Frequently Asked Questions

Ashoka is a non-governmental organization founded by Bill Drayton in Washington, D.C. in 1980, who works towards the wide spreading of skills that support social entrepreneurship and has a positive impact on society. Ashoka is the first and most prestigious social entrepreneurial network in the world, having chosen its first social entrepreneurs in India in 1981. Ashoka has offices in five continents and more than 36 countries. Ashoka Turkey’s office is in Istanbul. 

Q: When was Ashoka founded?

A: Ashoka was founded in 1980 by Bill Drayton in Washington, D.C. Ashoka elected its first Fellows in India in 1981. Read more information about Ashoka's history.

Q: What does “Ashoka” mean?

A: Ashoka was named to honor the Indian Emperor Ashoka, one of the world's earliest great social entrepreneurs. After unifying India in the 3rd Century B.C., Emperor Ashoka renounced violence and became one of history's most tolerant, global-minded, and creative leaders, pioneering innovations in economic development and social welfare. For his creativity, global mindedness, and tolerance, Ashoka is renowned as one of the earliest examples of a social innovator. The Sanskrit word Ashoka means the "active absence of sorrow.

Q: Where is Ashoka’s headquarters? How is it managed?   

A: Ashoka is based in the Ashoka headquarter in Washington, D.C. Each Ashoka office has an appropriate structure for its own country / regional structure, its own board, and its own directors. While these offices are part of Ashoka International, they can also set their own program priorities and strategies within the framework of Ashoka's general principles. The executives of the Ashoka offices come together at certain intervals to guide the global organization through information sharing and strategy development meetings. For more about Ashoka's global board members: 

Q: Where are Ashoka’s offices?

A: Ashoka has offices in 35 countries on five continents. You can find a listing of all of Ashoka’s offices here.

Q: Does Ashoka specialize in any areas of work?

A: By learning from and collaborating with social entrepreneurs, Ashoka identifies patterns and key levers to help society gain a new framework that enables everyone to become a changemaker. Currently, Ashoka is building and activating networks to create fundamental changes in the growing up experience of children and young people so that they gain the outlook, skills, and opportunities to become a changemaker. The ideas of Ashoka Fellows today will point to the areas for greatest collective impact tomorrow. Ashoka is investing in the people and patterns of collaborative entrepreneurship that are critical to live in an everyone a changemaker world. Current Investments:

  •     Leading social entrepreneurs creating systems changing impact.
  •     Every child grows up practicing empathy.
  •     Every young person is practicing the skills of empathy, new leadership, teamwork, and changemaking.
  •     Society organizes as a fluid, open team of teams.

Q: How is Ashoka funded?  

A: Ashoka provides financial sustainability by accepting donations from individuals, funding foundations and companies. Ashoka has many individual and institutional contributors from different sectors and interests. 

Q: What is a social entrepreneur?

A: Social entrepreneurs are individuals with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social, cultural, and environmental challenges. They are ambitious and persistent — tackling major issues and offering new ideas for systems-level change. They create value, whether through a social sector organization or a business, that sustains and spreads their solution. As Ashoka founder Bill Drayton says, "There is nothing more powerful than a new idea in the hands of a social entrepreneur."

Q: Who are Ashoka’s Fellows?

A: Ashoka Fellows are the leading social entrepreneurs that Ashoka has recognized for their innovative solutions to social problems and their potential to change patterns across society. They demonstrate unrivaled commitment to bold new ideas and they prove that compassion, creativity, and collaboration are tremendous forces for change. Ashoka Fellows work in more than 90 countries around the globe in every area of human need.

Social entrepreneurs who work with Ashoka are expected to comply with the following basic principles and conditions during the years they receive support from Ashoka. Ashoka Fellowship, a business alliance and communications platform, continues to be effective and operating support mechanisms as long as these principles and conditions are followed. Ashoka sees itself not as a service provider, but rather as a platform that combines the need for social entrepreneurs with the appropriate resources that they form together with its members, employees and supporters. In this context, the Ashoka network aims to meet the needs with mutual respect, solidarity and spirit of cooperation.  

  • Prohibition of Discrimination: Ashoka Fellows do not discriminate on the basis of nationality, race, gender, religion, age, caste or any other non-performance criteria for any individual or institution, whether in fact or verbally.   
  • Non-violence: Ashoka Fellows do not participate in any act of violence as an individual or institution. They do not support or praise violence.  
  • Impartiality: Ashoka Fellows do not allow their institution or work to be reconciled with any political entity, party, or totalitarian ideology.  
  • Transparency: Ashoka Fellows respond to information requests from the Ashoka network, if applicable, to the reporting standards set by the country office. In addition to this basic principle, members who benefit from Ashoka's financial support are expected to inform Ashoka in the event of any change in their financial situation (ex., reduced or no need).  
  • Priority: Ashoka Fellows must give priority to the work that has allowed them to be elected to the fellowhood for the first 3 years and must agree to be full-time. 

Q: How can I recommend a Fellow?

A: If you know a social entrepreneur who is doing awesome work, or you are one yourself, we would love to hear from you. Learn how to recommend an Ashoka Fellow.

Q: Can I become an Ashoka Fellow? 

A: Yes, if you are a social entrepreneur with creative new ideas that will change a social problem to a significant extent, why not? Ashoka is looking for pioneering social entrepreneurs around the world in an intense, human-centric process, that will incorporate their talents into Ashoka's global, trust-based fellowship program. To find out more, you can read Ashoka's selection criteria.

Q: Do all Ashoka Fellows get financial support?  

A: No. The reason behind financial support for some Fellows is to enable them to spend all their time on their social entrepreneurship. Fellows who currently have the opportunity to spend time on their social entrepreneurship projects or to spend their full money on a social enterprise (ex. royalties etc.) will not receive financial support from Ashoka.  

Q: Is Ashoka involved with any political party?  

A: No, Ashoka (both globally and in Turkey) has no connection with any political party or ideology. If any Ashoka-supported entrepreneur is elected to positions involving political activities, their involvement with Ashoka will be frozen during this time and continue to be frozen if necessary. 

Q:Is Ashoka connected to a commercial organization?  

A: Ashoka can collaborate with companies in order to promote their work and involve the private sector in their positive social impact efforts. These collaborations take the form of projects with defined duration and scope with legal contracts. 

Q: Are there paid employees in Ashoka?  

A: Ashoka runs its programs and operations with the help of a professional team. From time to time when needed, Ashoka works with some project-based volunteers.   

Q: What is a changemaker?

A: A changemaker is anyone who is taking creative action to solve a social problem. They seek to create the kind of change that really matters: social change, or any other kind of change that can help people. Changemakers apply a sense of empathy for others, identify a specific problem or opportunity and give themselves permission to do something about it, and then use a combination of knowledge, resources, and determination to tackle it. Read more.

Q: What is an “everyone a changemaker" world?

A: An everyone a changemaker world is a world where more and more people respond efficiently and imaginatively to social problems, and where each person has the confidence, skills, and support to drive change for the better. This world is both more resilient and more inclusive because each person—regardless of age or background—will play a role in shaping the future. This new paradigm has massive implications for how children grow up and learn, how cities organize for the future, how companies think about talent and strategy, how philanthropists think about impact, and how societies define success and development.

Q: I am a journalist looking to interview someone in Ashoka’s leadership; how can I get in touch with someone?

A: For interview requests, please use our contact form.

Q: How can I work or volunteer with Ashoka?

A: We are looking for creative and effective leaders with a history of making powerful ideas real. If this sounds like you, please see Ashoka’s hiring criteria and apply to join our team or volunteer. Additionally make sure you follow our social media accounts for announcements. 

Q: What is your recruitment process?  

A: Recruitments at Ashoka are done through the website and announcements made through our social media accounts. The applications are reviewed and interviewed in order to be considered by board members. You can look at our website and social media accounts in order to stay up to date with our job offers. 

Q: How can I help support Ashoka financially?

A: In most countries you can donate online. You can also partner with Ashoka.