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Program and Activities

Issue Based Community Organizing (IBCO)

Customize CO Consultancy


The transformation of CO-TRAIN into the CO Multiversity in 1998, signaled a shift from a primarily training focus  one that also took a broader view of community organizing in the context of civil society roles and genuine reform. A particular outcome has been the desire to assess CO accomplishments honestly, given the new challenges of the 21st century, starting with President Joseph Estrada’s Pro-Poor Administration.

 This self-evaluation process involved extensive consultations with NGO and PO partners throughout the country which in turn led to the formation of a loose coalition of Community Organization Learning Centers (COLCs). The process was further enhanced by a reflection workshop, February 16-18,2000 at which six generations of community organizers reflected on the gains and challenges of CO work.

 As a result of the extensive COLC consultations, the CO Multiversity has developed a three  year program  framed in a decade-long perspective that is conscious of the fast-paced changes occurring in a globalizing world. A goal for the three year program is to develop the capacity of the CO Multiversity to be an effective, efficient and caring capability –building institution for community organizers in people’s organizations and development NGOs and to be a force for strengthening NGO/PO roles in civil society partners with government and business in multi-stakeholder approaches to good governance .

 Five programs were lined up for implementation under the first year grant partnerships for basic and advanced CO training, customized consultancy, CO learning centers, leadership formation through PO training, and  research and documentation


A. Capability Building of Community Organizers and People’s Organizations

Community organizing creates empowered and sustainable communities. It is a social development approach that transforms apathetic and marginalized sectors of society into dynamic, participatory and politically responsive communities.

Over 30 years have passed since "CO," as community organizing is commonly known, began on the Tondo Foreshore. Although thousands of poor communities have been organized in rural, indigenous and urban barangays, poverty continues to dominate the daily lives of large numbers of the population. The democratization process has opened a political space where diverse voices can be heard. There are laws and policies that ensure participation in governance. However, the key decision-making processes that affect the lives of ordinary Filipinos are still dominated by a few powerful and influential families both locally and on the national scene.

It is in this context of power inequality that community organizing continues as the core of CO Multiversity’s activities.

B. Issue-Based Community Organizing Program

CO Multiversity follows a long tradition of issue-based community or ganizing (IBCO). This type of organizing mobilizes people who are directly affected by the issues or problems under review, to act. Applying the action-reflection-action learning cycle and relying on experiential processes, CO has proven to be an effective way of transforming people from apathetic bystanders to conscientized, informed and involved citizens. Issue-based community organizing uses strategies that are community-based and people-based.

The IBCO program is a training sequence that features learning by doing. It is offered to non-government or ganizations (NGOs) and people’s organizations (POs) who want to have their own organizers and trainers. The course is designed to develop the knowledge, skills and attitude that are essential for an effective community organizer. The training period lasts from six months to one year, depending on the trainees’ capacities and the complexity of the issues and problems in their designated areas.

C. Customized Consultancy  for POs and NGOs

In response to numerous requests by POs and NGOs for training on organizing and capability building, CO Multiversity developed the Customized Consultancy Program that is tailored to fit the particular needs of the requesting organization. The assistance can come in the form of monthly strategizing sessions; tactic sessions; field visits; or training sessions to develop specific skills such as project monitoring and evaluation.

D. Research and Documentation

Hand in hand with community organizing, research is an arena to empower communities and grassroots organizations. Information-gathering and data analysis foster the careful examination of issues and problems that will enable people to influence decision-making processes.

There is a wealth of experience in the long history of social development work from which information and resource materials can be developed to help community organizers, NGOs and POs enhance their community organizing and training strategies.

For the CO Multiversity’s Research and Documentation unit, the research process is participatory and is written from the perspective of the communities and organizers, with the assistance of social scientist in terms of theorizing. People will tell their own stories of struggle and at the same time, harness local knowledge, idiom and language for their issues and agenda. The people’s stories and the outcome of participatory researches will be developed and packaged in popular forms as tools for empowerment and materials on advocacy. Partnerships with the Institute of Philippine Culture, Ateneo de Manila University, the Urban Research Consortium and other academic groups are being developed.

E. Philippine Community Organizers Society

The Philippine Community Organizers Society (PhilCOS) is an association of community organizers who are engaged in direct or affiliated organizing. It emanated from a series of multilevel consultations among community organizers from 1993 to 1995 to develop a rural CO standard. It also responded to the realization that community organizers had to "institutionalize" themselves into an association that would professionalize, promote and develop the fruits of their labor as well as protect their welfare as COs.

Since its launching in December 1995 PhilCOS has seen its membership grow to more than 500 in 13 sub-regions all over the country. The CO Multiversity provides secretariat support to the overall PhilCOS operation.

F. Empowering Dispute Resolution/Management Processes

The Empowering Dispute Resolution/Management Processes (EDR/MP) was generated by the need to explore alternative modes of resolving agrarian disputes. In 1994, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and The Asia Foundation (TAF) made an assessment of mediation as a response to the large backlog of cases pending before the offices of DAR.

The assessment revealed that the slow resolution of agrarian cases stemmed from flaws in the judicial system, as well as the lack of training among Barangay Agrarian Reform Councils (BARCs). The BARC is the mechanism mandated by law to conduct mediation at the community level. The assessment recommended the promotion and enhancement of mediation as an alternative for resolving agrarian disputes.

With the assistance of TAF, a training project for mediators was formulated by DAR and the CO Multiversity (formerly the Community Organization Training and Research Advocacy Institute or CO-TRAIN) with the latter serving as the lead training institution. BARC chairpersons, Municipal and Provincial Agrarian Reform Officers, legal officers, adjudicators, along with PO and NGO representatives participated in the training.

TAF also supported a parallel project of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), in partnership with the Tanggol Kalikasan, the environmental law office of the Haribon Foundation, on dispute management of environmental conflicts.

G. Successor Generation Program

One of the challenges facing NGO leaders today is that of the successor generation. Preparing the next generation becomes even more important because the pioneers of development work are overworked, overextended and aging. The NGO pioneers were trailblazers - armed with the writings and thinking of the 1950s to the 1970s on organizing and on poverty alleviation. Tried and tested by their grassroots experience, their ranks swelled with the incorporation of the young conscientized during the Marcos era of repression. These pioneers in development work built one of the most developed NGO communities in the world.

Continuing recruitment, however, of new activists into social development work is becoming difficult. It has been observed that links between the NGOs and the academe (one of the most fertile areas for finding volunteers) has weakened since the EDSA uprising. There are fewer volunteer formation programs in colleges and universities.

The problem posed by successor generations, therefore, is how to woo, keep and mentor the next generation of development workers with the commitment and vision not only to continue the work, but to infuse originality and creativity into current activities.

NGO second-liners are besieged on two fronts – the external and internal environments. Externally, these rising leaders now operate in an uncertain ideological environment, unlike the pioneers, who found comfort in the prescriptions of the past because they embodied a clear set of convictions and options.

The precariousness of doing development work without a clear framework or a distinct set of "enemies" complicates the situation for the next set of leaders. Hence, social development work has gradually come to focus simply on "what works" rather than on any ideological agenda. Internally, the second-liners face the problem of dwindling resources from foreign funding which has natural implications for the NGOs’ financial sustainability.

The dilemma faced by NGOs is how to preserve the voluntary spirit that is necessary for NGO work while providing the right working conditions for its workers to make a long-term commitment. While there is a need to find the same commitment and idealism in the second liners as there was among the pioneers, the next generation of NGO leaders will need take different paths since they will face different sets of development tasks.

NGO second liners face the challenge of organizational maintenance rather than organization building. They must maintain the vision and momentum while confronting practical issues like dealing with the national and local government. Moreover, second-liners must find creative strategies for advocating reformist policies. In addition, they will have to develop new forms of partnerships with more independent POs, requiring them to withdraw in certain areas and carve new niches in others. Finally, second-liners must be pioneers and fiery idealists.

The CO Multiversity facilitated the birth of the Successor Generation Program to ensure that the wisdom of the past is brought into the energies and passions of the current generation of development workers, with people empowerment as a fundamental principle.

H. Special Projects and other Involvements 


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