Founder Spotlight: Prim Paypon of The Dream Project PH

To build tangible meaning out of the abstract dream

By Glacer Barnett

The Dream Project PH is a volunteer-based organization that aims to build and support collective Filipino dreams amongst underprivileged communities across the Philippines. Having launched on June 24, 2013, The Dream Project PH presents itself with an unconventional concept in the startup community. Due to how it primarily functions by means of interpersonal relations, it wouldn’t exactly be categorized as a tech startup, even when it has successfully mentored a lot of different startups. Moreover, it isn’t quite the social enterprise, but it has had a hand in the founding of many different community-based enterprises. Hence, it can only be labelled as a hybrid NGO, a development practice, to be precise, registered under the Philippine Security and Exchange Commission.


The quest for inquiry into the Filipino dream

The Dream Project PH’s main founder and Filipino Dreamagineer, Prim Paypon, invests the entirety of his occupation into the startup. His path began from his simple inquiries. As a big fan of Filipino innovations, he took the initiative to gather the stories of inspiration and motivation from the people behind them.

Beginning this mission around 12 years ago, he has now managed to collect around 700-750 founders and directors of Filipino innovations. He managed to find one common theme: That they had a generous dream for the Philippines. Through this, he came to the conclusion that aspiration is a core value of successful people.

Placing more interest in the potential of idealism, Prim decided to personally conduct some research on whether or not the Philippine national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, was correct in his assessment on the Filipino youth being the hope of the country. For 7-9 years, Prim succeeded in interviewing 614 Filipino teenagers of every socioeconomic class. He directed his surveys across 54 out of the 81 provinces with one basic question for all of his interviewees: Do you have a dream in life?

To his utter dismay, 7 out of 10 teenagers answered “no.” It alarmed him. How could there be any hope for the nation when the youth of the country didn’t have dreams in mind? So he asked them why; he anticipated that poverty would be their main reason.

But Prim was wrong. It turns out that discouraging words from others was the most common reason behind the phenomenon, followed by the lack of self-esteem, lack of passion, lack of opportunity, and lastly, poverty.


The realizations acted upon for the Filipino youth

Prim was in a state of disappointment after fully examining the results. He considered it a waste for these children. If only the environment preventing them from fulfilling their dreams could be altered for the better.

Then, an idea started to make its way through his head. A person like him who had always wanted to participate in development practice can contribute to dream-building. He planned to intervene in what these teenagers are lacking.

He looked to the youth organizations of the Philippines to investigate on their method of support. He found that these groups were focused on creating leadership programs for the out-of-school youth. Prim then asked them of the impact that leadership has had on these teenagers, and what he received were basic platitudes of comfort. This did not satisfy him, as it had no effect on prompting the Filipino youth to dream.

At the same time, he felt challenged; he decided on conducting another research on whether or not leadership was even an innovative means to make people dream. Apparently, this wasn’t the case as 80% of Filipinos learn through visual presentation; something as abstract to the mind as the motivation for inspiration wouldn’t qualify as productive learning material for majority of the people. Upon being asked about the value of these ideals, Filipinos generally answer “if it makes me see it”: if they are taught of the value of leadership programs, they would only take it to heart if they see that it brings food to their table. Prim then concluded leadership as being a peripheral value and Filipino dream as a core value.

It came to Prim’s mind, however, that the only means of intervening into the dreams of the Filipino youth was to go for the core value. Prim describes dreams as being synonymous to the “universality of love.” No matter what country or economic background one may come from, everybody knows the concept of having a dream. If not for oneself, then they dream for others; for example, OFWs are willing to work in difficult living conditions in order to make the lives of their families better.

Thus, Prim realized that the core value of Filipino dreams encompasses the virtue of giving and generosity. He eventually defined the meaning of the Filipino dream as three things: If it can build underprivileged communities, if it allows for respectful collaboration between parents and children, and more importantly, if it brings food to the table. In that respect, The Dream Project PH doesn’t just enable people to aspire; it also prompts for human economic development.


Humility in one’s actions will produce honest results


The Dream Project PH has now evolved into examining the more serious problems through creation of innovative technologies and community heritage-based enterprises. Prim refuses to call them social enterprises as he views the concept to be abused and misconstrued for self-interests in the Philippines. Moreover, he wishes to highlight the revision and modernization of community heritage technologies and practices that define a locale; thus, they are called as FISH:COVE (Filipino Shopping: Crafts + Organic Villages & Enterprises) Collective. Lastly, it is because profits are only exclusively shared by the community and collaborators—none of the profit goes to The Dream Project PH or its dream enablers. Charitable as it may seem, The Dream Project PH contributes by building a product and a viable market— such as mud-house learning center (Bahay Kubo Learning Center), edible farms, PET bottle-walled toilet room, and multi-functional boats (Dream Boats and Bancas) out of natural resources—for these communities.

Regarding NGOs in the Philippines, sustainability depends on authorized grants and donations. However, Prim’s desire for self-sufficiency and ethical transparency has him refusing to audit money, but instead audit programs. “If our project is to work on collective dream, I want collective responses from organizations who want to share that dream,” Prim says.

In executing projects, Prim’s only hope is to move people’s hearts, insofar as to have them donating non-monetary resources. Things like mere school supplies, actual building materials, collaborative partnerships have more use than money. He wishes to avoid creating the impression that money will solve the general problem that The Dream Project PH seeks to modify.

There is an everyday increment when it comes to dreams. The Dream Project PH aspires to educate the youth—that the chances of their dreams being fulfilled highly depends on what they are currently doing.  This was exemplified by its first project, “The Dream Caravan,” a workshop that it ran for five months that prides itself in its economic modesty, refraining from using any logistics—just a powerpoint presentation from a laptop would do. Getting one’s diploma wouldn’t just be a passing point in life; it would eventually qualify as a tool in achieving dreams.

To date, The Dream Project PH has already collaborated with more than 380 organizations and institutions, and created more than 250 projects in nine regions with only superior strategies and zero to inferior resources, all anchored on collective Filipino dreams.

At the end of the day, The Dream Project PH truly believes and celebrates that dreams are more powerful than poverty.