Driving innovation for social change

Dr. Diana Wells, President of Ashoka, joined the organization in the 1980s after graduating from Brown University with a degree in South Asian Studies. As an undergraduate, her year-long study abroad in Varanasi, India led her to see the need for local solutions to solve global problems. This insight brought her to Ashoka and inspired her to create one of Ashoka's core programs, Fellowship Support Services, (now Fellowship) which not only supplied Ashoka’s social entrepreneurs with a wide array of information, resources and services, but at the same time connected them to one another and their ideas in a globally expansive context.

Taking a leave to pursue a Ph.D. in anthropology, she was named both a Fulbright and Woodrow Wilson scholar. Her ethnographic research focusing on understanding how social change happens as a local articulation of a global social movement resulted in her dissertation: 'Between the Difference: The Emergence of a Cross Ethnic Women’s Movement in Trinidad and Tobago.'

Having her PhD in hand, Diana returned to Ashoka to provide leadership for the worldwide process of sourcing and selecting leading social entrepreneurs as Ashoka Fellows. In addition she was given strategic and operational responsibility for Ashoka’s geographic expansion and the significant increase of Fellow elections; to its current total of 2,000. She has contributed to the field of social entrepreneurship by implementing a widely respected tool for "Measuring Effectiveness", which is one of the first standard tools to measure the impact of social entrepreneurship.

She is on the Advisory Board for Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and on the Board of GuideStar International. Her Ph.D. is from New York University (2000), and her undergraduate degree from Brown University (1988). She has taught at Georgetown University on Anthropology and Development and has both authored and edited numerous journal and book publications including two compilations on social movements in the United States.

Most recently, Diana was celebrated as one of 10 winners of the first annual Women to Watch award, by Running Start, a Washington, DC based organization that empowers young women to be political leaders.

She lives in Arlington, VA with her husband Paul, her son Toby and her mother Elaine.

Speech Topics

  • Measuring Social Impact
  • Social Entrepreneurship and the Citizen Sector