Since May 2019, Evident has been working with Coca-Cola Beverages Philippines, Inc. (CCBPI), the bottling arm of Coca-Cola in the Philippines, for the local implementation of their World Without Waste (WWW) initiative. WWW is the company’s global initiative to collect and recycle the equivalent of all the bottles and cans they produce world-wide by 2030. Under this is the WWW Communities Project, which ensures that communities with CCBPI plants in properly observe the Ecological Solid Waste Management Law of 2001 (Republic Act 9003). This will eventually help the company collect and recycle bottles and cans across the country.
The WWW Communities Project was piloted in two areas with local CCBPI plants—Barangay Mansilingan in Bacolod City and Barangay Ungka II in Pavia, Iloilo.
At the get-go, we were faced with a lot of challenges. The most important one was that we had to influence residents’ mindsets and behavior in waste management. The communities did not segregate at source—a key factor for an effective barangay solid waste management plan (BSWMP). We needed to inculcate a sense of proper solid waste management and put systems in place to encourage behavior change.
Most companies that engage communities in sustainability initiatives already have something in mind. They would go to a community, build a facility, conduct training, then leave. We made sure that this project would not go down the same path.
Instead, we utilized a grassroots approach to development intervention. We started by getting ideas from the LGU, barangay officials, and residents on how we would go about the project, securing their ownership of the initiative.
We started with a series of workshops in June and July 2019. Aside from teaching officials and residents the basics of solid waste management, we asked them to provide insights on what their barangay solid waste management plan should look like. Using the 4Es Framework (Education, Engineering, Enforcement, Economics), which the team developed, we developed insights on which stakeholders to engage with, what programs and messaging would work for the communities, and what our next steps would be.
After the workshops, we realized that even the barangay level was too big to pilot a solid waste management program. We decided to pilot the program in nine puroks across the two barangays. Once identified, we conducted another round of consultations in September and October 2019 with residents of the puroks. We informed them of the goals of the program, and used their insights to further refine our findings.
By December, we had drafted the barangay solid waste management plans, which integrated all our learnings from the communities. The plans put in place unique solid waste management systems for the pilot areas which can easily be scaled to the entire barangay and even the entire LGU. To encourage change, we also created information materials and modules based on our previous workshops.
In March, the Materials Recovery Facility and Eco-Centers in Barangay Mansilingan were finished. We conducted house-to-house distribution of information materials across the six pilot puroks in Mansilingan to ensure that residents practice segregation at source. We reached 1,000 households with 70 volunteers from the barangay, youth groups, and local Coke employees.
Work in Barangay Ungka II, Pavia, was put on hold in January 2020 to focus on Mansilingan. The team expects to resume once the COVID-19 situation normalizes.
Space for Civic Engagement
In graduate school, one of my favorite development program approaches was the Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) framework. This is based on the premise that “communities can drive the development process themselves by identifying and mobilizing existing, but often unrecognized assets.”
What we did in the WWW Communities initiative is a modified version of such an approach. We provided technical expertise and guidance to the community but it was the barangay that mobilized residents to participate in our workshops and consultations. It was the barangay that provided volunteers for our house-to-house campaign. It was the community leaders who ideated the details of their solid waste management plans.
Yes, CCBPI built the Materials Recovery Facility and Eco-Centers. But it is the barangay’s responsibility to take care of the facility, hire people to run it, and ensure that the barangay solid waste management plan is implemented. It is the local government that will provide further technical assistance in terms of livelihood interventions and waste management techniques.
Throughout the entire experience, our key learning was this: civic engagement is key to getting local government support in private sector projects.
Organizations should turn their backs to the practice of telling communities what they need or giving them what we think they need. Instead, they should secure our communities’ support and harness their ideas on how programs can be implemented. What I recommend is a two-pronged approach: positively engage with both the local leaders and the community members.
Getting local government support—whether from the city, municipal, or barangay level—is also one way of minimizing costs. LGUs can use existing assets in communities to supplement our initiatives, or support small portions of our engagements. Overall, engaging with local governments is more cost effective.
A development approach to sustainability initiatives may take longer and use a bit more technical resources, but it is the sustainable way of conducting it. The community would have no reason to be uninvolved if they see that it is their ideas that are being implemented.
We’re halfway through our engagement in the WWW Communities initiative. In this time of enhanced community quarantine, we are reflecting on how we can make the project more inclusive and more grounded in the new realities that this pandemic is shaping.
David Lozada is Evident’s Associate Director for Corporate and Public Affairs, and Advocacy Communications. He is a former journalist and community manager for Rappler, and holds a Master of Development Studies (First Class Honours) degree from The University of Melbourne.