Strategic planning leads to sound organizational health: The Philippines experience -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Strategic planning leads to sound organizational health: The Philippines experience

By Nestor Pestelos

The Habitat for Humanity Philippines Foundation started operations in 1988 implementing community projects. In 1992, the Philippines national office was organized to facilitate program development; affiliate development; program evaluation; resource development; and to disburse funds to affiliates.

In 1993, the Philippines national office created affiliates, one for each of its four project sites, and phased out from directly managing community projects. By 1998, immediately prior to the Jimmy Carter Work Project, the number of affiliates had grown to nine. After the 1999 JCWP, the organization increased its staff and developed more affiliates.

From 1988 to 2002, the Foundation had built houses with 5,745 families belonging to the economically lowest 30 percent of the poor in various regions of the country through an expanded program of partnership with families, communities, affiliates and the corporate sector. With the JCWP, it was able to further position itself as a leading NGO partner in providing shelter in the Philippines. During this period, it established a network of 29 affiliates and 14 satellites[1] all over the country and gained recognition as a major private-sector provider of nonprofit and volunteer labor-oriented socialized housing program for the poor.

During its fast-paced expansion from 1998 to 2002, while the Foundation focused on increased house construction and resource development, certain organizational problems became more visible and recurrent:

  • High turnover of management and staff.
  • Lack of system for the expansion, contraction, creation and dissolution of units.
  • Misunderstanding and conflicts among the staff, between the national office and the affiliates.
  • Factionalism at the board level.

On the eve of its 15th year of existence, the Foundation realized that while there were reasons to celebrate, specific areas for improvements needed to be addressed. The organization needed strategic direction in navigating through the expansion phase. It had to:

  • Define institutional functions at various levels for more clarity in performance roles vis-à-vis planned expansion activities.
  • Develop frameworks for expanded programs and functions.
  • Consolidate, document and update policies in response to expansion requirements.
  • Install appropriate systems and procedures.
  • Document experiences and disseminate lessons learned to capacities for initiating, expanding and consolidating house construction operations and complementary community development work.

Organizational diagnosis
On the assumption that organizational effectiveness is a precondition to preparing and implementing a strategic plan, the Philippines national office sought from September 2002 to February 2003 to conduct a series of diagnostic workshops as part of the overall strategic planning activity.

The study focused on reviewing structures and processes rather than on the status of operations vis-à-vis existing plans. It looked at the following 10 organizational components and made recommendations accordingly:

  • Purpose (vision, mission and core values)
  • Organizational capability, including staff complement, staff capabilities, human resources and administration
  • Resources (fund raising and sources, funds allocation and utilization and safeguarding of funds)
  • Systems, processes and procedures (planning, decision making and controlling, communication and coordination, information and files management)
  • Operational functions and structures
  • Culture and value systems
  • Physical environment and facilities
  • Technology
  • External environment
  • Leadership

The concerns of local Habitat affiliates were addressed in a separate but complementary study, the Program Assessment Survey. On the other hand, the Home Partner Impact Assessment Study concentrated on the impact of housing and other project-generated interventions on the development situation of beneficiaries and their local communities.

These three complementary studies, conducted over a six-month period, provided inputs to the draft HFH Philippines strategic plan for 2003-2008.

Strategic planning as innovative process for organizational strengthening and program consolidation

In 2004, the NBOT (National Board of Trustees) appointed as president and CEO Mr. Alberto L. Jugo, former bank executive and financial expert from the Ayala Group of Companies. Under his leadership, the strategic planning process took a different turn. Instead of regarding a “reinvigorated and strengthened organization” as precondition to carrying out a strategic plan, his leadership repeatedly stressed that the entire organization could be further strengthened in the process of pursuing program goals.

Any effort to revise, modify or change existing policies, systems and processes related to organizational concerns must be viewed in the context of project development and management requirements. Otherwise, the Philippines national office would lose its mission focus of building homes and local communities while pursuing independent or single-motive administrative and personnel reforms. Instead of isolating organizational development as a separate concern, the present leadership contextualizes institutional and HRD (Human Resource Development) issues within program requirements.

Program goals, products and services, and innovative strategies are key features of the current strategic plan. Organizational and administrative issues are integrated within program-based activities designed to achieve specific goals directly related to products and services made available to target clients through innovative approaches or strategies.

The major elements of the program-based strategic plan are as follows:

Goals

Strategic Interventions

Products and Services

Building homes

-Habitat Building and Resource Center

Building technology (concrete integrated blocks; compressed earth blocks; steel frame; multi-story housing complex)
Technical capacitation
Bulk sourcing of housing materials
Save & Build
Best practices and lessons learned

Building communities (soft programs)

-Non-traditional alliances
-Simple community self-diagnosis

Community organizing and values formation
Livelihood
Education
Health, sanitation and environment
Culture of savings
Adopt a community
Working with partners (national and local governments; international funding agencies; NGOs and other organizations)
Friends of Habitat
Volunteer programs (corporate builds; Youth Build; Peace Build, Building on Faith, Global Village)

Transparency and fiduciary responsibility

-Mortgage management
-Simplified bookkeeping
-Fund for Humanity
-External audit

Account management for partners and donors
Current within 90 days
Active payers
Collection efficiency at community level

Action plan

Restructuring for growth and sustainability
The whole Philippines national office organizational set-up shifted from functional-sectoral orientation to multi-tasking teams related to program support, i.e., Habitat Building and Resource Center (HBRC) technical support; marketing, communications and advocacy; resource development; finance and administrative support; and stakeholder relations.

While guidelines remain centralized, the execution of projects becomes the responsibility of each individual affiliate with technical support from the Philippines national office through the HBRC. The Fund for Humanity ensures that repayments are monitored at the affiliate level and transactions are documented and accessed promptly. This facilitates transparency and accountability at each level of the organization.

Accomplishments to date for the past two years

  • Increased house building capacity.
  • HFH Philippines built 3,480 houses in FY05 compared to 1,315 in FY04 and 884 in FY03.
  • In FY05, HFH Philippines ranked second to the United States among top 10 countries based on families served.
  • If older Habitat communities with serious past due accounts are excluded, repayment rates would have registered an increase from 79 percent in FY04 to 86 percent in FY05. These older Habitat affiliates selected families without fully considering ability to pay.
  • Local resource development revenues increased from Php86 million (US$1.67 million) in FY04 to Php94 million (US$1.83 million) in FY05, approximately a 10-percent increase.
  • The number of Global Village volunteers increased from 174 in FY03 and 532 in FY04 to 946 in FY05.

These accomplishments were made possible through strategic focus on core products and realigning organizational objectives to the requirements of specific programs and projects. These were also achieved despite 54-percent reduction in staff during the past two years

Challenges for HFH Philippines by FY10

  • To be able to serve 10,000 families per year.
  • To achieve 85-percent repayment rate.
  • To obtain 70-percent national rating for “current within 90 days.”
  • To maintain the Habitat family as cost-effective and committed multi-tasking teams with high degree of project management skills.
  • To keep raising the bar for standard setting and performance for the national organization, local affiliates and partner NGOs using program and project management requirements as basis for strategic goal setting and interventions.

Nestor M. Pestelos is HFH Asia and the Pacific regional program manager for Southeast Asia

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[1] Local management councils, which operate like branches of an affiliate in certain areas.