When the pandemic struck, it was a shock initially for NATCCOs advisors who regularly travelled to member cooperatives to conduct performance assessments and provide consultancy services. Travels and face-to-face meetings were no longer possible, raising the question how to continue working. NATCCO is one of the largest cooperative federations in the Philippines and one of DGRV’s main partners in the country.
More than 2 years later, travel and contact restrictions have been lifted. But their work continues in a hybrid way. To cope with the pandemic, NATCCO developed online formats to provide tailored advice to member cooperatives, so called “digital Kamustahans” (digital “how-are-you-sessions”), as well as web-based offsite audits. The members were forced during the pandemic to work together with their federation in that way, but now they are enthusiastic about the new normal. It saves money and time. The drive for digitisation does not stop there. NATCCO developed its own platform for online-learning. Another partner of DGRV, AgriCOOPh, has also launched its e-commers service which allows members to sell their products online.
The digital economy has penetrated nearly every industry and provides numerous benefits such as reduced costs, higher efficiency, easier access to services and much more. But especially for medium and small sized cooperatives, the adaption of new technologies can be a daunting task due to a lack of capital and skills. Nevertheless, to stay afloat in the rapidly changing economy they need to adapt. Federations can be an important catalyst for the digitisation of cooperatives as they pool resources and can often access digital knowledge and talent more easily.
One example is the cooperative payment platform Kaya which has been developed by NATCCO and the Philippine Federation of Credit Cooperatives with the help of the Asian Confederation of Credit Cooperatives ACCU. Through this platform, numerous cooperatives from small to large can participate in the digital payments eco-system. Realising the importance of digitisation for cooperatives, the Cooperative Development Agency (CDA) has published a memorandum in November 2021 which created a new type of cooperative: the Technology Service Cooperative.
DGRV supports both NATCCO and AgriCOOPh in their efforts to digitise. Both partners have been supported to develop web-based education for their members. This is useful not only due to the pandemic. In a state with about 2,000 inhabited islands, organising face-to-face trainings can be hugely expensive. Furthermore, DGRV supports NATCCO’s stabilisation fund in automizing its data collection and data analysis for more efficiency and accuracy of data.
Rightly done, digitisation of processes in cooperatives brings their members many benefits. It just needs to be ensured that efforts are in their interest, not for the sake of digital trends. DGRV intends to support such good practice examples and processes in the future.
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