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“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.