10 takeaways from Duterte’s digital campaign

I’ve followed the campaign from the start and can see similarities between the Obama campaign (2008) and PNoy’s campaign (2010), here are some key take-aways:

1. The most successful digital strategies for the campaign were things that helped create a movement around the mayor – it created an advocacy around Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte.

These activities included but were not limited to: Building a sizable base on Facebook including proliferation of Facebook pages and groups talking about the candidate. Building an email database. Sending of high-quality and engaging emails and other materials. Making the supporters an important part of the story. It allowed supporters to create compelling stories of the candidate in various forms like video, images and text. Facebook (along with email and mobile) were heavily used to ask supporters to join in on offline activities.

2. The Duterte campaign built a team from various volunteer groups who probably numbered in the thousands at the end of the campaign. Many of the most talented people in their individual professions became part of this team. For example, Nic Gabunada, former ABS-CBN top sales and marketing honcho, marshalled the digital warriors throughout the campaign period. Notable bloggers and social media specialists volunteered and worked side by side with their traditional media peers.

3. More so than any other campaign in our history, the Duterte campaign was a data-driven operation. A simple and concise digital strategy was developed to be at the heart of the campaign. Virality of content became one of the key goals. The team tried its best to measure every aspect of the digital campaign including messengers, messages, design, video, voice, segmentation and other tactics. Resources were directed to higher-performing activities. This is especially true for content that was going viral – the team helped by boosting it on Facebook.

4. The campaign’s recognition of the value of maximizing social media led to a critical decision of making the team an important part of the overall campaign – having the same priority as the field operations and finance and other units. The campaign was open to crowdsourcing content from the start noting that it came with risks of not being able to check all the materials.

5. The campaign used a simple measure of success: the value of higher engagement on Facebook over the lifetime of the campaign. The campaign boosted content that were resonating with the supporters and voters. Building the relationship with supporters over time produced better results – done by engaging with the different volunteer groups locally and from abroad.

DIGITAL. Thousands of online/digital content are created by volunteers and supporters of Rodrigo Duterte during the campaign. (Image from Rappler)

6. What made Duterte’s campaign materials special? The volunteers and supporters were given the creative leeway to design it based on their own interpretation of the campaign narrative and it then allowed the messaging to be strategically aligned with what voters cared for at the moment. This even spread offline where supporters created their own tshirt designs and used their own money to print them as well.

7. There was strong coordination between the digital and field teams. Facebook allowed faster communications between different supporters and groups supporting Mayor Duterte.

8. Thousands of online/digital content were created by volunteers and supporters themselves – this included hundreds of songs composed and created by various musicians for the candidate. The vision for the use of video was different from past campaigns. The team was not selling a candidate, they were simply covering the movement around the campaign. The team was able to engage people, draw in viewers and make them feel like they were part of something big. This was called by one online social media firm as citizen-led campaigning and that’s what happened.

9. The team curated content that was coming out from the volunteers and supporters and segregated it based on the target market: Facebook videos and image memes for Class D, E; high-quality and informative videos and platform-based content for Class A, B, C – overall, the team allowed supporters to co-manage the campaign.

10. It has to be mentioned that the way the candidate conducted himself allowed his supporters to create content about him and about his campaign. In the end, the candidate allowed the people to see him as the authentic candidate compared to his rivals who were perceived to be following a script.

World Water Day: The patience you need for safe drinking water in Pakistan

Re-posting my blog post on Acumen’s website and the reason why I’m currently in Pakistan.



In the last 2 years since I helped start the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation and in the six months I’ve been a Global Fellow at Acumen, I learned a great deal about patience.

As a part of my fellowship with Acumen, I moved to Lahore, Pakistan to work with Pharmagen Healthcare Limited, the social enterprise behind Pharmagen Water, which aims to provide clean, safe and affordable drinking water to low-income communities through a system of water shops around densely populated areas.  This service is vital in Pakistan as millions of the urban and rural poor still rely on outdated water systems or poorly-maintained water facilities.

In Pakistan, 40-60% of diseases are caused by drinking unsafe water, and according to the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources, 100% of tested water sources in Lahore contained unacceptable levels of arsenic contamination and half had unsafe levels of bacteriological contamination.  The health implications of this are grave and are a major reason why Pharmagen is working to improve public health by providing safe drinking water at the lowest possible price: around $0.45 for a 20-liter container, which is enough for a family of six for two days.

Paying to ensure your family has clean water may seem like necessity, but adoption among the poor can be difficult and slow. They have been using free water from public taps for years and are often unaware of the health risks associated with these unsafe water sources. Part of the difficulty in driving adoption is demonstrating that an investment in preventive healthcare actually saves money in the long-run by reducing medical costs.  This is especially true for children—clean water is an investment for proper nutrition and healthy human development.

My main job at Pharmagen Water is to convince potential customers of this truth.  Designing marketing campaigns is a challenge, not only because I still can’t speak Urdu proficiently, but more importantly, social enterprises face a different set of problems than traditional business.

One of Pharmagen’s street kiosk demonstrations in Lahore.

In a way, we’re competing against the mindsets of both our employees and target market as the social enterprise model is new to them.  Some employees have a hard time understanding why we sell a high-quality product at such a low price. Our target market is not accustomed to paying for water at all.

To say the least, building a successful social business is hard work.

Here are 3 things I’ve found to be critical:

  1. Focus on Social Impact – Patient capital is exactly that – an investor that is patiently waiting for the organization to get the business model right because the focus is on maximizing social impact. The challenges inherent in a social enterprise are almost completely different from a for-profit and a nonprofit so it’s important that the “capital” is willing to wait for a longer period of time before the organization is able to scale. The risk of failure is also an integral part of the learning process and in getting it right.
  2. Adaptive Leadership – Leadership without purpose is meaningless. Social enterprises are born out of a need to address a social problem.  Most of the time, the social enterprise’s management has to chart their own path – find a spot in the field and patiently grow what was planted. Pharmagen Healthcare Limited is probably the only organization of its kind in the whole of Pakistan – it takes tremendous amount of courage, persistence and patience to build something like this.
  3. Collaboration – We’re moving away from a world view that values competition as the only source of healthy growth – for social enterprises, nothing is more important than building linkages and relationships with the communities where they operate. That means building trust, not only with customers, but also with employees that are taking a bet on a new approach.

Social enterprises and social entrepreneurs are a different breed—they see a social problem in dire need of a solution and they go in not fully knowing the pitfalls but are ready to face what comes.

You need to have the strength, resilience, humility and the patience to see things through.

And sometimes to truly understand your customer, you must have three cups of chai tea with them – and, though it takes patience, it’s worth the wait.

Pharmagen Healthcare Limited supplies safe, clean and affordable drinking water to low-income residents of Lahore, Pakistan through an existing chain of open water shops. With Acumen Fund’s investment, Pharmagen is opening 32 new water shops. They currently supply more than 100,000 liters of safe water to customers each day, impacting the lives of over one million people in Pakistan.

Facebook and the Power of Social Media

Photo courtesy of Facebook Stories

Last December 6, 2012, Facebook released a video called “Beyond the Yellow Boat” through their Facebook Stories platform.  It has been an amazing ride for each one of us on board the Yellow Boat (of Hope Foundation) during the last 24 months.

The organization which basically started from my Facebook status at the end of October 2010 is now a foundation – registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of the Philippines.

We are also now present in 8 communities around the Philippines and also assisting various other causes in the Philippines from time to time especially during natural disasters.  One of the biggest lessons we’ve learned so far is that solutions must always come from a local perspective.  And that is basically one of our driving philosophies – we look for and partner with talented individuals who already have existing organizations or projects in their own localities.  We get to learn from them and they get to learn from us.  More importantly, we also get to learn from the communities we are helping.

When we set out to build the very first school boat for the first community in Layag-Layag, Zamboanga City, we never realized that we were beginning a relationship with this community and build relationships in 7 more communities in Masbate in the Bicol region, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga del Norte, Cagayan de Oro and Negros Occidental.  We are now collectively touching almost 10,000 lives.

The Yellow Boat has taken me to the US, Singapore, India, France, Italy, Spain and now Pakistan.  Hoping to learn more on how to run nonprofits and social enterprises, I applied to be a Global Fellow of Acumen Fund.  And that’s why I’m currently in Lahore, Pakistan working with a social enterprise that distributes affordable high quality drinking water to the underprivileged.

I know the recently released Facebook video is also an ad for the social network behemoth but again our organization would not have been possible without it.

We are still using Facebook Groups creatively to connect with friends, donors, partners and supporters.  It is a platform for our communities to discuss and to engage in ideas.  It allows us to transcend borders.

It also allowed me to meet wonderful people along the way. One of them is my Co-Founder, Dr. Anton Mari Lim, who is the driving force behind our organization.

It allows us to tell our story better – in a way, that we can share our successes and failures.  The best kind of relationship is one where your donor or supporter can see your mistakes, your faults and you both work hard at it to make it better.

Collaboration is so much better than competition.  We believe that leadership needs to be shared – because at the end of the day, we are all leaders of our own destinies.  It is our individual and collective responsibility to help make the world better especially for children.

We believe that leadership is about sharing powerful stories that will empower and inspire even more leaders.

We believe that leadership has two key responsibilitiesone of inspiration and another of reproduction.  For leadership to be truly shared, a leader must empower others – empower them to do something about the things they are passionate about.

We believe that for leadership to last, a leader must nurture more leaders and not just followers.

Social media allows us to bridge this leadership gap.  My experience tells me that people want to do something good, they want to be part of something bigger, and they want to lead authentic and fulfilling lives.  And all these mentoring and coaching is possible now in the age of Social media.  Facebook for one has allowed us to connect with amazing donors, leaders and partners around the globe who empower us with the resources we need to make a difference.

We collaborate with individuals and organizations from Taiwan, the United States, Australia, France, Spain, Singapore, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Botswana, and Kenya.  The world has truly become flat and interconnected.

We now have the world’s greatest minds at our fingertips.  And we also now have more access to each other.  The best inventions and discoveries were made by ordinary people doing extraordinary things.  And social media allows even more collaboration, even among people who haven’t met personally.

That is the true power of Facebook and Social Media and explains why a simple yellow (school) boat built in a far-flung community in the Philippines has sailed across the world and touched more lives than we can possibly count.

Thank you for reading and here are the links to the video:

[vimeo clip_id=”54999049″ width=”500″ height=”325″]



Please visit us at http://www.yellowboat.org.

How to Change the World in 2013

Last year, I shared how to change the world in this post.

I focused on three items for 2012.

Our #1 priority was to officially register what was then called the Philippine Funds for Little Kids with the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission).  And last May 23, 2012, my Co-Founder, Dr. Anton Mari Lim of Zamboanga City, was able to secure our papers in Zamboanga City.  We were officially registered as the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation.  We did this because there were already a number of other nonprofit organizations that started their name with the word “Philippine” so we chose the Yellow Boat since most people already referred to us in that name and also no other organization sounds like it.

Our #2 priority was to share our story to as many individuals and organizations as possible.

Collaboration is so much better than competition. We believe that leadership needs to be shared – because at the end of the day, we are all leaders of our own destinies. It is our individual and collective responsibility to help make the world better especially for children.

We believe that leadership is about sharing powerful stories that will empower and inspire even more leaders.

We believe that leadership has two key responsibilities: one of inspiration and another of reproduction. For leadership to be truly shared, a leader must empower others – empower them to do something about the things they are passionate about.

We believe that for leadership to last, a leader must cultivate more leaders and not just followers.

Over the last 12 months, I have been able to share our story to thousands of individuals and around 50 different seminars, workshops, events and conferences.  I have also shared our story in France, Spain, Italy, the United States, Singapore, India, and of course all around the Philippines.

Our #3 priority was to help empower more change makers in the Philippines and even beyond our borders.  We have partnered with 8 distinct individuals and organizations around the Philippines and started local chapters of the Yellow Boat in their localities.  We have also received support from friends, partners and donors from Australia, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Canada, France, the Middle East and the United States.

The Yellow Boat has become my life mission.  

I know we are just getting started so early last year I also applied to the Global Fellows Program of Acumen Fund.  It is a one-year training program on social entrepreneurship and that is the reason why I am currently in Lahore, Pakistan working with Pharmagen Water – a social enterprise delivering affordable, clean and safe drinking water to the underprivileged here.

In the next 8 months, I will be working with the management team of Pharmagen Water to help them market the service they are providing better.  After which, I will be flying back to New York then hopefully back to the Philippines around November 2013.

I have learned a lot from my 2 months in New York last year and also learning a lot from Pakistan and Pharmagen Water.

So for 2013, this is how I hope to change the world:

1) Continue to share the story of the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation (I will be sharing it in TEDxKinnaird next month)

2) Help build the Marketing team of Pharmagen Water

Since I will be in Pakistan for the next 8 months, I believe its best to limit my focus on these two projects.

I am fortunate that social media allows me to connect back with my Co-Founders in the Philippines.

That’s it for now, Happy New Year! And assalamu ‘alaikum 2013!

Let’s spread more HOPE!

The lens we use

There are 2 main ways to look at the world and at people.

The first one with suspicion and so you never get to build a bridge with them.

And the second one to see them as who they truly are, another you, trying to make sense of the world.

The first one leads you nowhere.

The second one (that builds bridges or boats) leads you to the ends of the world.

Take your pick.

Facebook Stories team on location in Layag-Layag

As most of you already know, Facebook Stories released the video of the Yellow Boat project last week.

Yesterday, they posted pictures of their team on location in Layag-Layag, Zamboanga City.

Check them out on Facebook at On Location: Beyond the Yellow Boat.

Photo courtesy of Facebook Stories

This is one of my favorite pictures on that visit which shows Skip, Peter and Everett getting dirty on the mud and they never minded it.

Social media allows us to build these offline relationships and learn more about the communities we are helping.  Social media is a tool, it shouldn’t be the only way to connect.

“A single Facebook status can make a difference.”

New York 2012

It has taken me more than 2 months to write about my recent experience in New York – September-November 2012. As many of you already know, I was chosen as one of the 10 Global Fellows for 2013 by Acumen Fund last May 2012 and I’m currently in Lahore, Pakistan working with Pharmagen Water as part of the 12-month program.

New York

Arriving in New York last September was truly exciting. It was my second trip to both the United States and New York City. I was in the US last May 2011 as well along with Alex Lacson, Tony Meloto, Efren Penaflorida and many others for the WeAreOneFilipino (WAOF) event in Las Vegas, Nevada.

I didn’t really know what to expect upon arriving in New York. I guess every child dreams of one day coming to New York City. Given the dominance of Western influences in Asia, more so in the Philippines, I have always dreamed while I was growing up in Cotabato City to one day visit places like New York City, Los Angeles, Rome and Paris.  And today, I have visited all four. Up until four years ago, I never really thought I would be here one day.

All this changed when I boarded the yellow boat of hope more than 2 years ago.

It has been an amazing ride ever since and it brought me to New York City last September 2012.


The Global Fellows Program includes a 2-month training in New York followed by a 9-month placement in one of Acumen’s investees (the reason I’m in Pakistan) and then the fellowship culminates with a mini-graduation in New York (for me that’s around September 2013). I’m excited about this since my birthday falls on September 13, 2013 (9/13/13).

The goal of the program is to develop emerging leaders so that they see this new way of tackling global poverty. Acumen is driving change in the fields of both philanthropy and impact investing by calling for new innovative approaches at tackling poverty where aid and markets have failed. For me, this is an exciting time to be in the social sector. Indeed, given the challenges that the US itself is facing along with Europe, Japan and the rest of the Western world, it is time to re-imagine a new way of doing business.

Back to Acumen

The 2 months of training in New York was nothing short of extraordinary. In a span of 60 days, I have met a NASA astronaut, popular book authors, Muhammud Yunus, met with Filipinos working in the United Nations, and of course I met the amazing 9 other fellows and most importantly, the people working with Acumen. It has been many years since I started following the work by Acumen and it is only after being able to co-found the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation that I felt compelled to become “part” of it. I wanted to learn more about this new field called social entrepreneurship and I wanted to learn more about how they do it and most importantly, why they do it.

Part of the challenges we are facing in the Yellow Boat is how to ensure our support to these communities is sustainable and empowering.

And that is what I set out to learn with Acumen and the investee that I was assigned to (more on that later).

Some of the highlights of the 2 months:

Meeting the team behind LitWorld (on my birthday, September 13)
First day at Acumen Fund’s office with Shahd AlShehail and Michael Craig (September 17)
2012 Fellows graduation night with Junko Tashiro and Jacqueline Novogratz (September 19)
NASA astronaut Ron Garan in Acumen (September 20)
Meeting Muhammad Yunus at the Social Good Summit (September 23)
Leadership retreat at the Berkshires (September 24-28)
The whole gang in Yellow Boat Tshirts before we left the Berkshires (September 28)
Meeting Batman (September 29)
Venture capitalist Jim Hornthal at Acumen (October 5)
Learning Human Centered Design at IDEO (October 13)
Good Society discussions with Jacqueline at Wallkill, New York (October 15-18)
Gangnam style in Yellow Boat Tshirts at Wallkill, New York (October 18)
Manhattan from Williamsburg, Brooklyn (October 20)
Storytelling workshop with The Ariel Group before the Investors’ Gathering (November 7)
Visiting the United Nations (November 12)

New York 2012 was a blast and I look forward to coming back again in September 2013. On November 15, I flew to Lahore, Pakistan, where I am going to spend my next 8 months.

Facebook and the Yellow Boat of Hope

Facebook released the much anticipated video about the Yellow Boat Project last night.

You can find the Facebook Stories feature story here:


[vimeo clip_id=”54999049″ width=”500″ height=”325″]

I would like to personally thank Peter Jordan, Skip Bronkie and Everett Katigbak for creating this video and for coming to Zamboanga City last July 2011 to film our Yellow Boat Community in Layag-Layag.

I also like this post by Click Dominique about the video, [Video] Act local, share global: Facebook user shares localized solutions to Philippine poverty.  Indeed, it’s time we highlight how social media can be used for social good esp. on the largest social network today.

You can also read the coverage on Social News Daily and WebProNews.

To donate to the foundation, please use the donation page on http://www.yellowboat.org. Thank you in advance!

4 days without power

I escaped two typhoons that ravaged Manila in the last 3 years since I was out of town (Ondoy 2009 and Reming 2012) but I couldn’t escape Superstorm Sandy in New York.

In the 4 days that power was out, I re-discovered my love for everything old school — boiling water to mix with very cold water so I can take a bath, reading in candle light, and carrying 3-gallon drinking water jugs 11 floors up. The first two I experienced while I was growing up. It made me feel human again.

It also made me remember the millions around the world today who still don’t have access to clean & affordable water, access to primary & secondary education, access to public libraries and electricity. These are moments that bring us back to the ground. Humbled and refreshed, I remembered why I am in New York in the first place – to find new ideas and solutions to these global challenges. I have never felt so alive.