Business foundations and organizational agility

“Agility is the ability of an organization to renew itself, to adapt, to change rapidly and to succeed in a rapidly changing, ambiguous and turbulent environment.” — Aaron De Smet, Senior Partner, McKinsey

Agility is not only required in business organizations in these difficult times. This is a must even in corporate foundations, which typically need funding and resources from their parent organizations.

The contributions of corporate foundations in an emerging market like the Philippines are well known and there are many interesting examples.

Created by a 187-year-old conglomerate, the 61-year-old Ayala Foundation Inc. sees its contribution, as President Ruel Maranan explained, as “creating communities that are creative, productive, empowered and proud to be Filipino” .

The United Laboratories Foundation, on the other hand, seeks to “improve the mental health and well-being of young Filipinos, foster the integration of learners in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and improve the active participation of young people in the promoting the good health and well-being of Filipinos”.

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The Vivant Foundation, meanwhile, has worked with DepEd and Tesda to advance solar technology, in addition to its traditional equipment donations, teacher training, and electrical installation and maintenance activities.

Mom. Esther O. Santos, President of PLDT-Smart Foundation Inc. summed up the value of these organizations well: “Since the resources committed to these foundations are not necessary to make a profit, they can be more courageous, innovative and act more agility. and speed when delivering high-impact social innovation projects.”

As we emerge from this pandemic and amid persistent global and national challenges, certain trends are looming on the horizon. If there’s one thing the pandemic has done, it’s accelerated the plans of these corporate foundations to project into the future.

For example, the PLDT-Smart Foundation is moving away from philanthropy towards a sustainable model of social goods and services. Shem Jose Garcia, the executive director of the Vivant Foundation, predicts a trend in terms of “greater integration with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and Environment, Social and Governance”.

Jon Policarpio, director of programs at the Unilab Foundation, identified the trends as “increased financial sustainability, greater donor involvement and increased transparency”. As for the Ayala Foundation, it aims for a longer-term outcome: “to establish islands of success that can make the Philippine archipelago unified; proud and confident of their cultural identity and heritage; and be economically progressive.”

As agile corporate foundations, they have taken steps to ride the waves of change.

Overall, the shift to digital delivery methods is a consistent pattern across all four organizations. In Ayala’s case, she is now refocusing her efforts on “education, decent and sustainable livelihoods, and love of country.”

In Vivant’s case, “education is expanded to include health, environment and disaster resilience.” For Unilab, it’s “donor engagement and a shift from grant funding to a pay-for-service model to move more towards social enterprises.”

As agile organizations, these four foundations and others that anticipate trends and embrace change are here to stay.

A Trend is an initiative by the Philippine Management Association and 21 other professional organizations to institutionalize a Covenant for Shared Prosperity. The landmark agreement articulates a member company’s commitment to doing good through its various stakeholders – the people who are affected by and who affect the company.

Corporate foundations are best served by having the convention as a key reference during strategic planning and day-to-day operations. In partnership with the League of Corporate Foundations, training on the covenant should begin in November. Please let me know if you are interested in attending.

Ramon B. Segismundo, DBA is a Professional Lecturer at De La Salle University Ramon V. Del Rosario-College of Business. While continuing his consulting, coaching and advisory work with private and public sector organizations, he teaches strategic management and global/intercultural management.

Aubrey L. Morgan