The Vincentian Center for Social Responsibility and Urban Poverty
Reflections of Fr. Nonong, Director of VCSR
Vincentian Center for Social Responsibility (VCSR)
Directed by Fr. Atiliano “Nonong” Fajardo, C.M., the VCSR emerged from Adamson University’s pre-existing Integrated Community Extension Services (ICES) program. ICES coordinates the university’s community-based outreach, service learning, and enacts the university’s commitment to help alleviate poverty in depressed areas of Metro Manila. The Center also catalyzed the commitment that emerged from Dr. Marco Tavanti’s training program in Vincentian Leadership and Poverty Reduction at Adamson University (August 1-10, 2007) and the Adamson Grand Academic Conference Harnessing the Advances of Science and Technology for Poverty Reduction (August 30-31, 2007). The VCSR represents a significant upgrade in university-community relations. Symbolically called ICES Version 9.27 (the fest day of Saint Vincent de Paul), the upgrade includes the following transitions:
i. From the ICES process to the involvement of the entire university community (institutional commitment)
ii. From program-centered to community-initiated planning (Community Participatory Approach)
iii. From a requirement-lead to a community-sustainable interface (the emphasis is not just on learning, but on impact)
iv. From a university-focused engagement to a city-wide and national issue-based engagement (policy orientation and government partnership)
v. From an academic and research-based interface to a Non-governmental (NGO), Popular Organization (PO) and Community Organization (CO) interface (Focus on Community Organization Participatory Action Research, or COPAR).
vi. From exposure to knowledge-formation through effective, professional, and result-based meaningful experiences.
The VCSR proved instrumental in preparing the community profiles which emerged from an intense training of Adamson University and community volunteers for community-based poverty and needs assessments. The instrument used in the survey is the Household Profile Questionnaire, also known as the Community-Based Monitoring System (MIMAP-CBMS). This instrument is often used to influence policy through needs assessments and impact analysis of Poverty Reduction Strategies Papers (PRSP) and links to the ongoing monitoring of the Millennium Development Goals at the national level.
VCSR and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
Reflections of Prof. Merlinda Palencia, Chair of Chemical Engineering at Adamson University
The partnership of Vincentian universities with community organizations recognizes the fundamental Vincentian values that poor people can forge their own change and influence policy. The participatory methods of these poverty reduction initiatives acknowledge how POs, even in the midst of extreme poverty, also possess valuable resources that these partnerships can advance. This is not a new concept in poverty reduction and development studies. The World Bank, along with development NGOs and field researchers, has learned the importance and effectiveness of listening to “the voice of the poor” in poverty reduction programs. Although the level of participation may be interpreted at different levels, the Vincentian values behind these partnerships aim to enhance the level of engagement from community consultation and representation to community empowerment and organizational capacity development.
The community profiles developed for the informal settlements of Payatas and Sucat and the relocation sites of Bocaue, Cabuyao, and Marilao generated important data on the community’s income distribution, occupation of employed households heads, skills of employable household members, and training needs. Even in its initial stages, the data suggests that the scale, and depth of urban poverty in slums areas and in the relocation sites have been underestimated. At the same time, the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) approach and value-centered leadership development assessments conducted by VCSR members suggest that the potentials and internal strategies for urban poverty reduction of the communities themselves have been also underestimated. Based on these initial assessments, the VCSR has elaborated a comprehensive and ambitious plan for piloting assistance and technical expertise by delivering training and certificate programs to residents of the relocation site of Cabuyao. The VCSR’s partnership with DePaul University, which could possibly extend to other Vincentian Universities, could be a valuable asset for increasing international support for technical, financial, and leadership development.
VCSR and Academic Social Responsibility (ASR)
During the inauguration of the VCSR on September 28, 2007, Philippine Vice President Noli De Castro congratulated Adamson University and the Vincentian community for their leadership and efforts in the creation of the Center as an instrument for engaging academia more directly in community building:
The Center is a great idea whose time has come. It is high time that we introduce to students a concept of brotherhood that is not based on exclusivity. It is high time that we include action and community involvement in the concept of higher learning… Education is about molding better people and contributing to building a better world.
The observation and analysis of academic practices in the promotion of socially responsible leaders, programs and initiatives suggests the concept of Academic Social Responsibility (ASR). This concept is becoming more central among academic institutions and university-based initiatives concerned with poverty reduction. The essential characteristics of socially responsible universities are their interpersonal, institutional and social commitment to make ethical principles the center of their actions. Four dimensions best characterize these socially responsible actions in academia: providing valuable, affordable and accessible education; encouraging socially engaged teaching, scholarship and service; signaling institutional commitment; and fostering academic and intersectoral partnerships.
Video-interviews related to Vincentian Social Responsibility
VCSR and Partnerships (Fr. Nonong)
VCSR and Livelihood (Fr. Nonong)
VCSR and Good Governance (Fr. Nonong)
VCSR and Advocacy (Fr. Nonong)
VCSR and Adamson University (Prof. Palencia)
VCSR and Micro-savings (Prof. Palencia)
VCSR and the Social Entreprenuership (SV-SUDZ) (Prof. Palencia)
Tavanti, Marco, Merlinda Palencia and Margaret Guzzardo. “Vincentian University Partnerships for Urban Poverty Reduction.” Vincentian Heritage Journal (Special Number) What Would Vincent Do? Vincentian Higher Education and Poverty Reduction, Vol. 28, No. 2, 2008, 183-203.
Fr. Nonong is also the director of Adamson University’s Integrated Community Extension Services (ICES) and coordinator of the Manila Archdiocese Housing Ministry. His leadership vision and position is instrumental for engaging Adamson university academic community not only at the neighborhood level (barangay) outreach activities, but more deeply and directly into the idea of urban poverty reduction and nation building. The citation of the VCSR mission is adapted from the Vincentian Center for Social Responsibility – The Official Newsletter of Integrated Community Extension Services, Vol. 1, June-August 2007. For more information in ICES visit
On the importance of linking MDGs to PRSPs for poverty reduction see http://go.worldbank.org/5UYR73KD30. See also Robb, Caroline M. 2001. Can the poor influence policy? : Participatory poverty assessments in the developing world. Washington, D.C.: World Bank.
Poverty is not just statistics: At the turn of the new millennium, the World Bank collected the voices of more than 60,000 poor women and men from 60 countries, in an unprecedented effort to understand poverty from the perspective of the poor themselves. Voices of the Poor, as this participatory research initiative is called, chronicles the struggles and aspirations of poor people for a life of dignity. The World Bank Voice of the Poor Project http://go.worldbank.org/H1N8746X10 (December 2007)
On empowerment for the Urban Poor see: United Nations Human Settlement Program (UN_Habitat), p.14; see also Narayan, Deepa. 2002. Empowerment and poverty reduction: a sourcebook: draft. Washington, DC: World Bank. Available from: http://www.worldbank.org/poverty/empowerment/index.htm
The initial observations on the VCSR social impact confirm what the literature on urban poverty reduction and squatters upgrading suggests in terms of underestimation of aggregated statistics for urban population’s access to basic services (education, health, trasportantion, etc.) and the presence of allowances in certain urban areas (Makati City) and the lack of job opportunities in the relocation sites. It also shows that urban poverty is much more than lack of economic support (often addressed through trough micro-credit, job creation and entrepreneurship). The VCSR study shows that extreme urban poverty reduction also needs to address discrimination, leadership development and value-moral formation. See Diana Mitlin ad David Satterthwaite, eds. Empowering Squatter Citizen: Local Government, Civil Society and Urban Poverty Reduction. Earthscan, 2004.
Vice President and Housing and Urban Development Coordinator (HUDCC) chairman Noli ‘Kabayan’ De Castro, VP Noli Cites Vincentian Community for Nation Building, VP News, Sunday September 30, 2007. http://famvin.org/en/archive/philippine-vp-cites-vincentian-vommunity-for-bation-building