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Monday, December 12, 2016

Generation Balikbayan: Kaya Collaborative brings young global Filipinos back home for impact

For decades, the Philippines has been exporting its people; 10% of the entire Filipino population now lives abroad. But could the tide be turning? On November 23, Kaya Collaborative ( began its search for 20 young Filipino diaspora leaders to join its 4th annual Summer Fellowship in the Philippines.

Kaya Co. Fellows in talks with Filipino entrepreneurs, including Rovaira Dasig of PULSE PH

Activating the global Filipino nation

Kaya Collaborative (Kaya Co.) was launched in August 2013 by a network of college students from Brown, Harvard, Stanford, and Seattle University. Since then, Kaya Co. has brought 34 young leaders from the Filipino diaspora - the 10 million Filipinos living outside their homeland - back to the Philippines for 2-month internships in the social impact sector.

“The Philippines is changing,” said Rexy Josh Dorado, Kaya Collaborative’s founder and CEO. “The problems are as complex as ever, but what world doesn’t see is this groundswell of solutions being created by and for local Filipinos. There has never been a better time for global Filipinos to come back, learn from the Philippines, and participate in this change.”

Evidence suggests that it’s already begun to happen. Earlier this year, Kaya Collaborative mined data from LinkedIn and found that the number of global Filipino professionals returning to work in the Philippines had increased more than threefold since the year 2000.

A lifelong journey home

This Fellowship is just a first step. Ultimately, Kaya Co. aims to develop leaders that will play long-term roles in the development of the Philippines.

Three years in, the program is beginning to show long-term returns. Micaela Faith Beltran, a Fellow from Kaya Co’s first class in 2014, has spent the past year working full-time in the Philippines. She is now Executive Director of OCEAN (Open Collaboration with East Asia New Champions), a Philippine-based summit by the World Economic Forum community which explores the role of technology in social change.

“After Kaya Collaborative, I went back to the US, and I couldn’t shake this feeling that I needed to return to the Philippines and be a part of everything I saw there,” said Beltran.

Beltran is not the only one who has heeded the call to return home long-term. Stephanie Dofitas, a Fellow from Kaya Co’s 2015 class, has chosen to take on her graduate studies in Ateneo de Manila. A member of this year’s Fellowship class, Bianca Taberna, is now working as a consultant at Ashoka, where she helps search for the best local Filipino innovators to support through funding and global network access.

“The Kaya Co. Fellowship was an overwhelming and necessary experience that has completely changed how I understand my connection to the Philippines,” said Taberna.

For other Fellows, Kaya Co. is a next step towards being a Filipino leader and advocate in the United States. Jon Luigi Caña, a 2015 Fellow, graduated from UC Berkeley this June and began working for The Filipino Channel, where he helps the company better engage Fil-Am millennials.

Earlier this year, Caña won a national essay contest on the legacy of EDSA. In his essay, he recalls being back in the Philippines and seeing the value of unity in action: “It is unity that supports us in our individual pursuits, knowing that there are people there to catch us when we fall, and cheer us on as we rise.” It is this same sense of unity that Kaya Co. is trying to forge between Filipinos in the Philippines and those abroad.

Kaya Co. Fellows with Dean Tony La Vina of Ateneo School of Government, visiting the Bantayog ng mga Bayani martial law memorial.

The 2017 Kaya Co. Fellowship

The 4th Kaya Co. Fellowship will take place from June to August 2017 in Metro Manila, Cebu City, Batangas, and Marinduque. Fellows will have the option to learn about social entrepreneurship, community mobilization, creative economy, education, technology as a platform for impact, and more. Fellows are also taken through a leadership development curriculum that brings together culture, entrepreneurship, design, and frameworks for understanding social change.

Potential internship placements in 2017 include:

  • Curricular research with Habi Education Lab, a nonprofit that trains Filipino teachers to innovate and think as designers and researchers
  • Digital marketing with Anthill Fabric Gallery, a social enterprise that strengthens livelihoods by embedding indigenous fabrics into contemporary Filipino fashion
  • Communications and innovation research with Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, which identifies and supports system-changing social entrepreneurship globally
  • Strategy consulting with Amihan Global Strategies, which transforms Filipino public and private institutions for the digital age

Applications are now open on the Kaya Co. website: Early applications are due on December 23.

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