The Ashoka Fellowship Criteria

A New Idea: Does the candidate have a new solution or approach to a social problem that will change the pattern in the field? We evaluate the idea historically and against its contemporaries in the field, looking for innovation and change potential. 

Creativity: Successful social entrepreneurs approach opportunities and obstacles with creativity as visionaries and as problem solvers. They will often have a history of creating other new visions. 

Entrepreneurial Quality: Is the candidate driven by the vision of solving the problem he or she is working on? Social entrepreneurs will not rest until their idea is the new pattern for society, and they persevere through challenges at all stages. 

Social Impact: Does the candidate’s new idea have the potential to truly alter the field and to trigger nationwide or international impact? The idea must be sufficiently new, compelling, effective, and replicable in order to become the new norm.

Ethical Fiber: Social entrepreneurs inspire radical change at a wide scale and across different stakeholder groups. If the entrepreneur is not trusted, the likelihood of success is low. Every participant in the selection process is assessed for ethical fiber. 

Our Venture Process

Throughout the five stages of our election process, we gather data and information about the Fellow through application forms, field visits, and semi-structured interviews. The average Fellow candidate will speak to eight people during their process of election and it takes six to nine months on average to be elected into the Fellowship. The process includes the following steps:


Ashoka receives nominations from staff, volunteers, partners, Ashoka Fellows, and expert nominators based on the five criteria for Ashoka Fellowship.

2-First Opinion

The local Ashoka Venture team reviews the nominations to identify a key social innovation. In order to ensure that the candidate is a good fit for the Ashoka criteria, they conduct site visits and meet with the candidate, and then review their work in-depth with other experts in the field.

3-Second Opinion

A senior Ashoka representative with extensive experience in the field of social entrepreneurship reviews the work of the candidate with the local Venture team. The second opinion interviewer comes from a different continent than the candidate, bringing objectivity to the process and assessing the potential of the idea to be applied elsewhere. 


Three to four leading social and business entrepreneurs from the same country/region interview the candidate to assess the innovation and its potential impact in the local context. The panel then convenes as a group and, facilitated by the second opinion interviewer, decides by consensus whether they recommend that the Ashoka board elects this candidate as an Ashoka Fellow.

5-Board Review

Ashoka’s Global Board of Directors reviews the candidate’s case in light of the observations made by the local Venture team, second opinion interviewer, and panelists. After assessing the candidate’s fit with the criteria and alignment with Ashoka’s mission, they make a final decision about whether to select the candidate to be an Ashoka Fellow.

venture process