How Ashoka is Making Everyone a Changemaker

How Ashoka is Making Everyone a Changemaker

Founder Bill Drayton named SVN Visionary Entrepreneur

When Bill Drayton envisions the future, he doesn’t see a small group of people holding the levers of power.

Instead, the Ashoka founder sees a world where people across the globe understand their ability to effect change and have the freedom and support to rise to the challenge.

      Ashoka founder Bill Drayton

“There is no possibility of problems outrunning solutions when everyone is a changemaker,” says Bill, adding that empowering people to make change is the new wave of innovation.

“The key factor for success now is what proportion of your people are changemakers, at what level, and how good of a job you are doing at helping them to be changemakers in an open, fluid way.”

Helping create this transformative shift has been the mission of Ashoka since it was formed 32 years ago.

That's when Bill saw the very beginnings of social entrepreneurship, a model where individuals and organizations working on social and environmental challenges adopt business tools to create sustainable impact.

Wanting to accelerate this opportunity, Ashoka became the network to help social entrepreneurs focused on systems change succeed. The organization identifies and invests in the top game-changing individuals knowing their disruptive work will lead to more innovation and changemaking by other players in the field.

Called Ashoka Fellows, these individuals are given the tools and resources they need to do their best work, including access to social financing, business and academic sectors, and partnerships that deliver social and financial value.

Under this model, the fellows— whose work spans healthcare to technology — flourish.

Ashoka evaluates its impact and consistently finds within five years, 76 per cent of the fellows have changed national patterns in their field and 52 per cent have changed national policy.

There are now more than 2,700 Ashoka Fellows in 70 countries.

It’s for these reasons Bill is being awarded a Social Venture Network (SVN) Impact Award for his work as a Visionary Social Entrepreneur. SVN executive director Deb Nelson applauds Bill and other social visionaries, referring to their innovation models as ahead of their time.

For Bill, who says SVN is a peer organization pursuing the same goals and ascribing to the same values, the honour is even more meaningful.

“When your close family hugs you, it means more than any other type of hug,” he says.

Bill will join 24 other SVN Hall of Fame inductees at SVN’s Hall of Fame celebration Nov. 13.

— More to Come

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Camille Jensen

Camille Jensen is an employee share ownership consultant with ESOP Builders, Canada’s largest provider of employee share ownership plans (ESOPs) for small- and medium-sized enterprises.

Prior to joining ESOP Builders, Camille was a generative journalist and team member at Axiom News. She credits her time at Axiom as fundamental to her understanding that business is one of the best opportunities to make a difference in the world.

Camille is a B.C. Partner for Social Impact and volunteer with Okanagan Changemakers.

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