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Everyone a Changemaker: Bill Drayton's Challenge to the World

This article originally appeared on New York Times

Bill Drayton invented the term “social entrepreneur” and founded Ashoka, the organization that supports more than 3,500 of them in 94 countries. He’s a legend in the nonprofit world, so I went to him this week to see if he could offer some clarity and hope in discouraging times. He did not disappoint.

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Ashoka insight

"Changemakers are people who can see the patterns around them, identify the problems in any situation, figure out ways to solve the problem, organize fluid teams, lead collective action and then continually adapt as situations change.

"Drayton asks parents: 'Does your daughter know that she is a changemaker? Is she practicing changemaking?' He tells them: 'If you can’t answer "yes" to these questions, you have urgent work to do'.”

"In an earlier era, he says, society realized it needed universal literacy. Today, schools have to develop the curriculums and assessments to make the changemaking mentality universal. They have to understand this is their criteria for success.

"Drayton’s genius is his capacity to identify new social categories. Since he invented the social entrepreneur category 36 years ago, hundreds of thousands of people have said, 'Yes, that’s what I want to be.' The changemaker is an expansion of that social type.

"Social transformation flows from personal transformation. You change the world when you hold up a new and more attractive way to live. And Drayton wants to make universal a quality many people don’t even see: agency.

"Millions of people don’t feel that they can take control of their own lives. If we could give everyone the chance to experience an agency moment, to express love and respect in action, the ramifications really would change the world."

- David Brooks


"Ashoka fellow Andrés Gallardo is a Mexican who lived in a high crime neighborhood. He created an app, called Haus, that allows people to network with their neighbors. The app has a panic button that alerts everybody in the neighborhood when a crime is happening. It allows neighbors to organize, chat, share crime statistics and work together.

"To form and lead this community of communities, Gallardo had to possess what Drayton calls 'cognitive empathy-based living for the good of all.' Cognitive empathy is the ability to perceive how people are feeling in evolving circumstances. 'For the good of all' is the capacity to build teams."