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Bill Drayton’s Army of Changemakers

This article originally appeared on The Hindu

Today, more than ever, Ashoka founder and CEO Bill Drayton believes that teenagers and children should also be changemakers. When asked why he feels this urgency now, he shares that the world is in the “middle of a necessary but painful historical transition.” This new reality, spurred in part by rapid, technology-fueled change, he says, can explain why income equality has spiraled out of control.

If you’re able to keep up with this new order, life can’t be too bad. But not for those who are left behind, says Drayton, who describes the situation in the following manner: “If you get up and go into your day ready to play soccer, you’re going to have a terrible time if the game has shifted to chess.”

And widening inequality can lead to a culture of “us versus them politics”, he warns. “The successful part of society is, in effect, telling the others, ‘Go away. We don’t need you. And, by the way, your kids don’t have much of a future’.”

To combat this new world order, Ashoka is selecting Young Changemakers, who form a vital part of Ashoka’s rubric, Drayton says, serving not as subordinates, but as equals to their older (adult) peers. “They are role models of what happens when a young person is a changemaker, and they are the key to helping society see the change that is possible and necessary,” says Drayton.

What makes this movement different to Ashoka’s work with its global network of fellows — many of whom have helped shift public policy — is the youth-centric focus. In an effort to help teenagers build their “dream, their team and their changed world,” the organization will pair the selected changemakers under the age of 20 with institutions, advisors and other partners to help them work on socially-driven projects.

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