Emerging Insights 2019: Introduction

Emerging Insights 2019
Source: Venture / Fellowship


This is the question that Ashoka has been asking for 40 years. Our search for social entrepreneurs has been, at its heart, a quest to find the individuals among us who see what’s underneath social challenges and work to change the systems that are at the root of these problems.

For Ashoka, the focus has always been to look for powerful new ideas with the potential for national, regional or global impact and for the individuals with entrepreneurial mindsets who work tirelessly, through multiple iterations, to build social movements, programs and initiatives that create a social change for the better.

Once again, this year’s report showcases how our newly elected Ashoka Fellows work in collaborative and holistic ways. We look at both the urgency of issues the Fellows are working on and at the tangible and replicable solutions they have developed. In analyzing the work of 78 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 across eight complex global issues, we see patterns in how these Fellows actually create change in their communities and beyond.

Ashoka Fellows in 2019 are:

  1. Movement makers: Building networks for buy-in, adoption and replication are strategies that come naturally to Ashoka Fellows. 33 of the 78 Fellows elected this year are explicitly working with models that rely on the development of strategic networks. It is through the collective that Ashoka Fellows create movements to move ideas into action.
  2. Culture shapers: From education to the environment, making cultural and social changes that influence the ethos or mentality of whole communities is an important strategy for 32 of the newest Fellows. This includes Fellows who are working to create culturally responsive education, acknowledging and advocating for those who have been excluded, and shaping new societal norms.

  3. Data drivers: 21 of the 78 Fellows elected this year are explicitly focused on redefining how data can be used as tools for social change. They use data map- ping, big data collection, and build platforms for data dissemination in order to effect social change. They recognize that it is not enough to just collect data, but to overcome the challenges of collecting biased and incomplete data to tell a more accurate story of social reality.

  4. Tech adapters: As we will see in our insights on science and technology, the possibilities of technology for social good are limitless. 21 of the 78 Fellows in 2019 are working directly in the tech sector or have been developing new technology infrastructures like platforms for knowledge sharing and to increase health or education services to those who previously did not have access.

What it will take for things to actually change is the recognition that disruption and innovation need to be paired with an understanding of humanity, and all its complex histories, cultures and institutions. Ashoka Fellows provide frameworks, guides and tools to help us navigate the murky waters of social change and inspire us to see our own potential as changemakers.

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