If we don’t all win, we all lose.

This is the lesson that Ashoka Fellows around the world continue to teach us as they work to solve the most -pressing issues of today and tomorrow. We live in a world of fast change and interconnected problems where a singular event can cascade quickly to become a systemic and global incident.

This year, we endeavored to showcase how our newly elected Ashoka Fellows change systems, cross borders, and shift mindsets in collaborative and holistic ways. This insights report showcases both the urgency of issues in which our Fellows work as well as the tangible and replicable solutions they have developed. In analyzing the work of 109 Fellows elected over the last 12 months, we looked for patterns in their visions for social change and in the strategies and tools they have been using to achieve them. Organized broadly across eight complex global issues, we found a commonality of ideas and approaches that run throughout.

To change systems, Ashoka Fellows:

1.Require global connections and networks: 18% of the 2018 Fellows (20 of 109) are focused on building formal networks to create pressure for systemic change and 20% (22 of 109) are creating non-traditional and multi stakeholder approaches, bringing in people from different background together, to help influence and scale their ideas at an international and global levels.  

2.Engage in iterative knowledge and adaptation: It was especially clear in this year’s cohort of Fellows that knowledge and learning lies at the core of each of their work. Specifically, the work of 16 of our new Fellows revolves around the opening up of data, whether through its production or curation. Eight Fellows are engaged in action research, aimed at applying rigorous intellectual inquiry to solve societal level problems, supporting the rise of the new field of scipreneurship.[1] It is clear that a focus on facts, problem solving, and evidence-based interventions are a core strategy for our Fellows.

3.Resonate at a social and emotional level: While the models vary, at least 17 Fellows take on a specific strategy to shift the mindsets of the people they engage. Some of these models include awareness activities (11 Fellows), social media and storytelling (Eight Fellows each), as well as public sensitization and advocacy (Four Fellows).

4.Distribute leadership: The old hierarchies of work and politics are changing. Leaner and flatter systems of organization are replacing old models which rely on one leader at a time. 13 Fellows are specifically working to enable others to lead in their organizations and social movements, but most lean into enabling others to adopt, replicate, and spread their ideas.

5.Focus on accessibility: Ensuring equitable access to resources and opportunities is of an ever-growing concern. 23 Fellows from this year’s cohort address issues through a diversity, equity, and inclusion lens to ensure that all people are not only capable of being changemakers but that the system in place encourages such change.

6.Build systems that make everyone powerful: Ashoka Fellows are successful at creating systemic change because they are uniquely tuned into developing solutions that involve community and beneficiaries as part of their team. 25% of our Fellows this year have meaningful community participation and co-creation as a key strategy in how they affect change. 11 Fellows have incorporated experiential or inductive learning into their strategies, 11 are focused on peer-to-peer exchange, and 9 have strategies to improve and innovate new mentorship models, all with an aim to ensure that everyone advances together.

The future of social change is fluid and will depend on a collective recognition that the boundaries – be they between economic sectors, institutions, or nations – should become less demarcated as we work to address big global challenges. Our Fellows help us see the future and unlock human potential to enable an everyone a changemaker world.

[1] Ashoka has begun to focus on Social Scipreneurship as a bridge between science and the citizen sector. The aim is to bring scientific methods, insights and discoveries and make them more accessible to citizens addressing social issues as well launching a generation of scientists who see their professional accomplishments equally in terms of innovation in fields and in entrepreneuring solutions for wide-scale social change.

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