"Kaya ko" means "I can."


In the same spirit, Kaya Co. envisions a global Filipino community that holds power in the collective. We dream of Philippine changemakers empowered in tackling local issues, and a diaspora that’s ready to listen, understand, and act in solidarity as the global hands and voices of home.

We work to achieve this by inspiring, educating, and mobilizing diaspora youth as partners to long-term, locally led social change in the Philippines.  Our work is anchored on three core values:

Critical consciousness

We are committed to understanding the world in all dimensions of what it is and what it can be.  We strive on one hand to understand the cascading histories of culture, politics, and thoughts that led to today’s world – and on the other hand, to examine the existing assets and potential models for change that can lead to a better tomorrow.

Creative empathy

We begin with understanding people: their motivations, their goals, and the activities at hand.  From there, we facilitate the free flow of ideas,  encouraging quantity over quality at first, and entrusting the best thoughts to rise to the top.  Then we test and we prototype, gathering feedback, adapting, failing and resetting until the pieces fit.

Collective leadership

A leader is nothing without a movement; a constellation of committed individuals means nothing if it doesn’t translate to change in the communities and institutions that surround them. We promote leadership that challenges mindsets, inspires supporters, and ties diverse agendas together towards a unified direction for change.

Learn more about our work:

2015 Annual ReportMediaSubscribe

Our Impact So Far


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34 young balikbayans connected to opportunities for impact in the Philippines.

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20+ Philippine partner organizations supported through internship placements.

 

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1000+ allies and supporters activated through our Fellows’ networks.

The Challenge


“The Filipino dream, to put it succinctly, is to leave the Philippines.”

Over the past 300 years, a history of economic dependence and Western influence has created generations of Filipino workers we’ll describe as prematurely global: possessing skills and ambitions that are a better match for foreign markets than for the lagging landscape of opportunities back home.

Fluent in English and known for their work ethic, these Filipino workers found themselves to be hot commodities in a global labor market that was hungry for their skills in medicine, engineering, and domestic care, and offered significantly better pay than equivalent positions back home. Today, OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) and the networks they brought along are numbered at over 12 million worldwide.

That’s more than a tenth of the population of the Philippines itself.

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The immediate side-effect of this phenomenon can be summed up as displacement, separation, and brain drain.  But the true magnitude of consequences are deeper and more subtle.  After a point, we’re no longer just matching supply and demand; we’re redefining people’s aspirations. We are continually losing generations of future leaders in other sectors to this cultural consensus that a better life lies outside the Philippines as a nurse or a domestic helper.

When it comes down to it, people are leaving the Philippines in pursuit of stability, of opportunity – in big American terms, in the pursuit of happiness. If we are to curb the massive outflow of Filipinos and Filipinas, then, we need a more stable quality of life and a self-sustaining local economy in the Philippines. And this new equilibrium will depend on high-impact innovation from from all sectors of the Philippine economy.

How can we unlock new resources to fuel this charge?

The Opportunity


Let’s go back to that global 12 million.

In the United States, Filipinos and Filipinas account for the country’s second-largest immigrant population. As diasporas (“scatterings” of a people) often are, a good fraction of them are tightly connected through ethnic networks: community associations, conferences, churches, educational centers, and student organizations. Each of these hundreds of hubs have contact lists that contain dozens if not hundreds of Filipinos and Filipinas, most of whom consider their Philippine origins to be an important part of their identities.

This means that the right message with the right resonance can very quickly echo down to hundreds of thousands of interested ears. And a pronounced call to action can spark a powerful fire.

screen-shot-2015-10-14-at-12-44-58-pmToday, collaboration between overseas Filipinos and the Philippines exists largely through remittances and donations that make up 10% of Philippine GDP – but these investments more often target immediate needs rather than sustainable, systematic change. Never towards addressing the root causes that sent so many of us away.

Meanwhile, local Filipino changemakers have emerged out of the recent decades with critical solutions to the social problems that underlie economic dependence, social inequality, and rampant migration. Powerful as their efforts may be, though, the scale of their impact is limited by the fact that too many of their potential allies and supporters live half a world away, with energies, ideas and capital that are close to inaccessible from where they stand.

The magnitude of missed opportunity is staggering. According to Innovations for Poverty Action, some of the key ingredients to venture growth are access to talent, funding, and markets. The Filipino diaspora is highly educated; their collective income dwarfs Filipino GDP, which stands at $2300 per capita; and they are embedded in competitive international economies that are crucial to the creation of globally competitive brands that can provide jobs, create wealth, and break monopolies.

Kaya Collaborative, at its core, is a long-term effort to bridge this gap – to link mutual interests across the world and strengthen the role of overseas Filipinos in the development of the Philippines. To hack the diaspora into an engine of growth for sustainable and locally-led ventures that hold potential to both grow and equalize the Philippine political economy.

Our History


It started 3 years ago with a phone conversation between two college friends. One of them had just come back from visiting his home in Dumaguete, Philippines where he spent half his life before moving to the most unlikely of places: Cleveland, Ohio. Before this trip to the Philippines, he hadn’t maintained a connection to his homeland, other than to enjoy the food and culture with his friends. He had also just spent a summer in Brazil learning and writing about favela communities with an organization that showed him the vibrancy so often avoided by outsiders. This new knowledge about community, people power, and social change stuck with him as he visited his hometown on a regular trip with his family.

Although the people, sights, and experiences were the same, Rexy Josh Dorado was seeing it through new eyes. Intoxicated by a summer that focused on looking at solutions rather than problems, he realized that this place that he had left a long time ago did not also have to be left behind. The Philippines could be a place that he helped build, even from a large distance away in snowy Rhode Island. He saw the enormous potential in creating a network of likeminded diaspora youth who were committed to learn about the Philippines on their own terms, and take action from their positions of privilege in effective ways.

Over the phone, he asked his friend about this idea of mobilizing diaspora youth to take an active part in the development of their homelands. His friend, who eventually started another program that brought college students into the social sector of Detroit, Michigan, told him he had to give it a shot. With the help of a small group of dedicated individuals, Kaya Collaborative was born 8,000 miles away from the homeland. Today, we have a team of incredible volunteers across the United States and two full-time team members based in Manila.

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2015 Kaya Co. Fellows in Manila

Kaya Co. was founded on the idea that Filipino diaspora youth have a unique role to play in helping the Philippines. We form partnerships with social sector organizations in the Philippines, supporting them in operations, program development, communications, and more.

Our flagship program, the Kaya Co. Summer Fellowship, brings 10-15 of these young diaspora leaders to Manila to spend a summer developing their critical consciousness and creative empathy while interning with our partner organizations. We foster transnational leadership within a Philippine context, empowering our Fellows to become partners to locally-led social change during their stay and beyond.