By Rexy Josh Dorado, co-author of Ready or Not

For me, Ready or Not began over breakfast in Manila: Winston Damarillo, Micaela Beltran, and me, three balikbayan entrepreneurs who were seeing stirrings of the future take place in the many corners of the world we called home.

This was early 2016: a few months before social media catalyzed a string of political upheavals in the Philippines and the United States; a few days before Google’s AI beat Go champion Lee Seedol in the most complex and intuition-driven board game built by man. Winston had just gotten back from Davos, where the World Economic Forum community had discussed the idea of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a tech-driven transformation that was about to change the society and industry.

A born geek, Winston came out of the conference one part effusive and one part frustrated by the gap between idealistic ideas discussed in WEF and sobering realities in the Philippines.  The question on the table: How could our country not only be a part of the conversation, not only keep pace, but also take the opportunity to lead?

A digital paradigm shift

Our team got to work soon after. Before long, it became clear that making “digital disruption” accessible wasn’t just a question of translating between geographical contexts — it was also about bridging the gap between disciplines, sectors, and backgrounds.

Winston, a veteran entrepreneur who sold past companies to giants like IBM, was now focused on transforming the ASEAN’s largest companies into digitally-enabled industries. For his clients, the past few years were a rude awakening to the disruptive force of digital. Long distance calling could no longer make money, people no longer sent remittances through banks, and the new manta was “adapt or perish.”  The question is no longer why tech is so important. Rather, it’s what to do now that it is?

On my side — the nonprofit and social impact sphere — conversations on tech were still far from the mainstream. And yet, I knew that digital played a vital and invisible role in making my organization, Kaya Collaborative, what it is today. Digital allowed us to bring together remote communities of Filipino leaders from around the world, to connect with different initiatives taking root back in the Philippines. For us, a group of millennials, these weren’t conscious strategic decisions so much as they were natural ways of doing things. But what if we went beyond? What if we learned and leaned in to digital and all the ways it could power our movement?

Ready or Not taught me that the tide has shifted, and small ventures with niche audiences like ours could use digital to not only stay in the race, but surge ahead.

Digital transformation for the underfunded NGO

I launched Kaya Collaborative in 2013. Our mission: to connect emerging leaders from the global Filipino diaspora to advocates and innovators in the Philippines.

We’ve always had to do much more with much less. For the past 3.5 years, we’ve brought more and more Filipinos back home despite being chronically underfunded and 99% volunteer-driven. Social media played a role in that from the beginning, but after Ready or Not, I knew it needed to be central. Our fourth Fellowship — a significantly expanded version of our summer program – needed to be a truly digital-enabled campaign.

We created audiences on Facebook based on interests in Filipino food and culture, then targeted content to those audiences inviting them to learn more. We produced short, compelling videos that amplified the stories of our Fellowship, then mobilized people to tag their friends and networks on those pieces of content. We used those campaigns to bring people onto our mailing list, and kept them engaged not only through emails, but also through SMS reminders straight to their phone. We scoured LinkedIn for young global Filipino talent with entrepreneurial potential and strong ties to home, and invited them personally to join our mission.

At the end, we were able to increase our applicant base 5x and reach a quarter million people through our content — all for about $200.

We’re only beginners. Others have done even more with even less. And yet, corporations continue to spend billions on billboard and print ads, while smaller companies still feel like they can’t compete at the same level.

Digital goes beyond “tech”

Digital disruption isn’t just relevant to legacy companies and people in the tech space. Technology is disrupting the world we live in, rewriting the rules of the markets and ecosystems we’re a part of — and it will affect every one of us whether we’re ready for it or not.

This means that all of us — large enterprises, nonprofits, local businesses, and individual creators — need to think about how to adapt.

It’s not easy. Nor is it the responsibility of every individual. Our institutions and governments must step up and take leadership in the midst of the changes ahead. The price of complacency is high. Robots and AI are already making a dent on the workforce, eliminating professions we once equated with security and stature, like law and medicine.

Besides the dangers of complacency, we risk missing the opportunities that digital provides, allowing us to become the most effective, creative, and unique versions of ourselves.  Artists everywhere are harnessing new platforms to turn their passions into livelihoods for the first time. Small business owners are looking online to expand their markets. Organizers are using an online arsenal to speak truth to power and galvanize movements.

Technology is a bit like the Force. There is a dark side and a light side. While the digital age has created new platforms for violent insurgencies and dark populism to spread, it offers the same tools for ours on the other end — the problem solvers, the community builders, and the makers of culture — to take arms. We offer Ready or Not as our contribution to that learning process, and we hope you’re open to joining our conversation.