Rexy Josh Dorado is changing the world by living stories, and then telling them. Here's his story - with lessons for the C-Suite to the street. Please read, listen and do - and tell that story.
As a child, all I wanted to do was build things: Lego buildings, clay monsters, web forums, video games. At the core was a hunger for new possibilities that came alive with each new thing I dreamt up.
It’s a simple maxim, yet powerful in its consequence. “Show, don’t tell” means focusing on vivid experience over exposition. It recognizes a deep power in unspoken things.
It thrills me to see the social sector embrace the importance of storytelling. And yet: as much as the field has learned to tell its story better, we’re still a long way away from harnessing the principles of storytelling not only to talk about change, but enact it.
What can we - in attempting to change society’s lived stories - learn from the art of telling stories? What can social change learn from “show, don’t tell”?
1. How to connect the dots.
I’m the founder of Kaya Collaborative, a youth initiative to transform the global Filipino community into a support network for social innovation in the Philippines. We run a summer fellowship that immerses young diaspora leaders in Manila’s social sector - then launches them back into their global communities to engineer this reconnection at scale.
Our program is part of the service learning field, which is in midway through a quiet but significant shift in identity. Service learning often translated to communities being the backdrop of privileged volunteers’ savior narratives - marginal benefit at the cost of one’s dignity. It doesn’t have to be this way.
When done respectfully - when the goal is listening and partnering - service learning has the power to build empathic relationships and empower both sides. To give light to communities who have been historically effaced.
Nadinne Cruz, a “recovering angry critic”, describes service learning as a path to a world where “the moral brilliance of communities everywhere... becomes central.”
At Kaya Co, we try to tell a new narrative of the Philippines that’s defined by strength and potential. Great sentiment - but it never sticks until people see it shown, then learn to tell it to themselves.
Our world has never been so equally divided and interconnected. Courses and texts that promote “global citizenship” only do so much. Vivid, sensory, shown experience tells what cannot be told: in the moments between facts, in the textures of hands, and the sights that stick better than text.
2. How to unlock potential.
The Future Project is a movement to eliminate apathy in American schools by recruiting and mobilizing Dream Directors: intrapreneurs working full time to turn the dreams of students into reality - and inspire the entire school to do the same.
According to Andrew Mangino, TFP’s founder: “If we start asking young people (about their dreams and passions) and getting them to answer in the form of action, that’s what’s needed most.”
Andrew Mangino is an Ashoka fellow, part of the world’s oldest and largest network of social entrepreneurs. Over time, we at Ashoka have observed a common element in the lives of these pioneers: at some point in their youth, they realized that they had the power to make change.
This is what Brazilian educator Paulo Freire called conscientização, or critical consciousness: an understanding of the forces that shape the world, and the power that one has to play a role in that shaping.
Today, we’re inundated with messaging that tells us, yes, we can follow our dreams. That only goes so far. One of the gravest injustices of the world is that too few have the opportunity to show themselves - not just be told - their true power.
3. How to lead the way.
At the start, Ashoka’s goal was to accelerate our fellows’ impact to the largest possible scale. But the biggest mark we’ve left is more collective. Over time, our fellows have shown the world so vividly the power of social entrepreneurship that the idea took on a life of its own. A sector has emerged from so many imaginations sparked.
At Kaya Co, we turn our transnational goal into something that feels tangible by accelerating people, communities, and programs that have made it happen.
The Future Project’s Dream Directors act as role models to their students, and take on a project to change school culture as they guide kids through their own projects. Collectively, they build a new picture of what American education can be.
Rexy Josh Dorado is a 2014 graduate of Brown University and a believer in the power of identity to spark change. He is a Search Associate at Ashoka, the world's largest and oldest network of social entrepreneurs, and moonlights as the founder and leader of Kaya Collaborative: a social venture that aims to inspire, educate, and activate the young Filipino diaspora as a support network for citizen leadership in the Philippines.