just a few Islamic communities in the Philippines that was deeply affected by a siege  in 2017 in Marawi.  The violence displaced 98% of the city’s total population and years later, the rebuilding effort continues to be hampered by extreme weather like Super Typhoon Odette in 2021, and fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

In order to help the Maranao, Nanette S. Antequisa and her team at ECOWEB stepped in to offer cash grants. These micro grants enabled groups within the community to set up their own livelihood recovery projects, and meet their immediate needs. But the grants would only go so far.  

Recipients told Nanette and her team  that they wanted to ensure that their recovery projects and informal businesses became sustainable  – and this would  require more capital.  

“It’s not just a matter of access to more capital,” says Nanette. “It’s also not just a matter of access to mainstream capital. There is a need to incorporate cultural sensitivities [e.g. Islamic principles] in the Maranao community, and, there is no other financing facility with similar circumstances that we can learn from”. 

When ECOWEB became the recipient of unrestricted funding through the AVPN KKR Fund, the team suddenly had the leeway to try something new; that could be tailored to the needs of the community. With input from the Maranao, they developed a financing model called the Revolving Loan Fund (RLF). Not only does the RLF meet the requirements for lending money in a majority Muslim community, but it is also designed in such a way that entrepreneurs who participate in the RLF can afford to fail. The fund provides interest-free loans, and commits that borrowers are not required to repay if the project is not successful. However, if entrepreneurs are successful they return their loan to the RLF so that the money can be loaned to others. 

Nanette was inspired by the opportunity to design a financing mechanism in tandem with the community.  The driving factor was not “‘How do we sustain the RLF?” but, “How do we recover losses and improve the wellbeing of the community?”

Within just one year, the difference was noticeable.  

The Maranao community used the RLF to expand their fish farms, acquire more livestock and maximise the use of their land – something they had never been able to do because of a lack of capital.  

As the pilot group demonstrated their success, many others decided to tap on the RLF. Community facilities, such as affordable goods stores, started to pop up. And as new economic opportunities emerged, some young members of the pilot group were able to start earning wages. “We are seeing that it’s not just ECOWEB helping the community, but the people within the community itself helping one another,” says Nanette.

Nanette has also started to expand her thinking beyond immediate community needs. 

“Our goal is that, in the long term, this model can be a proven pathway for disaster and conflict-stricken [communities] to rebuild peace,” she says. ECOWEB hopes to advocate for the use of the RLF model in other communities by urging policymakers to learn how it works. It’s an aspiration that was made possible by  the unrestricted funding that ECOWEB received, and the way in which the team chose to put it to use. 

Access to unrestricted funding that allows this type of innovation is difficult. But Nanette is not dissuaded. She hopes that there are more like-minded partners who will work with her: 

“Humanitarian work defines me. I believe that I can contribute and change something, one community, and one project at a time. There is still a lot to be done.”

This article is part of an ongoing AVPN initiative on Trust-based Philanthropy were we share our learnings, develop insights with our partners, and lead the conversation about this essential and evolving approach to giving in Asia. To learn more and get connected please click here



Nanette S. Antequisa is the founding Executive Director of the Ecosystems Work for Essential Benefits, Inc. (ECOWEB) and convenor of the Community Led Emergency Action Response Network (CLEARNet) in the Philippines. She has been in peace and development work for over 30 years. She actively advocates for a survivor and community-led approach in crisis response. She has been engaged in local and national policy advocacy on the issues of disaster, poverty, conflict, environment and governance. At the global level, she was engaged in ensuring local voices in the SDG2030 and currently on the Localisation of Aid.

Ecoweb is a non-government and nonpProfit organisation based in Iligan City, Lanao del Norte, Philippines. It is registered under the Securities and Exchange Commision (SEC) and was founded on the 30th day of May 2006. It is an institution with expertise on community-based disaster risk reduction and management. It also strongly advocates for the rights of indigenous people, women and other marginalized sectors. Hence, ECOWEB also supports peace process and ecological conservation as well as participatory good governance. ECOWEB is a grantee organisation of the KKR COVID-Relief fund managed by AVPN. 

AVPN Philanthropic Funds harness the power of collective action by leveraging the expertise and capabilities of diverse partners and allies to support scalable and effective solutions at multiple levels, while strengthening ecosystems and structures across the Asia Pacific Region. The funds comprise both Pooled Funds and Single-Donor Funds that provide unrestricted funding, allowing non-profit organisations to plug in the missing gap, enabling them to strengthen their capacity and capabilities within their ecosystem, resulting in lasting impactful change.


A. Environmental Stewardship
To protect the environment, we organize programmes like mangrove nursery and Reforestation, Coastal and River Clean-Up, Community Based Environmental Solid Waste Management, Environmental IEC Campaign and Eco-Academy

B. Food Security and Sustainable Livelihood
To ensure a sustainable livelihood for the community, eco-tourism include Buhatan River Cruise Visitor Center Buhatan River Mangrove Boardwalk are run by the community. Others include Organic Vegetable and Root crops Farming, Vegetable and Root crops Chips and by-products Processing and establishing a Zero waste store.

C. Empowered Communities
To empower the community, we provide product and Agri-Enterprise Development Training, Immersion and Learnings Exchange Program, Earth Warrior Training and Community Based Social Entrepreneurship Training


Amanda Kee

Manager, Capital Mobilisation at AVPN

Amanda is a Manager in the Capital Mobilisation team at AVPN. She bridges knowledge and capital gaps across diverse stakeholders, including funders, capacity builders, and implementers on the ground. Most recently, she launched the Youth Opportunities Platform, in which funders and solutionists driving youth development can more efficiently find partners, resources, and collaboration opportunities to scale their impact. Previously, Amanda was the Content Marketing Manager at AVPN. She supported the CEO across multiple fronts, including speaking engagements, media relations, and thought leadership. She also led the creation of diverse video, podcast, and blog series to advocate for funders’ key social issues. The AVPN blog increased its readership by more than 50% within a year under her content curation efforts. Amanda is an English Literature graduate at the National University of Singapore and University Scholars’ Programme. She is also the author of local children’s book: The Runaway Who Became President, published in 2016. Amanda is a member of the management committee at her community preschool, which provides affordable early childhood education for low-income families. In her free time, she provides pro-bono digital marketing and events curation support to foster community building in her hometown in Singapore.

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