True localisation happens when local organisations develop their own theories of change, design their programmes, and mobilise resources to implement. It’s not when international NGOs subcontract local organisations to implement programmes.
As the pandemic and its economic impact started to bite, A Single Drop for Safe Water (ASDSW) in the Philippines reflected on how humanitarian assistance should change in the face of this extended crisis. Working with social enterprises like Ashoka, Xchange, Firetree Trust, and Limitless Lab, we developed a programme that looked at and improved the systems in place for emergency response, and worked to strengthen these systems to better serve impacted communities.
This programme recognises that barangays (local government units) are the sharp edge of the spear for government working with and to serve communities. It recognises that traditional responses are unsustainable in this environment; the largest resources are local communities and government.
BRITE, which stands for “Barangay Resilience and Innovation Through Empowerment”, harnesses the power of human-centered design and design thinking to engage with barangays and key community members to identify gaps and develop solutions, all within existing government frameworks to strengthen governance, community engagement and accountability.
As the theory of change was developed, we engaged with our current Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) funder, Arche Nova, to pilot the programme in Puerto Prinsesa in Palawan Province for 20 barangays classified as geographically isolated and disadvantaged. It was a key step toward working with the Puerto Prinsesa’s local government to ensure the sustainability of efforts beyond funding.
Working with Limitless Lab also enabled us to start developing a design thinking workshop for disaster risk reduction officers and emergency responders. We then approached Latter Day Saints Charities as long-term partners, and have now received approval to pilot the design thinking process and the entire programme in Maguindanao Province.
When we heard about Start Network’s Working Differently Challenge, we felt that what we were doing was the perfect fit, so we started approaching its members in the Philippines. After listening to our pitch, Islamic Relief was interested in the concept, so we submitted an application and were eventually selected to receive funding, as well as technical support from Thoughtworks.
This support will work to improve current programme areas, but could also contribute to a national programme and be institutionalised as the local BRITE network expands. Furthermore, Islamic Relief’s openness to good, locally developed ideas is evidence that they are committed to the Charter for Change. They truly consider local organisations to be equal partners, providing space for them to drive potential programmes. Even though we had not formally worked with Islamic Relief in the past, we feel that the respect shown by the organisation bodes well for a positive implementing relationship.