“Our vision is a world where the economy, environment, and society act as a united entity through creativity and diversity – where culture and creativity are seen as capital and are utilized as soft power for sustainable development and nation-building.”
Growing up in the Philippines, Isabella and Natasha Tanjutco spent much of their youth traveling to different parts of the country alongside their art teacher mother. From trips to cultural festivals and time spent at the beach, to visiting typhoon devastated locations, the sisters quickly cultivated an appreciation and understanding of the realities facing many in their community.
Armed with these experiences, and the conviction that not enough was being done by those in power to protect their homeland, they founded Kids for Kids at the ages of 13 and 15, a 100% youth-led organization that has now grown to include over 1500 volunteers worldwide, working to establish safe spaces for young people to enact positive change in their communities. “The best part about beginning while we are young is that we do not just see the world as it is, but what it once was and what it could be.”
Dedicated to inspiring and leading change, their advocacy work has never stopped. Isabella, now an undergraduate in Integrated Design at Parsons School of Design and Natasha, a Magna Cum Laude graduate from the University of the Philippines Diliman in Fine Arts, have developed a variety of initiatives focused on uplifting Filipino culture, fighting climate change and empowering the next generations of leaders. “In a time where our young people are living through an ecological and societal crisis, we have learned that the goal is to pass the microphone onto those that have learned to live in harmony with the planet. We have no more time for competition, we need to work together towards systems transformation.”
In 2018, Isabella and Natasha established the change agency TAYO, which they continue to oversee to this day. The organization, whose name derives from the Filipino words meaning we and to stand, uses design to establish multi-sectoral collaborations between businesses, organizations and governments to create a culture beyond profit. It also serves as global platform for their adjacent initiatives, including Kids for Kids, Kamalayan – an annual art festival on climate and culture, Habilin – a one-day environmental conference turned educational organization, and their newly founded project, Pulo, which is dedicated to localizing climate solutions through design and livelihoods for remote communities.
“Our mission is to collaborate with organizations, companies or corporations to become ecologically responsible and socially responsive to the needs of the new world through culture and creativity as a soft power for sustainability. Our design philosophy, rooted in Filipino culture, hopes to be proof of concept of what can be achieved if we uplift local systems to address global problems.”
Drawing inspiration from the Philippines natural and cultural heritage, Isabella and Natasha believe in leading by example, and making space for marginalized voices to be heard – whether that is young people or Indigenous communities. They understand that existing systems are no longer working to serve the majority, and are striving to leverage their platform at TAYO to help others see the transformative power of design and creativity.
Their collaborative approach to change, which is rooted in 3 key Filipino principles: creativity (diwa), climate (kalibutan) and community (kapwa), has enabled TAYO to establish a diverse portfolio of client work, community projects and events. “We are creating the company we needed when we were younger. One that takes into consideration the views of every generation, one that thinks about the environment and one that will make people listen to your stories and understand the legacy and value of your product, organization, or company.”
As they continue to build upon their impressive roster of social projects, Isabella and Natasha have succeeded in crafting a movement that not only empowers young people, but also showcases their capacity to enact legitimate systemic change. Whether within their home country of the Philippines or on the world stage, there is no doubt that these two sisters will continue to use their platform to drive social change by working for both people and the planet.
Quick Fire Questionnaire
Describe yourself in 3 words.
Isabella/Natasha: curious, collaborative, creative (because all human beings are!)
What are you currently reading?
Isabella: The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down by Haemin Sunim
Natasha: The Philippines is Not a Small Country by Gideon Lasco
What is one way that you express your creativity?
Isabella: Collaborating with our team and other partners to create circular and ethical solutions for the communities we support.
Natasha: Curating and archiving stories and working with communities to do the same.
Design for the present or design for the future?
Isabella: We can only design for the future if we design for the present.
Natasha: I believe you can do both because in order to design for the future, we must tap into presenting what is around us to feel the future in front of us.