Emerging Global Leader Award
Rey Faustino 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 family had experienced such challenges after they immigrated to southern California from the Philippines when Faustino was eight years old. His mother found work as an administrative assistant at a hospital and liked it so much that she became a nurse. His father, who had trained as an architect, worked multiple jobs as a salesman and as an entrepreneur on the side, remodeling kitchens. “I’d accompany him on nights and weekends to help at different job sites so 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,” he says. 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 of accessing community resources. “Our students 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 “So every week, we would look for support services for our clients using a clunky, outdated paper binder.
“Right down the street were Google and other 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. His Policy Analysis Exercise was a feasibility study for the nonprofit.
Today, One Degree connects more than 8,000 individuals a month to more than 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, and health clinics, giving them a voice while harnessing market forces that will lead to service improvements. Over the long term, Faustino plans to scale the One Degree platform nationwide.
One Degree was launched with support from various organizations, including the Kresge Foundation, Knight 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 catalyze groups, starting with my HKS classmates, who were early helpers and advisors. At One Degree, we know we cannot do this work alone.”