Last week, Harvard University Kennedy School of Government awarded its Emerging Global Leadership Award to our very own Rey Faustino. This award recognizes an alumnus who has stood out as a leader and has made a meaningful difference to individuals, organizations, or governments. We’re so proud of Rey and the whole One Degree team for bringing this concept to life and continuing to grow the impact of the organization.
“We cannot do this work alone.”
Rey Faustino MPP 2012 is the founder of One Degree (1degree.org), a web and mobile platform connecting hundreds of thousands of people with needed social services. Before coming to the Kennedy School, before he started helping low-income teens graduate from high school and go to college, and before founding One Degree, though, Faustino was familiar with the difficulties of finding assistance with necessities such as immigration and health services.
His own family had experienced those challenges after they immigrated to Southern California from the Philippines when Faustino was eight years old. Faustino’s mother eventually found work as an administrative assistant at a hospital, liking it so much she became a nurse. His father, who had trained as an architect, worked multiple jobs as a salesperson and as an entrepreneur on the side, remodeling kitchens and bathrooms. “I’d accompany him on nights, weekends, and holidays to help him at different job sites so that we could make sure there was food on the table for the family,” Faustino says.
Faustino went to the University of Southern California, intent on studying entrepreneurship to help grow his father’s business. But he found his calling to serve the community when he began volunteering for an organization that mentored children from Los Angeles’s inner city. “I did this for four years at USC and loved it,” says Faustino. After college, he relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area to work with a nonprofit helping low-income and minority students. But he found himself increasingly frustrated by the difficulty his clients had in accessing community resources. “Even though our students were closing the achievement gap, they were experiencing issues like abuse, hunger, and homelessness,” he says. “So every week, we would look for support services for our clients using a clunky and often outdated paper binder full of listings for service providers.
“Right down the street from us were Google and Facebook and other amazing tech companies that were changing the way the middle- and upper-classes were living and working. But none of this technology was being used for our most vulnerable families.”
Faustino came to the Kennedy School with one large question: How could technology connect people to social services? The answer would be One Degree. “I took almost every philanthropy, entrepreneurship, and social and urban policy class there was,” he says. His Policy Analysis Exercise was a feasibility study for the nonprofit.
Today, One Degree connects more than 8,000 individuals a month to over 10,000 social resources across the Bay Area. It has helped more than a quarter of the people in need in San Francisco and Alameda counties. With its desire to be the “Yelp of social services,” One Degree empowers users by allowing them to offer feedback on various resources such as affordable housing, food banks, employment services, and health clinics, giving users a voice while harnessing market forces that will lead to improvements in services. It also helps thousands of nonprofit professionals identify and share thousands of resources, replacing the clunky binders with an always updated technology-enabled solution. Over the long term, Faustino plans to scale the One Degree platform nationwide and to leverage the robust data collected by One Degree to help community-based organizations, policymakers, and funders chart effective courses.
One Degree was launched with support from various organizations, including the Kresge Foundation, the Knight Foundation, Tipping Point Community Foundation, and Google. Says Faustino, “Even though I was the solo founder, I always felt I was part of a bigger movement. I used the lessons from Marshall Ganz’s class to organize and catalyze groups, starting with my hks classmates, who were early helpers and advisers. At One Degree, we know we cannot do this work alone.”