Oikocredit Philippines: 25 Years of Building Oikos, Changing Lives

oiko-25-logo-220px-right-sidebar.jpgTuesday 14 October 2014

‘Oiko’ refers to the ancient Greek word oikos, meaning house, community or world – places where people live together. Beyond referring to places where people live, it is also infused with greater meanings: unity and harmony, hope and promise. And in its varied forms, oikos can only thrive on a foundation of integrity, mutual respect and meaningful transformation.

‘Credit’ is not only a reference to loans which Oikocredit provides for the disadvantaged, but also to the Latin verb credere, meaning ‘to believe’. Oikocredit’s work is an act of faith in people who deserve to be believed in.

The journey taken by Oikocredit in the Philippines over the past 25 years forms part of its overall story in building a global oikos ‒ a community of lasting partnerships with a common inspiration: a vision of a just society where people have equitable access to resources and are able to create a life of dignity.

Unknown to many, from 1983 to 1988, Oikocredit implemented its program in the Philippines through the services of a program officer based in Australia. The decision to set up an office in the country in 1989 was taken to foster a better understanding of the development challenges faced by the poor. And because Oikocredit recognizes the critical role partners play in achieving its mission, its presence in the country helps to ensure the careful selection of and close contact and proximity to partners, the regular monitoring of projects, the provision of institutional support to partners and achieving a positive social impact.

With lending anchored on fair financing, financial products have been designed and adapted to meet the needs of partner groups. From first lending exclusively in hard currency, Oikocredit started to offer loans in pesos to help partners recover from the devastating impact of the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Credit lines (generally shorter in duration) are now offered based on the business requirements of partner organizations.

Through the years, Oikocredit worked towards creating a broader oikos in the Philippines – from financing the needs of cooperatives in its early years to microfinance institutions, fair trade enterprises, federations of cooperatives and other social enterprises. Oikocredit has continued to increase its investment in the agricultural sector as it sees that agricultural-based economic growth holds the promise of a greater impact in terms of improving the quality of life. To date, Oikocredit has supported a total of 119 local organizations in the Philippines and invested a total amount of roughly PhP 4.7 billion.

Oikocredit is cognizant that partners face challenges and hurdles beyond financial performance and seeks to ensure that they are nurtured towards becoming resilient, stronger and more socially-responsive enterprises. Oikocredit started offering support for capacity building programs in 2003 to address critical knowledge and skills challenges faced by partners in managing various forms of institutional risk, developing responsive and relevant products and services, good positioning in the market and achieving a strong social performance.

The past 25 years have seen both triumph and adversity. However, at all times there has been spirited engagement between Oikocredit and its partners in terms of attempting to serve the needs of clients and stakeholders alike in an innovative and responsible manner and ultimately, attain the right balance between social impact and financial viability.

The oikos is rife with stories of enthusiastic anticipation of the positive transformation of clients, their families and the communities and exuberant celebrations of achievements. At the same time, proceeding from a foundation of mutual respect, each one is challenged by the other and mutually held accountable for institutional and social obligations.

As we celebrate the 25th anniversary in the Philippines on 23 October, Oikocredit remains relentless in challenging its partners to build their own oikos, inspired by the same vision and similarly creating ‘ecospheres’ that collectively act in belief of those who deserve it most.

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