A big win for climate change campaigners in the Philippines – how did they do it?

November 11, 2015

     By Duncan Green     

Some great news from the Philippines. The Philippines Survival Fund, which I blogged about a couple of years ago, is psf_icon1finally open for business – local governments and community organizations will now be apply to apply for funds up to 1 billion pesos (US$21m) a year, for projects that help communities adapt to climate change.

The first lesson is the need for stamina – even on an apparently ‘quick win’ like the PSF (the law was passed after only a year of campaigning) it took a further three years to get government and all stakeholders to design its business procedures.

So what happened? This from an internal Oxfam case study (why don’t we publish these things? Drives me crazy).

In 2010, Oxfam and its partner the iCSC (Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities) commissioned a piece of research which revealed that the majority of public climate spending was going towards mitigation rather than adaptation. It recommended that an adaptation fund be created to incentivize and scale-up adaptation actions by local governments and communities.

philippines typhoonOxfam joined with two of its partners who came together to campaign for an adaptation fund, named the “People’s Survival Fund” (PSF). This core group gradually grew into a coalition of organisations who brought together different expertise, connections and constituencies.

Members of the coalition began by developing, and regularly updating, a detailed power analysis which underpinned the campaign strategy. This was crucial in helping the coalition identify potential allies and blockers, guide their political actions & determine how to adapt their tactics.

Oxfam led the policy analysis that informed the development of the PSF, connecting up with livelihoods and humanitarian programme staff at the national level, as well as with colleagues at the global level who were working on climate finance issues, to develop policy proposals and briefings. This was accompanied by persistent lobbying in Congress, based on working with carefully selected and powerful champions of the campaign who could manoeuvre around those blocking the initiative.

This behind the scenes work was backed-up by strong public facing and media work to increase awareness of the PSF and mobilize public support. This included policy forums, exhibitions, social media actions, popular music events and work with opinion leaders and celebrities, like the superstar Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiáo (signing up, right), who Manny Pacquaiobrought enormous visibility to the campaign.

What was the Campaign’s Theory of Change?

Power analysis: Key to the success of this work was having a strong power analysis from the beginning, which
provided the coalition with a solid understanding of the political panorama and where the balances of power lay. This was crucial in facilitating the identification of potential allies and blockers, guiding the campaign’s political actions & determining how to adapt their tactics.

Windows of opportunity: This also enabled the campaign to take advantage of windows of opportunity that presented themselves. A number of natural disasters took place during the lifespan of the campaign which the coalition used to highlight the urgency of a PSF. They also made use of a political scandal (impeachment) to build political alliances in the senate while attention was elsewhere, thus building the support they needed to push the process forward.

Local to global: Internally, the campaign managed to be nationally relevant while plugging into the global campaign and global resources. This also meant that it could draw on support from across Oxfam while maintaining the leadership and decision-making with the core campaigns group in country.

Flexible funding: Oxfam spent approximately £112,000 (including national staffing costs) on this campaign over its two year lifespan. The staffing costs were covered by unrestricted funds at the national level, which ensured that the campaign had the staffing capacity needed to make it a success, as well as access to flexible and fast funding to draw on at opportune moments. Some of the campaign activities were covered by global funds earmarked for climate change related campaign work.

abnormal weather, PhilippinesEvidence based: The campaign was strongly rooted in evidence generated from Oxfam’s development and humanitarian programmes, which included gendered analysis from the very beginning. This helped build support for the campaign from local authorities and decision makers, build the legitimacy of the campaign and ensure complementarity and coherency between the programmes in country. The campaign was supported and carried by Oxfam’s development and humanitarian work, with the country team coming together to conduct joint public events.

Great stuff – I scandalised the team and our evaluation wallahs by doing a simplistic Return on Investment calculation. $21m a year is a pretty good return on a £112,000 campaign: I got a 68:1 ratio, even after making some allowances – sorry, but I’m sticking with it!