Care-Centered Communities for Women Changemakers and Beyond

by Ayendha Pangesti, Z Santillan, Sornchai Chatwiriyachai 

The Deepening the Impact of Women Activators (DIWA) initiative was born in 2020 when Ashoka Southeast Asia and S&P Global Foundation sought out ways to better understand and support Southeast Asian women social entrepreneurs (WSEs), with the lack of care-centered communities for women being among the chief concerns. 

To share the experience that the Southeast Asia team had with creating a human care-centered community, we invited Ayendha Pangesti, Z Santillan, and Sornchai Chatwiriyachai to write an article for the DEI Global Team, in which they told us more about DIWA Initiative and the importance of human care-centered communities to achieve a truly diverse, equitable, and inclusive Everyone a Changemaker World.   

A very diverse group of people making the letter "W" with their hands. Graphic elements have been added to the image, such as a light blue curved zig-zag, two red arrows, two orange plus signs, a green 8-pointed star, a purple square and several pink dots.
Source: Fadhil Hakim & Hisyam Aziz from Le Capturer

Women social entrepreneurs (WSEs) are spread thin across the multiple roles they juggle—they must simultaneously be mother, spouse, daughter, community leader, and employer. These various roles come with the weighty responsibility to care for others, thus WSEs are depleted by the pressure and emotional toll. Internally, WSEs are struggling to create boundaries by saying no or delegating tasks.  

Therefore, a community space to share, ask, and listen to fellow women leaders, coaches, and mentors who can assist in their personal and professional development, is important for them. This space—whether physical, digital, or hybrid—allows WSEs to discover the commonality of their shared journeys and to connect more deeply with one another. A safe, reflective space enables WSEs to root in their purpose while nurturing their well-being and the courage necessary in their leadership. Such spaces encourage WSEs to embrace their leadership, celebrate small wins, practice more care for themselves and their team, and muster more courage in their leadership. 

The Deepening the Impact of Women Activators (DIWA) initiative was born in 2020 when Ashoka Southeast Asia and S&P Global Foundation sought out ways to better understand and support Southeast Asian women social entrepreneurs (WSEs), with the lack of care-centered communities for women being among the chief concerns.  

Since then, 111 Women Social Entrepreneurs (WSEs) from the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam have become members of the initiative and community. DIWA efforts have included a capacity-building program, various roundtables and summits on women’s issues in Southeast Asia, stories of impact, and funded collaborations between WSEs.  

DIWA underscores the spirit of mutual growth and collective wisdom, focusing on care, continual growth, mutual support, and inclusivity as core principles. The emphasis is on creating a future that is inclusive, sustainable, and deeply rooted in the everyone a changemaker vision of Ashoka.  


CARE Module on Ashoka DIWA Program 

Through a carefully curated capacity-building program offered to WSEs in 6 countries, Ashoka SEA collaborated with Haraya Coaching and offered learning module focused on overcoming gender-specific barriers, boosting women's confidence, identifying leadership strengths and gaps, and fostering strong team-building skills. We called it the CARE module. This effort is essential for building a more inclusive, diverse, and impactful social entrepreneurship ecosystem. By supporting women in realizing their full potential as leaders, we can foster innovation, drive social change, and create a more equitable world for all.  

Beyond introducing female leadership, this module started with inviting WSEs recognizing their roles as women along with their multiple burdens and understanding their leadership styles, strengths, motivations, and the need for boundaries to maintain work-life balance. The module consisted of four live sessions on 1) Cognizance – raising awareness on our leadership strengths and needs, 2) Compassion – nurturing the whole self and those around us, 3) Culture – Organizational culture and how you’d like to reshape it and 4) Courage – areas the WSEs would like to be more courageous in and how to begin. The sessions were complemented by individual and organizational workbooks, a coaching circle with professional coaches, and a peer circle with fellow participants according to similar industries. 

The Care module was seen as pivotal because it enabled participants to tap into their purpose in life. It has even become a core asset in their leadership endeavors. Program alumni have emphasized how increased self-awareness and personal growth impacted them as women and social entrepreneurs, influencing both their organizations and communities. It led them to transform their leadership style from being shaky to brave leaders. 

Beyond affecting Women Social Entrepreneurs or women generally, a care-centered community is still very essential for all regardless of identity, to achieve a world where everyone can be a changemaker, for several reasons: 

  1. It fosters a sense of belonging 

A care-centered community prioritizes the well-being and inclusivity of all its members. This creates an environment where individuals from diverse backgrounds feel valued, respected, and supported, fostering a sense of belonging for everyone regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, or other identities. 

  1. Promotes psychological safety 

Psychological safety is crucial for diversity and inclusion initiatives to thrive. In a care-centered community, individuals feel safe to express their thoughts, share their experiences, and contribute their perspectives without fear of judgment or reprisal. This encourages open dialogue, collaboration, and innovation, leading to better outcomes for all members. 

  1. Addresses systemic inequities 

Care-centered communities recognize and actively address systemic inequities that impact marginalized groups. They prioritize equity by implementing policies, practices, and initiatives that level the playing field and provide equitable opportunities for all members to succeed and thrive. 

  1. Empowers marginalized voices 

In care-centered communities, marginalized voices are uplifted and amplified. This involves actively listening to those who have been historically marginalized or silenced, centering their experiences and perspectives in decision-making processes, and providing platforms for them to lead and contribute meaningfully. 

  1. Builds trust and collaboration 

Trust is essential for building strong relationships and collaborations within a community. In a care-centered environment, trust is cultivated through genuine empathy, transparency, and accountability. This fosters collaboration across diverse groups and strengthens collective efforts to achieve an Everyone a Changemaker World. 

  1. Promotes personal growth and learning 

Care-centered communities prioritize continuous learning and growth for all members. They provide opportunities for education, training, and dialogue on issues related to diversity, inclusion, and equity, encouraging individuals to challenge their biases, expand their understanding, and develop empathy towards others. 

Personal well-being stands at the forefront for many of our changemakers. They have often highlighted the indispensability of self-care, especially when the issues they tackle are close to home. In navigating such emotionally charged terrains, burnouts are not rare. By ensuring a harmonious blend of work and personal life, not only do changemakers remain in optimal mental and physical health, but they also preserve the flame of motivation while toiling towards tangible results. Seeking counseling, participating in stress management workshops, or simply enjoying solace within a community of like-minded social entrepreneurs can be the oasis in the sometimes-arid journey of change-making. 

To learn more about DIWA, visit