When Rey Faustino migrated from the Philippines to Southern California as an eight-year-old, he saw his family hustle to make ends meets in their new homeland.
“I grew up in a working-class family and I watched my family struggle for resources,” he said. “I wanted to make sure that other kids and families didn’t have to go through the same ordeal.”
So while completing a graduate degree at Harvard in public policy, he put together a business plan for One Degree, a new non-profit that helps people find social services like affordable housing and job training. As a child, Faustino remembers that individual social workers had all of this information in their heads about the best programs to route families and low-income workers to.
But there wasn’t a scalable, single destination where anybody could go to find whatever they needed, whether it was low-cost medical care or free after-school programs.
He and Eric Lukoff created One Degree, a highly-curated search engine for social services. The site gives personalized recommendations and steps for people to take. Currently available only in the Bay Area, One Degree has catalogued more than 1,300 service providers. They started off scrappily. In the fall of 2012, they piloted pop-up resource desks at three schools and connected 50 families to resources like health care and after-school programs within 3 months. With just $500, they then made a basic web prototype with the largest database of non-profits and social services in San Francisco.
Now there are “thousands” of people using One Degree in the Bay Area. Faustino said that parents have been able to find summer programs for their children or subsidized housing and employment services.
Families and users can rate the quality of these services, creating a new feedback loop and reputation system. They can also easily share information with family and friends.
“We are here to revolutionize the way that people access social services,” Faustino said. “We believe that we can do this because the non-profit sector has been stuck in the Internet dark ages. People still use binders and still rely on information that’s stuck in their heads. That means people aren’t getting the resources they need quickly and easily.”
One Degree is backed by a number of foundations including the Knight Foundation, the Coatue Foundation, Echoing Green, All Stars Helping Kids Foundation, Petra Foundation, Harvard I3 Innovation Challenge, Huffington Post Ignite Good and SXSW Interactive.
They’re one of the few non-profits that Y Combinator supports alongside organizations like Watsi, which fund medical care for patients in developing countries. They’re looking to raise a philanthropic seed round soon.