Homecoming: Shaking Things Up Through Innovation

A Filipino story about giving back as told by Five by Five’s founding partner, Kat Borlongan.

“As an immigrant that has had the luxury of coming home frequently, it sounds strange to call this my homecoming, but that’s what it is. The innovation consultancy I co-founded, Five by Five, is the outcome of a long love affair with Paris. After 15 years away, I’m bringing it to Manila in the form of an innovation program I co-designed with our local team, the Metro Manila Civic Innovation Fellowship.

It is a kind of coming into adulthood in the country that I left during my adolescence. I’m using the skills and tools I’ve gathered elsewhere and bringing them home. I’ve grown and grown up a lot through my work in corporate and nonprofit innovation settings. Bringing that experience to try to solve real-world challenges in the Philippines was a natural next step. At the same time, it’s definitely brought me face to face with new realities.

On a personal level, my homecoming has left me to confront the foreignness of my own hometown or, more accurately, the foreignness of who I no longer am.
The work ethos is different. I hadn’t expected how much I’d need to rely on our local director’s advice to navigate cultural differences, which also influences the way that we are running this program.

The stakes are simply different here. The program is designed to address a city’s challenges with a close and more human understanding of the realities of the people in it. While the Paris version of the program is centered on challenges like ‘How might we optimize health restaurant inspections?’, Manila’s challenges are more like ‘How might we improve the healthcare experience in public hospitals for mothers with infant children?’

It’s a good time to be back. The barriers to civic innovation have dropped. Bandwidth is cheap, knowledge is everywhere, and this generation is more motivated to make the world a better place. Our program is a little push in the right direction: giving extremely talented youths the right opportunities and resources to make my beloved hometown a better place.”


In this series powered by Mailchimp, we reimagine a narrative that celebrates immigrant women as innovators, successful entrepreneurs, job creators, and industry disruptors.

NextDayBetter Storyteller: Candice Quimpo