Dr. Emiliano Hudtohan

Educator, Business Writer, Industry Expert and Entrepreneur

Threefolding CSI (Corporate Social Initiative)

Published in: Manila Standard Today

Column: Green Light  

January 27, 2014

When my De La Salle University colleague Liberty Nolasco invited me to write about corporate social initiative (CSI) for a book on management, I immediately opted for Nic Perlas’ threefolding as a strategic frame.  There is a crying need for government, civil society and business to unify their respective efforts to alleviate poverty. This mission is possible, he says. And as we participate in this mission we can one day not only sing with Louie Armstrong but create “a wonderful world.”


From philanthropic corporate social responsibility (CSR), business is now moving towards sustainable CSI programs.  CSI rests on a notion to empower the poor by teaching them to fish, rather than charitably handing fish. Fishing means sustainable livelihood; receiving fish day in and day out leads to lifetime dependency.  This dependency is considered an anathema to community organization by Dr. Orly Buenviaje and to community development by Dr. Nenita Cura.

But the good news is we have evidence of CSI practice in the Philippines, as documented by Dr. Raymund Habaradas in a scholarly research and shared at an international forum in Germany.  His study included Pilipinas Shell, which celebrates its 100 years of presence in the Philippines.  Proudly, Shell through its foundation has graduated from philanthropic CSR to sustainable CSI programs.  Their  initiatives include capability building among their beneficiaries through Sanayan sa Kakayahang  Industrial Program; Gas Mo, Gas Ko Scholarship Program; and Shell Pepeng Pasada Club to name a few.  By investing in these programs they empower their beneficiaries to acquire critical skills in order for survival and break free from financial dependency and co-dependency.

The beneficiaries

On the other hand, there are horror stories on how social projects to help the poor fail.  In the 70s,  I was USAID assistant project manager of Bicol River Basin Development Program, a health program was launched involving distribution of water sealed toilet bowls in Legaspi rural areas.  These bowls were intended to replace the open pit toilets for sanitation purposes.  To our dismay, many of the bowls were used as flower and garden pots.  The reason:  cold ceramic bowls made it difficult and uncomfortable for the users to do their morning ritual.  There was a Lake Buhi reforestation project to prevent the one inch annual siltation.  It failed because majority of the participating barangays collected the funds but no significant tree planting was done. These incidents contributed to the discontinuance of the US$25M grand in aid of USAID.

Let me share a more current experience of Carmen T. Ramos. A nurse by profession and my doctoral student in social development at the Philippine Women’s University, she managed social development projects in Zamboanga City. She reports:

The first was a Php1M -Livelihood project (2001-2002) funded by Japan Social Development Fund through SZOPAD (Special Zones for Peace and Development) among rebel returnees, rebel wives and dependents, and widow partner/ beneficiaries. They were residents of a rebel-infested barangay. This project provided seed capital to start a small family enterprise; it was agreed  that the recipients will repay the initial capital so that funds can be rolled to more beneficiaries .The amount of  Php. 20,000.00  was released to each partner beneficiary. Out of the 20 initial partners, 5 partners successfully started a business and were able to repay the seed money; others used the funds for baptism and wedding celebrations, school  tuition fees, daily food consumption, a  motorcycle for the  family ,and  a TV set. The project was aborted due to: 1) non-repayment of initial capital/funds because the beneficiaries believed that government money is their money, and 2) security threats because the project implementers feared they will be abducted and kidnapped.

The second project was a Php10M -PEF (Peace and Equity Foundation) funded project for social services and micro-finance to  assist projects undertaken by  Cooperatives, NGOs and Peoples Organization partners in Zamboanga City in 2005. The proponent was Zamboanga Coalition of Development NGO’s (ZAMCODE). As project manager, I also assisted organized groups in developing project proposals to access funds ranging from Php250,000,00 to 1.5M.  Approved projects included agar-agar farming, water resource development, overhead water tank construction, skills training for livelihood development, and capability building for implementing project partners to micro-financing. The accredited groups were required repayment for the seed money with no interest, while the micro-financing projects were charged with a 2% interest and were to pay in 2 years. Project evaluation showed that the Muslim beneficiary partners did not repay at all; The Protestant partners has partial repayment.  The Catholic  charismatic  partners did full repayment of the loan granted for micro-finance which  qualified them to access additional  funds.  This project, primarily intended to reduce poverty in Zamboanga City, revealed weakness in funds management by beneficiary partners.

Civil society

The Catholic Church as member of civil society has played a crucial role in creating a poverty mindset in Philippines.  The concept of charity has opened the generous chakra of many Christians to give until it hurts; the idea that the church is a church of the poor; and the idea that poverty is a way to salvation through religious vow of poverty.  A new hermeneutics on poverty has to reach the targeted beneficiaries and the donors themselves.  Certainly, charitable giving is virtuous; but its ultimate impact on the recipient is disastrous, leading them into a vortex of dependency for life.

Donors may wish to look into long-term programs in which their pesos will be spent.  The traditional basis for giving is from an age-old practice of tithing and today a reflective thought that goes with the pesos when dropped into a donation box or basket seems to be a catatonic act on a Sunday.  But there is a feeling that one is happy and generous in the act of giving.  How many really understand the tithing formula? An elder of Bukas Loob sa Diyos, during the time of Sonny ant Tita Bay de los Reyes, reminded one third of the tithe should go to the support of the parish priest/pastor, one third for the poor, and surprisingly, one third to a family celebration on a Sunday.


The hardest to work with these days is with the government sector.  The image of corruption has so tainted  its  performance that our sense of patriotism and nationalism must be re-awakened.  But we must give ourselves and our government a chance to synergize with business and civil society.  If not, we permanently close the door of hope and the opportunity to make a change, much more empower the poor.

Jeffrey Sachs once was hopeful that global poverty can end in 2015 through official development assistance (ODA) of rich nations helping poor nations.  The scheme was to get the funds to the poor for entrepreneurial activities through the national government delivery system.  In the Philippines our political mechanism goes through congress and the senate and the program is plotted by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) and disbursed by the Department of Budget Management. In On February 19, 2008, former NEDA chief Romulo Neri gave a picture of how ODA funds were scooped at every bureaucratic stage it goes through from the national, regional, provincial, city, and barangay level before the funds are spent on the projects.  That was with foreign funding.  Today, local funds intended for the development of the poor beneficiaries were scandalously squandered as mirrored by the Napoles scam. Before, there were projects that were underfunded; today, there are no projects all.


Beyond their independent CSI programs, business must link with government agencies and civil society to address key barriers to social development.  For me, business must embrace the community organizing and community development principles in implementing poverty alleviation programs; government must provide the daunting task of creating infrastructures to facilitate the delivery of social services by linking with the business and civil organization, with transparency and accountability; and civil society, especially the Catholic Church, must begin a massive reorientation of the poor beneficiaries to look upon themselves as part of a fishing solution in order to partake of God’s bounty.

Nicanor Perlas conducted MISSION workshop on Social Business, Cultural Entrepreneurship to nurture entrepreneurs in all areas of society on January 25 -26, 2014. To hhose who wish to join the Movement of Imaginals for Sustainable Societies through Initiatives, Organizing and Networking, his email is npperlas@gmail.com.

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