We reached 100%!

In less than 28 days, we reached 100% of the $2,500 fundraising goal with donations and pledges! Thank you so much to everyone who supported my project with a donation, with love and with positive energy. I sincerely could not have done this without you, and we are just getting started. Tonight, I’m flying out to Manila, and will spend the next three weeks working with Gawad Kalinga. I’m really excited to head back there to work on this fascinating project, and it’s really great to know I’ve got a ton of support from you.

I’ve been reading a lot about “crowdfunding” (kind of like crowdsourcing, but projects are financed rather than just talked about by the crowd), and this truly was an interesting experiment in crowdfunding (read more about it here). Here are some fascinating data from the fundraising (minimal amount of quant skills used!):

  • Total amount fundraised: $2,500
  • Total # of contributors: 70!
  • Minimum contribution: $5
  • Maximum contribution: $150
  • Average contribution: $35.21
  • Standard deviation: 30.16
  • # of clicks on the paypal link: 127 => More than 50% clickthrough rate

All quant stuff aside, this goal has been a fun foray into the world of fundraising! Well, I’ve got to pack my bags now for the three-week trip. I’ll update as much as I can in the Philippines!

Thank you, thank you, thank you again.

Rey’s Philippine Social Enterprise Project

I can’t believe I’m nearing the end my first semester here at the Harvard Kennedy School. Over the last few months I’ve been knee-deep in the ethics of public service, the quantitative joys of microeconomics and statistical analysis, and riveting cases in the nonprofit and educational sectors. While I am loving my academic experience, I have been yearning to get my hands dirty — to apply these learnings to something real and tangible. Just when I was starting to get this itch, an amazing opportunity popped up!

GK Community Members
GK Community Members

Back in early November, I had the privilege of meeting Tony Meloto, the founder of Gawad Kalinga (GK, which means to “give care”), one of the Philippines’s largest and most successful NGOs addressing poverty in my home country. At a presentation at Harvard, he spoke passionately about GK’s mission to eradicate poverty for over 5 million Filipinos over the next decade by building communities and empowering impoverished people. I was inspired and hooked.

I had never met a Filipino who was so passionate about a social cause until that day, and I knew I wanted to learn more from him and GK. After chatting with him at school and through a few international video conferences, I volunteered to do a consulting project with GK. Based on their needs and my background, I will create a strategy to scale GK’s newest initiative, the Center for Social Enterprise. Basically I will help GK figure out how to create more business incubators in low income communities, so more people are empowered to be entrepreneurs in their communities across the Philippines.

Community building

I just could not pass up the opportunity to make a difference with skills I’ve learned both professionally at BUILD and academically at Harvard. So instead of hanging out on the couch during my winter break, I’ll be spending about 20 days in the Philippines in January to do field research in Manila. I’ll be meeting with GK staff and community members, learning the ins and outs of their process, and formulating a replication strategy that is founded not only on the theoretical stuff I’m learning here, but, more importantly, the practical day-to-day operations. On a personal note, this will enable me to give back to the country in which I was born and will hopefully be the start of my foray into international development work. Because this project goes beyond the expectations of schoolwork here at Harvard, there is no funding available for first year students to do international development projects.

This is where you, my kind and generous friends, come in. I leave in about one month, on Dec 29 for Manila, and I need to raise $2,500 to allay the expenses of the trip, like my flight, food, public transportation, etc. If you and 99 other friends donate just $25, I’ll be set and more Filipinos in low income communities will have the opportunity to start socially responsible businesses that improve their communities. Any amount I make over $2,500 will go straight to GK as a donation.

I hope that you will be able to support me and GK’s mission by making a donation today and by spreading the word to other friends who may be able to help. Thank you!

Click here to donate.

Final Notes

  • Learn more about Gawad Kalinga here or here.
  • Donations of $25 or more will be acknowledged in the report I submit to GK.
  • If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to be in touch. Twitter: @reyfaustino, Email: rey_faustino [at] hks12.harvard.edu

The Positive Deviance Approach

I’m currently reading a book called Better, by Atul Gawande, that shares insightful stories about medical practice from a surgeon’s perspective. The stories highlight how medical professionals are only human and therefore must always be diligent and resourceful in fulfilling their duties — and the stories have lessons that spill outside of the hospital and even into the education system. What stuck out to me was a story about how hospital microbiologists tried and failed at getting medical staff to wash their hands more frequently — as you may know med staff were/are the primary carriers of infectious bacteria in hospitals so minimizing the amount of bacteria on their hands dramatically decreases the rate of infection in hospitals.

A hospital in Pittsburgh brought in Industrial Engineer Peter Perreiah to solve the problem of hospital infections in one wing of the hospital — and he created systems and structures that “made each hospital room work more like an operating roomâ€� (where they are very diligent about being disinfected). For a while his “Search-and-destroyâ€� strategy worked: “Infection rates for MRSA fell almost 90 percent.â€� However, after two years these great ideas only spread to ONE other wing at the hospital… Why? Perreiah came in and told people how they had to change rather than “building on the capabilities people already had.â€�

After reading an article about how Save the Children changed their approach to improving child nutrition in poverty stricken villages in Vietnam, he came across the idea of Positive Deviance, which “is an approach to behavioral and social change based on the observation that in a community, there are people (Positive Deviants) whose uncommon but successful behaviors or strategies enable them to find better solutions to a problem than their peers, despite having no special resources or knowledge.” Through the positive deviance approach, an important assumption is that communities already have the solutions to the problem. They are the best experts to solve their own problems.

So this time they tried the positive deviance approach with a series of 30-minute, small group discussions with all the health care workers in hospital. They had no agenda: “We’re here because of the infection problem and we want to know what YOU know about how to solve it.� And from this came great discussion and furthermore ownership of the solutions. And the results were staggering: rate of MRSA infection dropped to zero the next year and stayed that way.

What does this have to do with education or for any kind of initiative, you ask? If you think about it, organizations–whether governmental, nonprofit or business–approach problems like that industrial engineer approached the problem initially. He used his expertise to to minimize waste and increase efficiency, and above all he mandated the solutions to the hospital. Many organizations purport to have the best solution, most efficient way to handle a situation, or the most optimal way to eradicate a problem. But how many of those solutions actually stick around once the organization leaves? And isn’t the point of a nonprofit organization to work its way to nonexistence — because by reaching the nonprofit’s mission, you thereby render that nonprofit irrelevant.

Yet there are many examples of organizations that operate in communities without drawing solutions, ideas, and representation directly from the very people in the communities. Please note that I’m not criticizing how well these organizations operate. In fact, some operate extremely well. But if that organization, or that group of people, left the community, would their lasting legacy be a self-sustaining system that empowers the people of the community or would their lasting legacy be forgotten in a dusty pile from those who tried and failed to create something that the community embraced?

This makes me think of the renewed energy in the New Orleans’ education sector where most of the schools are now run by national charter management organizations and staffed by bright-eyed outsiders. When the appeal of “saving” New Orleans runs out, will these people stay? And more importantly, when shaping the new education landscape, did they elicit solutions from and empower the citizens of New Orleans to create a sustainable new education system?

I hope so. Sustainability and a community-based approach should be tantamount to any organization that wishes to improve the livelihood and well-being of those living in poverty.

Education needs to move away from culture of compliance

I recently read a book by Frederick Hess, entitled Commonsense School Reform, and so far my favorite quote from it is “…great schools are not legislated into existence… they require nuanced leadership that forges a sense of shared purpose, rewards creative thinking, and inspires excellence. Public policy cannot mandate great schools any more than it can mandate great leadership of great teaching; it can only make it easier or harder for great schools to exist.â€� But the reason that we have bureaucracies plaguing our educational institutions — that trickles down to our principals and our teachers — is because so many good recommendations get pushed through legislation without a clear, thoughtful strategy. So while states  mandate classroom sizes, teacher requirements, curricula standards, assessment test conditions, etc., all of these just add to the confusing patchwork quilt of “reforms” that are supposed to improve student outcomes. In reality, however, these perpetuate a culture of compliance! As Hess put so eloquently, “Compliance rewards obedience rather than excellence.”

Finland vs. USA
Finland vs. USA

I attended a discussion last week with Harvard Professor Tony Wagner, who presented his findings from his 10-day delve into Finland’s education system–Finland arguably has the best and highest performing education system in the world according to a set of international assessments that the OECD nations partake in (read more about it here and here)–and I was immediately struck by the subtle yet pervasive differences in their culture of education. Wagner kept bringing up that their education system’s foundation was built on a system of trust. State trusts that the districts will manage. Districts trust principals to lead their schools to the highest results. Principals trust teachers to teach effectively and to deliver results. Teachers trust students to be engaged in the classroom and to take responsibility for their education. The culture of trust not only trickles from top to bottom, but also throughout the Finnish society.

Americans, on the other hand, love to do assessments, and when those assessments aren’t stellar (as evidenced by any number of recent studies), we love to play the blame game: it was the teachers’ faults, the principals’, the districts’, the unions; it was because we did not have enough money/resources/support or not enough family involvement. If we are starting our education reform conversation by placing blame, we easily marginalize essential groups of people: teachers, principals, unions, families, schools of education. How can we expect everyone to be bought in to the recommendations and reforms in an environment that is so unsafe? We need to move away from our system of distrust and compliance, and start to cultivate a culture of trust. The question is… is that too un-American?

Waiting for “Waiting for Superman”

I love my classes so far, and I particularly am enjoying Education Policy, which is a course I’m taking at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (which we lovingly refer to as “HGSE,” pronounced HUGS-SEE). I feel like as I have been working in the youth development field, I have been working under many assumptions about our education system and how it is failing our students. Because of this class, I am actually getting a better understanding of the history of education in our country and I can pinpoint to some of the biggest and most pervasive issues that have caused and are still causing educational inequity.

And I wonder how our society will react to the upcoming alarmist (or what I assume will be alarmist) education documentary, “Waiting for ‘Superman“, which has gotten a lot of buzz recently. If you haven’t heard about it, you can view/read more here, here, and here. In short, this documentary has the potential to do for education reform what “An Inconvenient Truth” did for the Global Warming debate — stir up conversations and catalyze action. On a surface level this will be very positive for  the education reform movement, and I predict that it will galvanize our communities and nation toward the movement. However, I am worried that because there are so many policy issues and that the true societal issues run deeper than just education, we may be missing the point. “The gap between beliefs and actions not only leads to contention and confusion, it also generates policies that are irrational in the sense that they are inconsistent with evidence of what works or are not based on any evidence at all.” (Hochschild and Scovronick)

Will this latest reaction from the documentary just be the next short-term fad? How can we capture this impending moment and truly galvanize people toward fighting for long-term results? We keep talking about how institutions (healthcare, school districts, housing, employment, etc.) need to come in, support the issues, and fix the problem. I am starting to get more clarity around where and how reform can most effectively be made, and that seems to be at the local level. My hunch is that until we can reinvigorate the culture of under-resourced communities, we’ll just be pouring money into a black hole. In addition to partnering with these important institutions, we need to take a multi-pronged approach to empower the people that actually live in the communities: with consistent and high quality education for the youth, economic opportunities for employment/capital/venture funding for the adults, and healthcare and housing opportunities for all.

First Week at Harvard

The first week at Harvard has been a rollercoaster. Coming off of a fantastic vacation in Spain, I definitely started out on a high note. Even biking around town in the pouring rain to buy groceries and take care of other business didn’t really phase me. Sure, I miss my car a lot. Every time it rained in San Francisco — actually even when the sun was out — I took my trusty Prius to where I needed to go. This biking/walking/busing lifestyle will take some adjustment, but I’m getting there.

And then orientation at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government started, and let me just say that I have some ridiculously amazing classmates. We’ve got a guy who was one of the first astronauts from South Korea, a lady who has her MD and her MBA and who’s looking to get a third. We’ve got fellow nonprofiteers, former teachers, servicemen and women, and people who have hobnobbed with heads of state. We have this one girl who has three passports, and this one guy who has visited 86 countries. We’ve got future politicians, future ambassadors, future foreign ministers, leaders who are bound to make some real social change in the next few years. Wow. To say that I was humbled on that first day upon meeting my classmates is an understatement, yet I held my own. I know my purpose here, and I am extremely excited to have such high caliber classmates to add to the fabric of my education.

However, I’m not going to lie. There was a millisecond where I felt like I slipped in undetected, like I was a spy living a double life. “I snuck into Harvard! I got in without them noticing! Ha!” I certainly felt a tinge of that as I sat in HKS’s storied John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum, where heads of state, celebrities and students all have had the chance to speak. But Debbie Isaacson, the director of the MPP program, reminded us that “Harvard does not make admissions mistakes. You belong here, and you were meant to be here.” And as several other speakers reminded us on day one, each of us was chosen because of our propensity to be leaders and our drive to fix our world’s most pressing problems. We answered the call.

So as I lay here in bed, after a long weekend of being ill (I had to get these vaccinations, which caused side effects, like fever, aches, cramps and tiredness, for about 48 hours), I am still astonished at this journey of which I am about to embark. And I remain grateful to everyone that has helped get me to this place.

Wish me luck as I start classes this week! (And that I get over this illness quick so I can actually go to classes!)

Gates & Buffet Challenge Billionaires to Pledge 50% of their Net Worth

Karla sent me this fascinating article in Fortune about how billionaires Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet are urging their billionaire buddies to give significant amounts of their money to charities. The article details how they set up intimate, clandestine dinner gatherings with handfuls of the nation and the world’s wealthiest people — Oprah Winfrey, Eli and Edythe Broad, Ted Turner, David Rockefeller, Chuck Feeney, Michael Bloomberg, George Soros, to name a few.

They are driving to get the super-rich, starting with the Forbes list of the 400 wealthiest Americans, to pledge — literally pledge — at least 50% of their net worth to charity during their lifetimes or at death.

Can you imagine what would happen if the super-rich gave away half of their net worth to the public sector? Can you imagine the incredible amount of opportunities that would create for education and health care reform, eradication of poverty, and clean energy solutions? We are talking about potentially adding $600 billion dollars in resources to the public sector — this scale of impact and this type of giving is unprecedented.

Check out the rest of the article as it was a fascinating read.  It prompted me to think about a post I wrote a while ago about Personal Philanthropy Plans — creating a culture of giving in our own personal lives no matter how big or small your income is. As evidenced by American generosity (particularly around the natural disasters our world has faced in the last year in Haiti and now the gulf), people want to make an impact. Now how can we systematize and build that into the fabric of our culture so that people give regularly? So that giving isn’t just a knee-jerk reaction, but a thoughtful proactive approach? With trailblazing role models like Gates and Buffet as advocates for the philanthropic sector, I think the millennial generation is headed in that very direction…

[Fortune article via @karlaliliana]

Our culture is the reason BUILD is an amazing place to work

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

With July 16 as my last day of official work at BUILD, I’ve got less than a month left, and that’s got me feeling all sorts of feelings lately. After the bouts of sadness about not seeing my kids and team any more, I bounce back with excitement about the road ahead, the new people I will meet and the adventures that await. I would say the predominant feeling right now, though, is nostalgic. When I think about the last five years, it’s been an wonderfully difficult and rewarding journey. I’ve worked with some of the most passionate and driven people in my life, and the people are what make BUILD the special place that it is.

Recently our HR manager, Michelle, collected advice from our staff about things we think are important for our new hires to know — to help with the on-boarding process. Before I saw the final product, I thought that it would be another boring bulleted list of HR speak, but I was taken aback by the sincerity, candidness, and humor of the responses. The messages came straight from the hearts of our team. They reminded me about why I love working here, while concurrently reminding me that it was a long (and sometimes painful) road to create the culture that we have now. Below are some of my favorite responses along with pictures from our BUILD Graduation.

I sure will miss this place.

Advice and Insight About Working at BUILD

~From the BUILD Family

“BUILD truly is a family.�

“I’m always greeted with hugs rather than handshakes.�

“Get ready to sing songs – even off key singers, like me, are welcome.�

“You will receive a tremendous amount of support from your teammates and in turn they will need your support and you will want to give it.�

“When the CEO puts on a Darth Vadar mask during a video conference to bring a little humor into the call, you know you’ve found the best organization to work at.�

“Staff lunch is not required but on most days folks will gather in the incubator space to eat lunch. Feel free to join when you are able. It’s a great way to get to know your team!�

“Event dress codes – here at the Peninsula site, we sometimes like to coordinate our outfits when we put on events.  This might mean that we all wear BUILD t-shirts or agree on a color scheme.  It’s silly but fun!�

“All Hands On – when program events are “all hands on� it means that the whole team will be there, start to finish, and are invested in the success of the event.  This means bring your true team-player spirit to the table.�

“Do your work with lightening speed—BUILD moves fast and everyone is expected to get quality work done ASAP.�

“We are a smiley-face-in-email, individualized-thank-you, gifts-on-birthdays, open-door-in-the-office culture that emphasizes laughter, sharing of personal lives and stories, teamwork, humbleness, knowing each other really well, and a shared commitment to youth first.�

“We are a karaoke, dress up at Halloween, prepare skits kind of place.  You don’t have to participate but you have to enjoy being around those who do!�

“Greet our incubator students with a hug; greet our current E1’s with a firm hand shake.�

Message from a Workshop Participant

I do a lot of workshops every year. I love them. I love the energy of being up in front of a room of eager and willing learners and participants. Yet after workshops (of any sort) there is always that lingering question of whether or not it was worthwhile, valuable or if it made any kind of impact.

This morning I received a lovely message from someone who attended a workshop that I gave a couple of years ago, and it absolutely brightened up my day. I’m glad to help, and even more glad to hear that she gained something from what I shared!

A message of thanks

Seven Weeks Left in the Bay Area

I have these gigantic 3 ft by 2 ft calendars on my wall to see all of our activities and events for the upcoming three months. Since today was June 1, I took down my May calendar, and put up the July and August calendars… And then it hit me. I’m not even going to be working at BUILD in August! My last day at the org is July 16, and I have about seven weeks left at this organization that I called home for five years. A few days after my last day at BUILD, I’m driving down to Las Vegas to spend time with my family, and then flying to Boston to find an apartment. Crazy.

Over the last few days I’ve been trying to brainstorm all of the things I want to do/get done in the Bay Area before I leave, so below is my audacious (narrowed down) list of fun things to do. If you are around and available, please join me!

Fun things to do before I leave

One of my favorite places in the city, Dolores Park
One of my favorite places in the city, Dolores Park


  1. Pacifica Beach Trip: Surfing & L&L Hawaiian BBQ
  2. Napa Wine Tasting
  3. SF Pride!
  4. Mistro (Mission/Castro) Crawl: Mission mural tour, picnic at Dolores Park, Castro Slides
  5. Yoga Classes: Darren Main, Janet Stone, Rusty Wells, Pete Guinosso, Dina Amsterdam & of course, Eric Kobrick‘s Yoga en Espanol in preparation for Spain trip
  6. Golden Gate Park & Presidio: Yoda Statue & CA Academy of Sciences
  7. Hiking: Muir Woods, Mt. Diablo
  8. Singing: Karaoke at the Mint (which is a given!), SFGMC Pride Concert

My Favorite Restaurants

  1. Back-A-Yard in Menlo Park

    My heaven: Back-a-Yard Caribbean Food!
  2. Cha Cha Cha in the Mission
  3. Sushi Time in the Castro
  4. Sol Food in San Rafael
  5. Front Porch in Bernal Heights
  6. El Zocalo in Bernal Heights
  7. Zante’s Indian Pizza in Bernal Heights
  8. Taqueria Cancun in the Mission

New Restaurants that I want to check out

  1. Lucky Chance’s Filipino Buffet in Colma
  2. Mission Pie in the Mission
  3. Thanh Long in the Sunset
  4. Pi in the Mission

Anything else I need to add to this already ridiculously long list? And again, join me!

As per usual during the summers, not only is it going to be filled with sunshine and renewal, but also a lot of traveling.

Tentative Summer Plans

  • June 12 – BUILD Graduation
  • June 24 – SFGMC Pride Concert
  • June 26-27 – SF’s 40th Pride
  • July 7-11 – College Summit Workshop at University of the Pacific
  • July 14-16 – BUILD All-Staff Retreat
  • July 16 – Last Day at BUILD
  • July 20 – Last Day in SF
  • July 21 – Drive to Las Vegas for Faustino Family Time
  • July 28 – Fly to Boston
  • August 4-8 – College Summit Workshop at University of Southern California – Also my Rap Director Certification workshop!
  • August 10-22 – Trip to Spain’s Mediterranean Coast with Karla
  • August 24 – Harvard Kennedy School Orientation
  • September 1 – First Day of School!