Collaborations for SDGs Catalyzed by GAIA GAYA

GAIA GAYA, a platform of making SDGs everybody’s business, invited Ms.Elyse Go, the founder of Hand and Heart as our guest sustainability leader in the 5th session held on July 18, 2020. 5 Months later, GAIA GAYA received a happy news from her, that her talk at GAIA GAYA lead to a collaboration with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) of the Philippines. And she contributed the article below, to share the story with us.

A Collaboration born from GAIA GAYA

by Ms. Elyse Go, Co-Founder, Hand and Hear


GAIA in Hebrew means conscious life, and this is exactly what GAIA GAYA as a group as achieved for us at Hand and Heart . Last July 18, 2020 We were invited by the team to talk about SDG 10- Reduced Inequalities being an advocate for PWD Inclusion at work and society in general. Last November 30, we got an unexpected call from Ms. Jessy Cornelia of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to be a resource speaker for their year end Wellness Summit because she encountered us at the GAIA GAYA webinar. It was indeed a day to remember for us. GAIA GAYA works – July 18 opened doors for us to spread awareness about Inclusion and Basic Sign Language to almost 70 government employees nationwide. The momentous event took place on last December 12, 2020. 

Disability Sensitivity Awareness 

To aid us in creating awareness, we invited our partner in the advocacy – Project Inclusion Network represented by their Executive Director Mr. Grant Javier and Work Access Coordinator Ms. Angela Santiago-Camacho. At the heart of InclUSion is US has always been the emphasis of the NGO. Their main purpose is access to work opportunities for Persons with Disability. Mr. Grant Javier shed light on some of the common misconceptions such as incorrect use of terms for persons with disability such as – mongoloid, abnormal, Deaf and Mute . He also presented best practices of some companies that has hired Persons with Disability as well as the proper way of handling them during interviews and in the workplace plus reasonable accommodations in integrating PWDs in the offices. To date, Project Inclusion Network has supported almost 2000 PWDs in Job readiness, facilitation, training, development and livelihood. 

Deaf Awareness and Basic Sign Language

Our social enterprise, Hand and Heart, took second half of the morning’s workshop by focusing on awareness about the Deaf Culture. It’s Deaf Co-Founder and General Manager shared some Do’s and Don’t, how to communicate plus common misconception . Som of which – To refer to the Deaf with a big letter D as a symbol of their identity having a unique language and culture, or that the commonly used works of the Filipinos “pipi” is unacceptable explaining that the Deaf has a voice box hence they are not Deaf and Mute. She also made emphasis on the Deaf culture of being frank, honest and tells the truth as well as the various talents they an do same as the hearing people such as drive and dance, film , poetry, and many others. The fun part came as Ms. Diokno taught Basic Sign Language to the DTI employees covering Alphabet, Numbers and commonly used phrases in the workplace. The workshop was ended with Sign Language Performances by DTI employees. 

As Hand and Heart, our hearts were really full of joy to have been made great awareness in this form. Again, truly grateful on how the seed that GAIA GAYA has planted grow and paved opportunities like this for our advocacy. GAIA is conscious life indeed.

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This is the re-cap of GAIA GAYA Session # 5 with Elyse 🙂

Presencing GAIA GAYA to the World

GAIA GAYA has taken its first step towards a long journey of making SDGs everybody’s business on May 20, 2020 with 40 people from the Philippines and Japan on Zoom.

GAIA GAYA will be a biweekly gathering of anyone who is interested in contributing to the fruition of any of the 17 SDGs by 2030. It is an open space for deep listening, conversation and dialogue, raising awareness and triggering action that addresses the SDGs. 

Founders Team Brought Together by Theory U

It was organized and facilitated by #uLab2x 2020 Philippines Learning Nation team, namely Dada de Leon-Salud of Human Capital Asia, Chenny Galano and Abby Galias Rosal of TRAIL and Tae “Abbie” Abe-Abion from SpiceWorx (yours truly), the core members and founders of GAIA GAYA. These four professional facilitators and coaches came together to hold a container for deep listening, conversation and dialogue with an aspiration to make Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) everybody’s business.  

In facilitating change initiatives, we use Theory U, an awareness based systems transformation approach developed by Dr. Otto Scharmer, the Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management. Theory U is what brought the four of us together. We are part of the uLab 2x Program of the Presencing Institute, which was founded by Dr. Otto Scharmer and his colleagues, with the belief that it is possible to create results that serve the wellbeing of all. Our team joined uLab2x with an intention to raise awareness and trigger actions towards achieving the SDGs in the Philippines. GAIA GAYA is our prototype for this intention.

Our invitation to everyone is to join GAIA GAYA and:

  • Listen to inspiring real stories of sustainability initiatives;
  • Engage in conversation and dialogue with people with common interest in creating a sustainable future;
  • Sense and see the system we collectively enact;
  • Reimagine sustainable future of our planet;
  • Be inspired to start your own action;
  • Be inspired to sustain your sustainability journey.

For our very first GAIA GAYA on May 20, 2020, we invited a guest speaker Arcie, the founder and Chief Motivation Officer of Silid Aralan, Inc. Silid Aralan gives power to academically under-performing students from the underprivileged community to decide on their own. What I so deeply admire about Arcie is his compassion and empathy to the people he wants to empower, and his dedication and commitment to help them by truly understanding their perspective. He lived for 3 years in the community beside the garbage dump site in Manila, where people make living by scavenging. He said, “I tended to think only from the perspective of the giver. I needed to really understand the perspective of the receiver.” Having experienced the life of the receivers, this is what he has to say: “There is no rich person who cannot receive, nor a poor person who cannot give.”

We were so blessed to also have Kent, one of the graduates of Silid Aralan who is now a public school teacher, to share his amazing experience. By joining Silid Aralan, Kent learned how fun learning was, and was able to see a world of more options, possibilities and opportunities. As a public school teacher, he is now giving back what Silid Aralan gave him to the next generation.

What Arcie was able to share in a 30-minute talk was inspiring and beautiful. But he also shared it has been very difficult. I am sure behind today’s beautiful presentation and amazing story there had been tons of struggles, conflicts, frustrations, tears and disappointments. But he was resilient. Silid Aralan empowered lives of over 7,500 Filipino children since 2007 and now has 8 learning hubs nationwide in the Philippines. And Arcie is even expanding this model to Indonesia!

GAIA GAYA asks participants, “What micro changes at personal level will you make after today’s session?

GAIA GAYA is not just a webinar. It is a space for deep listening, conversation and dialogue with reflective moments woven into the process. Our intention is to change personal and collective awareness to trigger actions for change. Here are what our participants wrote in the Zoom chatbox, as their own personal micro-changes after joining GAIA GAYA.

  • “To pause for a moment always and have more hope/trust in those who you may not expect much from at first”
  • “Start conversations and establishing meaningful relationships with future ‘educators.'”
  • “Get in touch with Silid Aralan and find ways to contribute in their vision.”
  • “Pause. I continue to engage in learning initiatives. Read and share the learning.”
  • “I will take bold steps in initiating SDG conversations with others — I sort of started and they said yes to this event ;)”
  • “look for and believe in others’ strengths more.”
  • “To be more mindful that each individual has a gift/talent that can contribute to society. So I should allow other forms of intelligence/talents.”
  • “To actually stay in the community that you want to help. Not just visit them. I think this will help them more. Thank you Arcie and Kent!”
  • “Share the inspiring stories so that people will start believing that there are people who work for the good in the world.”
  • “Be a believer of every child’s potential and be their supporter.”
  • “Taking positive steps towards achieving the improvement that these kids are more than capable of achieving. :)”
  • “Encourage and engage with the young ones. Thank you very much for this inspiring and insightful session Arcie and Kent.”
  • “Every person is good at SOMETHING let us do our best to help them find their something.”
  • “Start writing ideas the [sic] come around, meditate on how to do a step in doing so.”
  • “Thank you for this session, everyone. 🙂 Will take a note of the emails being left here.. I might have questions on how others will resume their educational journey in COVID19 times.The learning platforms are the biggest challenge and it’s difficult to determine how the children can continue effectively. :(“

Thank you Arcie, Kent, and everyone who attended and shared your thoughts and what micro-changes you will make at your personal level after the session. GAIA GAYA will be held every other week to make SDGs everybody’s business 🙂


GAIA GAYA came into presence as a prototype of transformation initiative by Dada, Chenny, Abby and Abbie, based in Manila, Philippines, under the uLab2x program of Presencing Institute by Dr. Otto Scharmer and his team. The four core members formed an intention of raising awareness and triggering action about the SDGs in the Philippines in November 2019, and started the project in February 2020, applying the philosophy, process, methodology and tools of Theory U.

With the participation and support of the extended team of this initiative, the four core members went through the co-initiation of the project, co-sensing of the context and the current system, hours and hours of training and live online sessions with the global community of the Theory U practitioners through various programs of Presencing Institute including GAIA (Global Activation of Intention and Action), a 14 week journey on a platform of profound personal and civilizational renewal, joined by over 9,000 people around the world.

Thus, the idea of GAIA GAYA was born on the morning of May 2, 2020. Inspired by the GAIA initiative by the Presencing Institute, GAIA GAYA follows the format of GAIA, with localized content and speakers with specific focus on SDGs in the Philippines. In less than 3 weeks, the first live session of GAIA GAYA was launched on Zoom on May 20, 2020 with 40 participants.

By the way, the naming of GAIA GAYA is a play of words.

GAYA GAYA in Filipino means copying, duplicating, mirroring, replicating and spreading. GAIA GAYA replicates the format of original GAIA by Otto’s team in PI with localized content and speakers with specific focus on SDGs in the Philippines.

In addition, GAYA GAYA in Japanese represents the sound of many people talking and discussing. GAIA GAYA is a place for many people to gather and engage in conversation and dialogue about sustainability of GAIA, our planet.