Philip Kao

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Philip Kao

Funded with support from the Jerome L. Greene Foundation
2019 Global Fellow
Founder of Appleseed

Philip Kao 2019 Global Fellow

Bold Idea 

Enhance the ability of international development organizations around the world to enact change by showing them how to use behavioral marketing to make their solutions stick in the communities they serve.


Philip Kao of Appleseed shadowing a farmer's day-in-the-life, to uncover behavioral insights for fostering new practices related to greenhouse farming

Philip Kao of Appleseed hearing about water drinking habits of Kenyan students directly from the students themselves. Photo credit: Philip Kao

Appleseed demystifies behavioral marketing for change-makers around the world. Millions suffer when organizations struggle to help people form new habits, like drinking from a new water source, sleeping under a mosquito net, planting an unfamiliar crop, or eating something new. Appleseed offers a systematic process to change-makers by conducting in-country behavior change audits and tailored coaching. Appleseed helps them understand people's motivations, biases, and barriers to change, to design programs and communications that drive action across populations. This reduces cost-per-impact and enables organizations to achieve their missions. Appleseed envisions a day when all international development organizations will methodically market for impact, like how businesses today market for profit.


Philip Kao, co-founder and executive director of Appleseed, is a practitioner of behavioral marketing. When Philip left the corporate world to volunteer overseas in 2010, he was a UCLA engineer and Accenture tech consultant who thought that building water kiosks and distributing water filters would help villagers living without clean water. When his projects failed to consider and address hidden biases and social challenges, they failed to sustainably change behavior and make impact. He, and all the NGO teams, Peace Corps volunteers, social entrepreneurs, and community leaders he worked with, experienced bitter disappointment. Determined to find a fix, Philip rebooted his career with the behavioral marketing firm SGA. There, he led teams and ran campaigns on behalf of government agencies like the City of Los Angeles and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, applying social psychology and behavioral science to change population-wide environmental habits in cities and counties across California. With Appleseed, he has worked alongside local organizations serving poor communities in Ecuador, China, Taiwan, the United States, Guatemala, Kenya, and India to adapt the behavioral marketing approach for the development sector. Philip is a 2019 Echoing Green Fellow.

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