- Echoing Green has announced its 2012 fellows and we’re so very proud to share that One Degree, founded by the super humble and talented Rey Faustino, has been chosen! Rey and his team raised $4,684 on StartSomeGood last year to help launch One Degree. Please join us in congratulating him and his team, along with the other amazing 2012 Echoing Green Fellows!
- Seattle’s Social Innovation Fast Pitch 2012, presented by Social Veture Partners Seattle, is a fast pitch investment forum highlighting New Ideas for Social Impact. Online applications for this competition close on June 29th and the final pitch competition takes place on October 18th.
- The 9th Annual Games for Change Festival is taking place in New York at the NYU Skirball Center on June 18th through June 20th. This is the largest games gathering in NYC and it’s a great place to network with leaders who develop games for social change, learn about key global trends, and participate in some of the best games for change that have been developed. The mission: catalyze social impact through digital games. Ticket sales close at the end of today—come play some games for a great cause!
- Ready for a vacation this summer? I bet we all are (I know that I am!!) Have you ever considered taking a volunteer vacation? This week, The Huffington Post shared 5 great volunteer vacations you can take to donate your time while traveling abroad. Build with Habitat for Humanity in Alaska, help deaf and blind students in Chile, spend time at an orphanage in Guatemala, bottle feed baby manatees in Peru, help endangered animals in South Africa, or choose another adventure—whatever you do, the experience will be one of a lifetime. Last year, I spent time on a farm in Equador and it’s something I will never forget.
- There are several opportunities posted to join the Ashoka U team as an intern this summer. Ashoka U is starting a movement to influence higher education and is looking for passionate and talented interns to join them for summer.
- During S.H.E. Summit Week in New York, Catchafire is hosting an event, Learn How to Launch a Social Good Company on June 19th. A panel of women entrepreneurs within the social good sector will speak about what it’s like being a woman social entrepreneur today. If you plan on attending the S.H.E. Summit, this panel is a must!
Rey Faustino is the founder of One Degree, an organization that aims to innovate school systems in low-income communities through a network of poverty-fighting supporters. Just a few weeks ago, Rey and his team led One Degree through a largely successful campaign on StartSomeGood. The funds will help One Degree incorporate as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, build its web application, and recruit partnerships with schools in the Bay Area. You may remember One Degree as Connective Possibilities. This was a working title that Rey decided to change to One Degree shortly after the campaign ended. Recently, I had a chance to talk to Rey about inspiration, motivation and what it takes to have a great idea and finally get it started.
What inspired One Degree?
You know how people talk about that one moment or that one thing that happened that really inspired them? I feel like that is a little bit too narrow. I feel like this has been ten years or more in the making. There have been a lot of things I’ve done and experienced in my life that have led to this start-up. One was working with my kids in organizations like Build, which is a non-profit organization that uses entrepreneurship as a vehicle to empower low-income kids to go to college, and College Summit, which is another college access organization. Through these organizations, I worked with really bright and talented young people who lived in low-income communities and households, but I generally worked with them in high school or at the end of high school when they were already on their way to college. What I saw was that even though we provided really great services for them, there were so many hurdles they were facing other than school issues that we couldn’t do anything about because we had no resources to help—things like homelessness and hunger—and I just got really frustrated. I felt like the school system and non-profit organizations should be a little bit more collaborative and should have some sort of way to help with some of the underlying causes of poverty. That’s one of several moments over the last decade that have shaped my views.
Another moment was when one of my kids told me she was homeless one day, out of the blue—and she’s this super bright kid, super amazing—and I was just floored at that moment. I was 25 years old and didn’t really know what was out there.
Before all of that, I think a large part of my inspiration comes from growing up in a low-income household. We were from a working class background; we were immigrants into the country. We didn’t really have the social capital that a typical middle class family had so we kind of had to make due with what we knew. We essentially kept to ourselves because we were immigrants here and we didn’t want to rock the boat or cause any trouble. Looking back at it now, I wonder if we had taken advantage of some of the resources that were out there, would our lives have been easier? Would we have been better off? Maybe.
There are so many people that have ideas but don’t have the motivation to follow through on them. What finally gave you the motivation and drive to decide to start One Degree?
I’ve always had entrepreneurship in the back of my mind. I was that kid growing up that hustled. At school I would be the one selling candy to friends. For school dances, I would buy a bunch of tickets for $5 and sell them for $10. I also helped a lot with my dad’s business. I eventually went to college and studied entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California. I thought I wanted to grow up and start a for-profit company but eventually I found myself kind of accidentally in the non-profit sector after doing a lot of volunteer work in college. I realized I loved working with youth and I loved education and what can happen in the education space. Then when I saw that there is so much need in our schools and the education sector, that was the imperative moment when I thought, “Okay we need to get something done, we need to start something”.
It’s not just waiting for the next big thing or innovation to happen. There are currently 16,000 high poverty schools in the country and these are the schools that are really underperforming and that’s the kind of stuff that makes me think, “Why aren’t more people doing things?” It’s not, “Why am I the crazy one for wanting to start something?” People are crazy for not wanting to start something or not wanting to do anything.
It can be a little intimidating to get something started, though, right?
It is scary and the scariest part about it is owning it and putting it out there in the world and saying, “Oh I’m going to start something” because there are literally so many people out there that are going to tell you not to do this. I had a meeting today with this gentleman who is really well regarded in philanthropy and foundations and I thought that he would be a really good person to talk to so that I could get connected to some money. He spent literally the entire 45 minutes telling me the reasons why I should not be starting this organization. The best quote was “Every dollar that you raise to start your non-profit organization weakens the non-profit sector”. I definitely see his point—there is this whole argument that there are way too many non-profits and that’s a bad thing because they aren’t coordinating and they are draining the system, etc. but I fundamentally believe that this sector is the sector that catalyzes innovation and change and makes movements happen and that is not a monetary thing. It’s not a zero-sum game. He comes from a really old school background where it was a zero-sum game, there was an ‘X’ number of philanthropies and foundations that gave money but he’s not taking into consideration how people are changing nowadays. People are giving at levels that are unprecedented and it’s projected to continue over the next two or three generations so it’s just a different world now.
Where are you in the process of launching One Degree? What’s in store for the new year?
We are in the really early stages, which is good. We’re really in the early stages. We don’t have a prototype yet or any partner schools so right now what I’m working on is a feasibility study of five different cities across the country to see which area makes the most sense to do a launch. I’m looking at educational, political, funding and community landscapes of each city to see if it’s the kind of place that needs this kind of intervention and can sustain it. I didn’t want to just show up at a place and say, “Hey we’re here, let’s help you”. I want to make sure that the community is really pulling us in and we have community champions there.
That is what’s been happening over the past few months. Over the next few months, we’re going to solidify a location that we want to start in. We’re 85% sure that we’re going to start in the Bay Area but where in the Bay Area is still up for some debate at the moment. That’s the first big step in the new year. A couple of other exciting things—we’re going to solidify relationships with school partners in the Bay Area and we’re also going to build a prototype for the web application that we’re going to use. It’s kind of like a Wikipedia/Yelp for community services. We want to make it as easy to find a job training center, a food bank or a place to get information about public housing on our application as it is to find an Indian restaurant in San Francisco on Yelp. We want a prototype of this by May 2012. After the Summer, we’re going to do a full launch of our program in at least one region.
Can you talk about your experience with your campaign on StartSomeGood?
It’s been good—we got a great response. I’m really happy with it! The funny thing is—today in the conversation I had with somebody who is really negative about startups in general, he told me, “No one is going to fund your organization at this stage. You don’t have anything. You just have an idea and that’s nothing. In the grand scheme of things ideas are cheap.” To me, seeing that we had about 100 first funders through StartSomeGood; I had that in the back of my head while he was saying this and I was thinking—you can say that as much as you want but people believe in this and just because we don’t have a prototype or a pilot; that doesn’t mean that we’re going to stop or be held back.
I think that was the most important thing that StartSomeGood gave us. The backing and support of 100 people was critical to us. I purposely wanted to do the StartSomeGood campaign first before we asked anyone else for funding because it was so important for me and the folks at this start-up to fundraise from the community and our friends and networks and families because that’s the principle of what One Degree is all about. It’s about the power of your community, the power of your network, the power of your social capital and we wanted to display that first and foremost by fundraising through them first rather than an impersonal foundation or large institution or just one high net worth individual. It’s been a really positive experience. It was actually a lot of hard work too.
Do you have any advice for others looking to launch a campaign on StartSomeGood?
The point was to get people to know about what we’re doing and get the word out and StartSomeGood was a really great platform for that. The biggest piece of advice is that this is just a tool. It’s kind of like a tin can and unless you take that tin can and give it to somebody and say, “Hey can you put some money in this tin can for this really great cause?” then nothing is going to happen to your tin can—it’s just going to sit there and collect dust. It was a ton of work to be really organized about when to contact people and for what reason. I created tons of spreadsheets to have a timeline for who to contact when and who could contact their networks and why. There was a direct correlation between how much work I did that day communicating with people and how much money I raised that day or the next day. The days I was too busy there was a direct correlation to how little money I raised that day or how little link clicks I got that day. It’s like a tin can—that’s the best advice I can give to you guys. Good luck, now go StartSomeGood!
Has Rey inspired you to start your own good? Do you have a social enterprise, a non-profit or an amazing idea that needs some momentum to take off? Visit our site to find out how to start your own campaign today. Still have questions? We have answers—check out our FAQ section.