"Agility is the ability of an organization to renew itself, adapt, change quickly, and succeed in a rapidly changing, ambiguous, turbulent environment." — Aaron De Smet, senior partner, McKinsey

Agility is not only required in business organizations during these challenging times. It is a must even in corporate foundations, which usually require funding and resources from their mother organizations.

The contributions of corporate foundations in an emerging market like the Philippines are well known and there are a lot of great examples in this regard.

The 61-year-old Ayala Foundation Inc., which was established by a 187-year-old conglomerate, views its contribution, as articulated by President Ruel Maranan, as "creating communities that are creative, productive, self-reliant and proud to be Filipino".

The United Laboratories Foundation, meanwhile, looks to "improving the mental health and well-being of young Filipinos, nurture integrated science, technology, engineering and math learners and improve active participation of youth in promoting good health and well-being of Filipinos."

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The Vivant Foundation, meanwhile, has worked with DepEd and the Tesda in furthering solar technology, in addition to its mainstream equipment donation, teacher training, and electrical installation and maintenance activities.

Ma. Esther O. Santos, president of the PLDT-Smart Foundation Inc. aptly summarized the value of these organizations: "As the resources committed to these foundations are not required to earn a profit, they can be more courageous, innovative and act with more agility and speed when delivering high impact social innovation projects."

As we emerge from this pandemic and amid continuing global and domestic challenges, some trends are on the horizon. If there is one thing that the pandemic has done, it has accelerated the plans of these corporate foundations to thrust themselves into the future.

For example, the PLDT-Smart Foundation is veering away from philanthropy towards transforming into a sustainable model for social goods and services. Shem Jose Garcia, the executive director of the Vivant Foundation, predicts a trend in terms of "a greater integration with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and environment, social and governance".

Jon Policarpio, programs director of the Unilab Foundation, identified the trends to be "increased financial sustainability, greater donor involvement enhanced transparency". As for the Ayala Foundation, it has set its sights on a longer-term outcome: "establishing islands of success that can make the Philippine archipelago united; proud and confident of their cultural identity and heritage; and be economically progressive."

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

Across the board, shifting to digital modes of delivery is a consistent pattern across all four organizations. In the case of Ayala, it is now refocusing its efforts on "education, suitable and sustainable livelihood, and love of country".

In Vivant's case, "education is being expanded to include health, environment and disaster resilience". For Unilab, it is "donor engagement and shifting from grant funding to a fee per service model to evolve more into social enterprises."

Being agile organizations, these four foundations and others that are similarly anticipating trends and embracing change are here to stay.

One trend is an initiative taken by the Management Association of the Philippines and 21 other business organizations to institutionalize a Covenant for Shared Prosperity. The landmark agreement spells out a member company's pledge to do right by its various stakeholders — the people who are affected by and who affect the business.

Corporate foundations are best served by having the covenant as a key reference when doing strategic Planning and in day to day operations. In partnership with the League of Corporate Foundations, training on the covenant is scheduled to start in November. Please let me know if you are interested in attending.

Ramon B. Segismundo, DBA is a senior professional lecturer from the De La Salle University Ramon V. Del Rosario-College of Business. While pursuing his consulting, coaching and advisory work to private and public sector organizations, he teaches Strategic Management and Global/Cross Cultural Management.