The E-CARE program strives to build the self-reliance of its partner communities, and while many projects have succeeded in being operational, they have not been as successful at breaking through “the destructive world views of dependency.” One cause is that large grant funding puts communities in the role of receivers, making them “more helpless and powerless as they realized that they can never generate these amounts by themselves and therefore it was solely upon the grace of others that they have received the same.”
Such has been the experience of the Church’s development program when it first adopted the ABCD approach. Recall the community with the independent spirit from the Cordillera Mountains that we mentioned here. Natives and migrants alike lived in a largely undeveloped area, and through communal and individual efforts, the community cultivated the land and built community infrastructure. The community applied for a grant through the EPC for a water system and post-harvest facilities, with the understanding that after the Church completed the project, the community was responsible for management thereafter. However, when these structures were damaged, the community turned to the Church requesting more funds for repairs.
The “seeds of dependency” were now sown into this once-self-reliant community; large grant funding had taken the place of their entrepreneurial spirit. Ironically, the community’s self-reliant spirit was identified as one of their strength’s during the ABCD asset-identification process. Even the ABCD approach which focused on harnessing a community’s existing strengths “did not and could not fully address the dependency and mendicants problem.”
“ABCD therefore was in danger of becoming just another by-word or concept meant to justify and smoothen the resource flow from external partners to local communities by providing the rationale for the latter to leverage external resources in a manner that was more acceptable to the funding partners but, in the end, did not actually make a significant dent on dependency. ABCD proved “no match” to the well-entrenched culture of dependency.”
In exploring the problem of dependency, a personal anecdote from the National Development Officer shares an experience of the effect of being cast into the “receiver” role:
“The National Development Officer (NDO) attended the General Convention of the Episcopal Church (USA) in Anaheim, California in 2009. Among several meetings attended, he was invited to a reception of the Stewardship Network which was then honoring a Taiwanese priest for his work on stewardship. More specifically, the awardee was being honored for his leadership over a Taipei congregation whose generosity made possible the construction of seven church buildings overseas. It was indeed a remarkable achievement. Prior to the awarding, a video presentation showed the work of this congregation and the church buildings it constructed. When the first of these building flashed onscreen, the NDO gladly recognized it as it was a Church in the ECP. The second church building was likewise in the ECP, and the NDO proudly acknowledged it. When the 3rd, 4th, and 5th buildings were shown, the NDO started feeling very uncomfortable as these were all in the ECP. At the photo of the 6th and 7th churches, the Taiwanese priest was called to the stage and was given a standing ovation but the NDO could not even move and just wanted to disappear from the room. All the seven churches were in the Philippines and he was so ashamed of himself, especially as the video ended with the message that it was more blessed to give than to receive.
Following the awarding, a keynote speaker by the name of Rev. Ed Baker was called to give a message. A brilliant preacher, he talked about the Sea of Galilee as being so full of life from Biblical times and even up to now. He contrasted it to the Dead Sea which, as the name implies, does not allow any living thing within its embrace. The difference between the two, he said, is that the Sea of Galilee receives water from the Jordan River and discharges the same water into the seas while the Dead Sea has an inlet but not an outlet. The Dead Sea only receives but does not give out water. What makes the Sea of Galilee so alive, dynamic and vibrant, Rev. Baker said, is the continuous process of receiving and giving out its waters. Conversely, what makes the Dead Sea “dead” is that it only receives but does not give out. It was at this point that the NDO finally realized the answer to the question of dependency that has eluded the [Development program of the ECP] for more than 20 years.”
What was born from this experience is the Receivers to Givers program, R2G for short, through which communities receive grants to support their development projects and then “grant back” the funds to another community, so while they initially receive, they are then empowered to give.
Only after undergoing the ABCD process, are communities eligible for the R2G program and able to procure E-CARE funds for livelihood assistance or projects like building water or agricultural storage systems. After a determined time period, the community then “grants back” the funds either directly to another community seeking to do a similar project, to itself to do another community project or for E-CARE to hold until another community is ready for their project.
E-CARE works with communities to find a time frame for granting back their funds that works for all involved; no one-size-fits all schemes here. Although, shorter grant back schedules are more favorable because the funds and their benefit is fresh in cooperative members’ minds. If they receive funds to purchase seeds for one agricultural cycle, then when they repay just after harvest, they will have settled their debt at the same time they reap the benefits of the investment, and be able to avail of more funding again. Furthermore, the engagement between E-CARE and the partner communities is more continuous and lessons are learned and incorporated to action more quickly.
While similar to a loan program in regards to providing funds, this program distinctly differs in that the money loaned to a group is not then returned to the loaning organization to do with it what they may, but the funds can be used only for another community project.
Requiring a 100% grant back encourages more efficient and sustainable projects and sustainability for the E-CARE program as the same funds are used again and again. In fact, E-CARE asks for less and less money each year from its external funding partners, the opposite trend of most organizations!
On top of the grant back, during a community’s second funding cycle, they contribute an additional 1.5% of the borrowed amount. From this 1.5%, 0.5% supports the administrative budget of the E-CARE program, 0.5% is offered to the local Episcopal parish, for the organizing work done by the local priest, and 0.5% is returned to the community organization, so they can build up their capital and become more self-reliant. Communities are only assessed a 1.5% rate when they are economically-able to do so, even if this will be after several funding cycles. Compared to the typical 3% - 5% per month on agricultural loans, this rate is a huge relief! While there is no legal requirement to grant back or pay an add-on, no community has refused to do so, excited about the opportunity to share their blessings with others.
At the time the grant-back is due, the community decides where the funds go. They may go back to their community for another project, passed on to another E-CARE community, passed on to another community not yet partnered with E-CARE, or placed in E-CARE’s care to be used for a future community project. E-CARE informs R2G communities about the needs of other groups, and repeatedly, communities are more than eager to gift their grant back to those in need, even granting back ahead of schedule to do so. When funds for a community’s grant request are unavailable, E-CARE may appeal to communities to pay ahead of schedule, which has always been met with a positive response. In many cases, communities do grant back early, even significantly in advance. For example, when Super Typhoon Yolanda (International name, Haiyan) struck the Central Philippines in November 2014, a community in the Northern Philippines announced that it was shortening its repayment period from 2 years to 1 year, in order to assist those impacted. Having so long been trapped in a cycle constantly being only receivers, communities are delighted to be able to share their blessings with others.
Relationships are key in this program. E-CARE and the R2G community must have a steady stream of communication to learn lessons and tackle obstacles, as well as between the R2G communities themselves The granting and receiving communities meet for the pass-on, which is done in a ceremonious way. Communities may mentor one another, as E-CARE sees opportunities for them to share knowledge with one another.
E-CARE’s relationship with its partner communities typically does not just last one project or grant cycle, as one project will not be enough to significantly elevate their economic status out of poverty. Communities may receive multiple grants under the R2G program, as long as they continue to grant-back.
Embracing the opportunity to become givers, communities often grant back significantly ahead of schedule, also providing them the opportunity to receive funds again. Each time the community grants back, with an add on, they are increasing their total capital. Furthermore, community groups also plan that when their collective capital reaches a certain amount, they will reduce the amount of grants they receive from E-CARE and become even more self-reliant.
Quotes and stories here are taken from the E-CARE Manuel of Operations.