In 2022, Leica and Ashoka decided to join forces to address an invisible challenge: the need for more powerful images that represent changemaking
Leica enlisted the help of The Leica Meet, a Facebook community of over 18,000 photographers, and Ashoka connected them to leading social entrepreneurs who drive and effect social change on a daily basis. This resulted in nine photoshoots, in nine different countries, representing nine different initiatives run by Ashoka Fellows, portraying the thousands of different ways in which people work together to improve the world.
We invite you to immerse yourself in the diverse, dynamic and powerful visual world of changemaking as we have through this groundbreaking initiative:
Meet the Organizing Team Map of the nine initiatives All selected photos on Flickr
Ashoka Fellow Agustina Besada
Plastic is ubiquitous
Go to the supermarket, the pharmacy, or to get your favorite meal to go; and you cannot avoid it. But, replacements for plastic that can more easily be reused and recycled are just as inevitable in our day-to-day lives. On the same supermarket shelves where plastic seems impossible to avoid, there are glass jars that we can use long after we eat the food they contain. And any old shirt can be turned into a canvas bag. What if we made these alternatives as easy to use as single use plastics?
In Argentina, Unplastify is turning the normalization of sustainable plastic alternatives into a competition; mobilizing young people through its app to participate in challenges to find non-plastic solutions. Founder and Ashoka Fellow Agustina Besada believes that sustained systemic change is a matter of not only finding these solutions, but shifting the culture. This requires the engagement of the public and private sectors alongside the motivated young changemakers using her app, as individuals cannot go at this alone.
According to Agustina, this is not an unprecedented goal: after all, the health risks of cigarettes were widely unknown a mere two generations ago. However, simple knowledge of a problem without potential solutions paralyzes populations. Unplastify aims to prevent paralyzation by giving people control over finding solutions; getting them creative and motivated in a race toward systemic change.
Ashoka Fellow Bach Kim Nguyen
When you think of bees, what comes to mind?
If you say the delicious honey you put in your tea, or an awful memory of getting stung as a child, you are not alone.
Ashoka Fellow Bach Kim Nguyen is on a mission to teach the world that bees are much more than a creature to be feared or a source of capital through their honey. His organization, Beeodiversity, treats bees as important messengers about the world we live in and is teaching stakeholders in their well-”bee”ing to speak their language.
Beekeepers learn to monitor the causes of bee mortality in their hives and then examine what environment risks this could be a sign of, spotting danger before it becomes evident to humans. They begin to change their mindset around bees, from considering them only as a source of wealth to recognizing their potential as an environmental resource.
Beekeepers aren’t Nguyen’s only students in the language of bees. He also engages with veterinarians, scientists, and academics to encourage them to consider bees in their work. Their conclusions are being replicated worldwide in a variety of conditions, showing how bees’ messenger abilities are not only limited to Nguyen’s home country of Belgium.
Ashoka Fellow Jayro Pereira de Jesus
Brazil is a multicultural country
Indigenous, African, and European influences blend to create a unique culture within Brazil that includes religions like none other in the world. Afro-Brazilian religions have played an important contribution to Brazilian culture for generations; however, they are often pushed into the shadows and suffer from widespread misunderstanding, misrepresentation, and prejudice.
With practitioners of these religions forming a massive but disconnected community, Jayro Pereira de Jesus, Ashoka Fellow, saw an opportunity: organize across marginalized religious groups to not just gain the power to emerge into the mainstream, but to be able to demand respect. In a country dominated by European standards, these groups have often felt the pressure to uphold themselves to these standards in order to gain acceptance. According to Jayro, community is power. Through community building, practitioners unlearn these internalized attitudes and uplift their own culture as a moral compass.
The Afro-Brazilian religions with which Jayro works hold a distinct framework for problem solving than dominant Western religions. For example, there tends to be less of a dichotomy between good and evil within their belief systems. With these religions finally gaining the respect they deserve in the mainstream, Jayro is opening new pathways toward an Everyone A Changemaker world.
Ashoka Fellow Jörg Richert
Working with refugees and their host communities
Since the invasion of Ukraine started in February 2021, an influx of men, women and children have arrived to the borders of countries like Romania, Poland, Hungary and Germany to flee from violence and conflict. This situation has also activated empathy, solidarity and action from hosting communities, willing to take a step forward to support their neighbors.
Since the early 1990s, Ashoka Fellow Jorg Richert has worked on integrating and empowering youth from marginalised backgrounds, creating a safe space for street children and youth to, step-by-step, regain their confidence and find their role in society.
More recently, he has adapted this model to successfully welcome and host refugees from Ukraine. As shown in the photos, soon after the crisis began, Jorg and his team matched refugees arriving at the Berlin main station with German residents willing to accommodate them.
He also co-initiated an online platform for shelter for all people in crisis-related need: https://unterkunft-ukraine.de/
Ashoka Fellow Miguel Neiva
Growing up, Ashoka Fellow Miguel Neiva was hospitalized twice.
The isolation and loneliness he felt each time sparked empathy toward a colorblind school friend who had suffered bullying. Unfortunately, this is a common experience for colorblind individuals, who face challenges with social integration, roadblocks on their career paths, and even institutionalized exclusion in some countries where they are banned from holding a driver’s license.
Miguel harnessed his empathy during his studies at design school, creating a custom code for colorblind individuals to read color, similarly to how a blind person would read through braille. Each color receives a symbol, which is then applied across different fields. From matching clothes to reading a color-coded subway map, and even painting as children, the code allows the colorblind to overcome prior sources of exclusion.
Empathy remains a core feature of ColorAdd. Alongside ensuring early integration of the code into schooling materials, ColorAdd holds workshops for children to better understand the experience of being colorblind. They learn to relate to their peers who see the world differently, fostering a more inclusive environment as they get older.
Edible Garden City
Ashoka Fellow Bjorn Low Hoek
Singapore is a concrete jungle –
So much so that the greenery of a traditional jungle seems to have gone forgotten. Upon its independence in the 1960s, Singapore began rapidly urbanizing and lost much of its traditional farmland in the process. As a result, much of its food must be imported. How does this affect its population’s relationship with what they eat?
Ashoka Fellow Bjorn Low noticed a disturbing trend in Singapore: as people lost their connection to the land, they also began producing more food waste. But where others accepted that such an urbanized place couldn’t support agriculture, Bjorn saw opportunity in every crack and crevice of the city to turn it green. Through his project Edible Garden City, Bjorn has developed gardens on the rooftops of Singapore by working with a diverse array of partners, from hotels to public housing units. The products grown in these spaces then find their way to restaurants, where city dwellers can enjoy the products of their labor.
Bjorn’s gardens are a space of curiosity and equity. As people discover the gardens and learn about their mission, they can sign up to be volunteers. Meanwhile, Bjorn makes an effort to train and employ neurodiverse individuals, ensuring that all citizens of Singapore can take advantage of the opportunities provided by community agriculture.
Ashoka Fellow Somsak Boonkam
Bangkok, Thailand is known as one of the world’s most visited cities. But, what about the rest of Thailand?
How do the small towns included in tour packs benefit from Thailand’s burgeoning tourism industry? The small-scale tourism industries within these towns are swallowed by international corporations with more resources. Rather than creating an opportunity to enable local lifestyles, small town people are often treated as tourist attractions themselves by these companies, rather than communities with agency.
Somsak Boonkam, Ashoka Fellow, is mobilizing Thailand’s small, sustainable tourism companies so that local people are once again enabled to take part in the industry on their own terms. Competition gives way to collaboration under Somsak’s philosophy of tourism. When one village doesn’t have something available, such as English-speaking tour guides, other villages step up with their own resources so that no one has to fall under. All of these companies also share a platform to promote sustainable tourism, so that travelers who choose one package will still gain exposure to even more equitable options.
Beyond his collaborative efforts, Somsak also trains community members in creating and managing their own activities. This cultivates experiences that are not only unique for tourists, but enabling for communities who can manage tourism on their own terms and maintain their dignity in the process.
Ashoka Fellow Ruth Ibegbuna
When you think of the United Kingdom, London almost certainly comes to mind
With its bustling financial center and thriving opportunities for young people. Indeed, many end up migrating to London and other large British cities for employment, especially in tough economic times. But, what happens to the places they leave behind? And what about the youth who stay?
Often, mainstream media and figures demonize poverty in the UK, creating negative cultural perceptions of post-industrial cities and sparking a cycle of decreased confidence and decreased opportunities among the young people who reside in them. Ruth Ibegbuna, Ashoka Fellow, is on a mission to break this vicious circle and change reputations. At her REKINDLE School, young people are the center of everything: instead of following a generalized curriculum, these young students’ first mission is to write a Youth Manifesto that tackles the problems specific to them.
Rather than trying to force her students to fit a mold of social acceptance, Ruth celebrates their unique emotions and experiences. Through the challenges outlined by each Youth Manifesto, these young people learn to harness their energy into political activism, becoming voices for change within their communities and gaining employable skills in the process.
The Organizing Team
Ashoka Europe Communications Co-Lead
Maira is responsible for Communications for the Ashoka Europe diamond. Through her work she seeks to define and spread the message that we are all Changemakers. Before joining the team, she managed communications for a UNDP project in Egypt, promoting the values of volunteering among young people in the Arab region. She also co-led a sport for development project in Cameroon in 2012, providing sports venues and training for more than 900 refugee children. Thanks to the profession of her parents, she had the opportunity to be born, travel, study and live in several countries and continents starting with Mexico, going through Poland, Brazil or Pakistan. She studied Sociology and Communications at Brunel University in London, and has a Master's Degree in Journalism from the EFE news agency.
Photographer, Writer, Educator
Olaf Willoughby. I am a photographer, writer, and educator living in London. I run workshops and have exhibited in the UK/USA. I’m a founder of a Facebook group, The Leica Meet, with over 18,000 members, I’ve published various books the first of which was about Antarctica and was used as an ebook by the WWF. And the most recent of which was a collaboration with Eileen Muldoon called Visualising Poetry. Focus. My work is centered around a lifelong fascination with creativity. Getting work into the public domain is an exciting moment because it marks the end of a chapter or even the end of a journey - and endings always contain new beginnings…stay tuned!
Senior Changemaker and Leadership Coach
Daniela‘s new idea lies in at the confluence of creativity, media and impact.
She has many years of experience in the corporate sector, and saw how dispiriting it can be.
Building on her early #lead young experiences with horse back riding that gave her confidence, freedom and showed her the potential of leadership, she created a series of innovations that empower others to be creative, use media for growth and impact.