ZEP Sarangani Convergence: Convergence building by a network within a network
According to PSA’s 2015 and 2018 national poverty statistics, the Sarangani Province’s poverty incidence notably decreased from 45.6 percent to 36 percent in those respective years. However, despite this sign of improvement, the province still had the highest poverty incidence in the SOCCSKARGEN Region and was the 8th poorest province in the country, with around 48, 200 poor families in 2018. Additionally, the province had the highest (25.6 percent) subsistence incidence or the proportion of families who cannot afford food necessities.
Having said this, the ZEP2030 coalition saw this as an opportunity for collective action to identify and assist extreme poor families in the province, given the presence of many active civil society organizations in Sarangani with the same goal. The Sarangani Province Empowerment and Community Transformation Forum (SPECTRUM), a member of the ZEP2030 movement, is one of those organizations. SPECTRUM is a provincial network of 10 non-government organizations and cooperatives working for the developmental needs of Sarangani Province and General Santos City. The network includes Conrado and Ladislawa Alcantara Foundation, Inc. (CLAFI), Dana Foundation, Inc., Kasilak Development Foundation, Inc., KPS-Small Enterprise and Economic Development, Inc. (KPS-SEED), Mahintana Foundation, Inc., Malapatan Multipurpose Cooperative, OND Hesed Foundation, Inc., RD Foundation, Inc., Southmin iHome, Inc., and Sta. Cruz Multipurpose Cooperative. Aside from working with its members, SPECTRUM also engages and collaborates closely with community stakeholders and the local government in implementing programs that contribute towards community empowerment, environmental protection, and socio-economic progress.
SPECTRUM as a network-based Local Convenor
Although SPECTRUM has long been a member of the ZEP2030 movement, it was only in June 2021 when they took on the challenge of leading the ZEP2030 local convergence and becoming the local convenor of Sarangani and General Santos City.
In March 2021, SPECTRUM was tapped to be a lead partner in conducting the COVID Pulse PH Survey in Sarangani and General Santos City. The COVID Pulse PH Survey was a chatbot-based survey deployed via Facebook Messenger to help assess the impact of the community lockdowns on community members and households. This was conducted through the collaboration between ZEP2030 and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
SPECTRUM’s participation in the survey and in the ZEP2030 – UNDP sprint planning sessions became a turning point for their leadership role in the Sarangani Convergence. The decision to join forces with ZEP2030 in alleviating poverty in the province was warmly received and supported by its network members, and an affirmation of SPECTRUM’s commitment to fortify the collective impact strategy in localizing efforts of the movement. Currently, the convergence consists of the SPECTRUM members, Foundation for a Sustainable Society (FSSI), HAPAG-ASA, International Care Ministries (ICM), UN Global Compact PH, SeaOil Foundation, and Zuellig Family Foundation,
The convergence has taken initial steps to forming collaborative efforts among its members. Facilitated by SPECTRUM, the convergence has come together in multiple virtual meetings that brought upon the sharing of areas, programs, and assessment tools. General Santos City is included in the geographical scope of the convergence given that many of its members have their offices as well as operations in the city. Another pertinent point to the discussion was the identification of priority areas for the conduct of the ZEP2030 PPI Survey, such as Malapatan, one of the municipalities in Sarangani that has the highest poverty rate, Maasim and Glan.
In light of the outcome of their discussions, the members of the convergence appear to be eager and earnest in their commitment to carrying out the vision of ZEP2030 in their communities. As discussed in previous meetings, there are already members who committed to providing armchairs for local schools and mangrove seedlings for the fisherfolks to catalyze income-generating opportunities. Perhaps one can say that this is one of the many positive attributes that could come from a network organization leading a convergence: early commitment.
However, SPECTRUM recognizes that even though the convergence members can easily share information and data amongst each other, the main challenge that needs to be conquered is the goal to synergize efforts, priorities, and institutional structures. Once this is fulfilled, SPECTRUM hopes that the Sarangani Convergence would be able to create a system that could help mitigate the processes of community engagement and program implementation.
The convergence’s long road ahead
The Sarangani Convergence does have high hopes and ambitious plans for the province. But to accomplish its objectives, the convergence hopes to further strengthen its ties with its current partners and involve new local stakeholders to successfully carry out poverty reduction programs. Currently, the convergence members are en route to aligning existing programs so one could supplement the other. Another way it imagines this could be attained is by utilizing data and technology to articulate people’s needs that could help design a more community-centered activity. This is anticipated to have strong buy-in from potential partners for sustainability.