Idea File: Actions speak loudest when shared


Screenshot of actions on One Tama

Boyet Dy thinks it’s time for us to stop talking about changing “the world.” Instead, the Manila local is encouraging me to change “my world” — one action at a time.

The idea

One Tama is a campaign 26-year-old Boyet, a government employee in the Philippines, created to show how the little things add up. (Tama is the Filipino word for “right.”) The idea is that by simply sharing your good actions, you can inspire others to do the same. Using a nifty number counter, for example, the site shows 1744 completed deeds ranging from carpooling to listening, with over four thousand more in progress.

One Tama also encourages real world interaction by hosting Action Days, such as simultaneous use of recyclable bags at the grocery store.

Intentions to action

A couple years ago, Boyet was listening to the Moulin Rouge soundtrack when David Bowie’s “Heroes” popped on. The lyrics “Just for one day/We can be heroes” made him think about his fellow Filipinos. “That was the genesis of One Tama, and it’s really the notion of everyday heroism – that every single day is loaded with opportunities to be a hero for your country because there’s always a right action within your reach that can be done,” he says.

Boyet then presented the idea to a group of dedicated and diverse idealists he had been a part of since college. The group was enthusiastic from the getgo, and he found that their shared values was an incredible asset as well as their willingness to ask others for help. The website, for example, was voluntarily created by a nonprofit communications group he serendipitously met while building One Tama.

Replicability factor

Of course, the campaign is not without its challenges. One Tama is soley run by volunteers, and their current obstacles are to find more volunteers and funding sources.

But let’s say you like this idea and think you can address these challenges. What would you need to copy this in your community? An intimate, committed group to initially help get it off the ground, and outside experts to fill in the knowledge gaps. It also helps to have a succinct catchphrase to explain the idea and a firm belief that change can happen on an individual level. “At its core, the One Tama campaign is not merely a call to be a good Filipino – it is a call to be a good human being which makes it not only applicable but also relevant in other contexts,” says Boyet.

Have you done something small recently that counts as one tama?

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Idea File: Do you have what it takes to admit failure?


From Alex Proimos via Flickr/Creative Commons

Would you share a story about a time when you failed?

Recently I wrote about FailFaire, an event hosted by that invites open discussion about failures in development. I love this concept because a) I’m a big fan of honesty and b) sharing stories and lessons can prevent us from making the same mistakes twice. It’s true most good ideas aren’t conceived in isolation – so isn’t it ideal to learn from those who tried before you?

Engineers Without Borders Canada agrees, so much so that they’ve created the website Admitting Failure for those of us in the social good world to publicly detail where we went wrong. Much like FailFaire, the overarching goal is to encourage people to see falling on your face not as shameful or embarrassing, but a necessary part of creating change.

Recently launched in January, it’s an admitted work-in-progress and the failures listed are a bit scarce at this point. So far you can read about the shortcomings of a GlobalGiving-supported soccer organization in Kenya; why an online community about climate change fell short; and how a CARE housing co-op project in Bangladesh missed all the right notes.

Of course, the challenges—such as pacifying donors and confronting our egos—remain. But it’s a dialogue worth pushing forward. And we’d love for you, the Idealist community, to be part of that conversation by leaving a comment below.

  • Tell us about a time in your life when you took action on an idea, but it didn’t work out the way you planned.
  • In the example that came to mind, what got in the way? What would have helped you at that point?
  • What advice would you give others to avoid the same mistakes?

Leave a comment, help someone else learn from what you tried, and we’ll consider featuring you on our home page!

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Idea File: Sticky solutions for a better community



It’s been more than five years since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. While the city is still grappling with rebuilding efforts, its residents have proven nothing less than resilient. From floating homes to affordable health care for local musicians, NOLA has seen a recent resurgence of innovation and community.

With so much potential, the city has become a breeding ground for new ideas.I Wish This Was” is an art initiative that collects citizen’s thoughts for re-imagining the space around them. The project is the brainchild of Candy Chang — co-founder of the design studio Civic Center — and was born because her neighborhood still lacks a full-service grocery store.

The concept is simple: free stickers are distributed throughout the city in cafes, bookstores, hair salons and more. You pick one up, and pen your wish, dream or hope. Afterward you stick it on an abandoned building or any other public space that could use some wishful thinking. Wishes so far range from the practical (butcher, bike rack) to the abstract (owned by somebody who cared, heaven) to the cheeky (big old cupcake, Brad Pitt’s house).


  • Awareness. The stickers publicly merge your innermost desires with the city’s pressing needs.
  • Inspirational. The hope is that the creative, collective consciousness will spark actual transformation.
  • Easy. It’s super simple to do. And democratic distribution so that anyone, regardless of class, race, age, etc., can participate.
  • Ecologically friendly. The stickers are made of vinyl, not paper, so they don’t damage storefronts.
  • Accessible. If you’re not currently based in NOLA but want to follow along, Chang is working on a digitized version of the ideas.


  • Free, but not for long. Vinyl stickers are more expensive. Unfortunately, the free supply has run out, so you’ll have to throw down some dollars to make a wish.
  • Art or trash? Some may view the stickers as added blight.
  • Good intentions…but will stickers lead to action?

Plenty of cities, towns and villages have abandoned spaces and could implement a project like this one. Could this benefit your community?

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[Idea File] Search for the Obvious: See solutions, not problems


Did you know a policeman in Utah invented the first electric traffic light? Photo via Horia Varlan (Flickr/Creative Commons)

Ever look at an object and wonder where the idea came from and who invented it? And then grow incredulous at the thought of it never existing in your day-to-day life?

I find I’ve been doing this a lot lately. Turns out I’m not the only one. The folks over at the Acumen Fund, who support entrepreneurs working toward eradicating global poverty, are well aware that most of us take the things surrounding us for granted. Inspired by the extraordinariness of the mundane, they’ve created Search for the Obvious, a website that encourages us to look at the world through a solution-based lens, rather than a problem one.

Here’s how it works: users submit photos of physical objects or services that have a) improved our lives in some way and b) reached millions of people around the globe. A team of judges reviews the submissions and chooses the best ones to highlight on the homepage. Items in the current montage range from the practical (toilets and traffic lights) to the campy (squeezable ketchup bottles and bento boxes) to the feel good (free hugs and voting). But that’s not all. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can harness your inner creative genius by generating awareness about an obvious critical issue. The most recent challenge, Sanitation is Sexy, yielded an impressive array of videos, tweets, print ads, and more.

The underlying hope of Search for the Obvious is that it will spark ideas to address poverty. For example, marketing flip-flops as affordable shoes for the masses? Brilliant. Sliding pay scale ambulances for the poor? Clever. The possibilities are endless. Now, just what can be done with cotton buds, drinking straws, thumbtacks and more?

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