In late 2016 regular ABV volunteers, Earl Dacanay, Mark Greenshields, Matt Stone and Dante Tagle spent a busy several weeks on the Philippine island of Negros working alongside Bank of the Philippine Islands employees as part of a corporate community engagement program.

Aware of ABV’s expertise in designing corporate programs which benefit communities, corporates and employees, the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) contracted ABV to assist in the delivery of its 2016 Social Immersion Laboratory program (SoIL). BPI provides a variety of volunteering opportunities for its employees, but SoIL is specifically intended for senior executives.

This SoIL program saw employees placed with three local agricultural co-ops in Negros Occidental province on three week assignments. ABV’s role was to assist with initial scopes of work, to design a monitoring and evaluation framework to capture information about outcomes for employees and the co-ops, and to provide volunteers experienced in community level capacity building to act as facilitators.

Rural areas of the Philippines have much higher rates of poverty and social disadvantage than metropolitan areas. With agriculture the major employer agricultural co-ops are an important means of sustainable and equitable wealth creation in rural areas. However co-op managers are often lacking in business skills, there is thus widespread need for capacity building programs to generate efficiencies and to enable these co-ops to take advantage of business opportunities.

Once on the ground in Negros Occidental Earl, Mark, Matt and Dante assisted in the scoping of the needs of the cooperatives, trained BPI corporate volunteers in capacity building, and provided mentoring and support to both BPI employees and co-op members. The BPI employees focused on providing co-op members with training in financial literacy, particularly savings and investments, and asset management. They also reviewed and recommended changes to strengthen financial systems, controls and policies.

Measured against the framework designed by ABV the program was a resounding success and has the potential to generate genuine long-term outcomes. BPI employees reported high levels of satisfaction, one employee for example saying “by far, it has been my most meaningful three weeks.” In addition BPI employees contributed to changes in co-op strategy, finances and management which have real potential to generate a measurable increase in agricultural production and yields over the next few years.

For ABV the program was beneficial as it enabled us to test ways of combining the expertise of ABV volunteers with the specialized skills of corporate employees. Corporate employees can usually only participate in such programs for short periods, and combining their inputs with longer term inputs provided by expert volunteers can contribute to strong outcomes-focused programs.

Australian Business Volunteers