Bill Drayton is a social entrepreneur with a long record of founding organizations, bringing big change, and service. As a student, he founded organizations ranging from Yale Legislative Services to Harvard’s Ashoka Table, an inter-disciplinary weekly forum on how society truly works. After graduation from Harvard, he received an M.A. from Balliol College in Oxford University and his J.D. from Yale Law School. Over ten years at McKinsey & Company, he brought significant structural changes to policy and organizations. He also taught at Stanford Law School and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He served in the Carter Administration White House and as Assistant Administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency, where he launched emissions trading and many other lasting reforms. He launched Ashoka in 1981. He used the stipend he received when elected a MacArthur Fellow in 1984 to devote himself fully to Ashoka. Bill is Ashoka’s Chair and Chief Executive Officer. He is also chair of three other organizations; Youth Venture, Community Greens, and Get America Working!
Bill has won numerous awards and honors throughout his career. He has honorary doctorates from Yale, NYU, and others; and he is a Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford. He is a member of the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Council on Foreign Relations. He was selected one of America’s Best Leaders by US News & World Report and Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership. Other awards include the Yale Law School’s highest alumni honor, the National Wildlife Federation’s Conservation Achievement Award International; and the National Academy of Public Administration National Public Service Award.
Bill is an avid backpacker. He especially loves long, off trail, above the tree line immersions.
As Ashoka’s CEO, Bill brings history-based vision and a deep grasp of how things work to help Ashoka keep learning and keep changing big time so that it and its community can make the truly big contributions it can and must. He has overall management responsibility and, as one of three members of the Leadership Team, has special responsibilities for Purpose Teams (e.g. Young People, Climate), “Jujitsu” Partners and Metro Areas, Frame Change/Communications, organizational evolution, and Search/Talent.
(photo: (c) Yusuke Abe)
Dear Friends of Ashoka
Dear Friends of Ashoka,
Ashoka was chosen the “Sixth best NGO in the world” (out of millions). That’s up from 19th best last year. There is more and more -- and powerful! -- evidence of Ashoka’s accelerating impact.
Here’s another example: After decades of focused, persistent Ashoka pushing, the construct of social entrepreneurship is familiar pretty much everywhere. It empowers millions. When Ashoka was first introducing the idea, educated people often said that it was an “oxymoron.”
Over the last several years, a follow-up Ashoka word, “changemaker,” has decisively entered everyday use. (See, for example, the story below by conservative writer, Michael Barone.) In covering the day the Democratic National Convention made “changemaker” its word of the day (do you remember all the delegates waving blue and white placards with that one word on them?), he explains its Ashoka origins. The spread of “changemaker” further strengthens the idea that caring/changing one’s world for the better is now what society expects. Which, in turn, is a big step towards the far more effective and equal “everyone a changemaker” world that is Ashoka’s goal.
Here is a fourth indicator of Ashoka’s accelerating impact: A half dozen ministers or deputy ministers of education on four continents have recently endorsed Ashoka’s radically different definition of success in growing up, and therefore education, in an era defined by change, not efficiency through repetition.
One element in this new defnition is that very young children must master cognitive (not just “I feel your pain”) empathy. As the rate of change continues to escalate exponentially, which is a fact, the rules cover less and less. For the first time, it is impossible to be a good person by following the rules, no matter how diligently. Anyone without this complex, learned skill will hurt people and disrupt groups. Then all the doors close -- and prejudice against anyone who looks like that person climbs. That’s why the recently retired U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan said this new Ashoka (he was specific) empathy requirement as being more important than “an exhaustive understanding of U.S. history or chemistry or math”.
These impacts all are instances of Ashoka’s changing the framework of how society sees the world. Very, very few people or organizations play at this level.
Ashoka is uniquely positioned to do so for several reasons. It has been learning by actually catalyzing framework shifts for decades. Second, its 3,600 of the world’s best social (for the good of all) entrepreneurs in every field and from every society -- the Ashoka Fellows -- enable it to see the patterns of the future. And these same Ashoka Fellows love and are really good at working with one another and Ashoka in engineering these maximum leverage framework changes.
This makes it even more important for Ashoka to find the next generation of such profound pattern changing ideas for the good and the great entrepreneurs behind them. And then to help launch those ideas and social entrepreneurs. And weave them together into a community of mutual help and collaboration for life. (Ashoka is very good at this -- three quarters of the Ashoka Fellows change the patterns in their fields at the national level within five years of launch.)
The stories in this collection will remind you of just how magical the Ashoka Fellows are. Three are from the Muslim world, and the fourth is an American who has turned truckers into fierce allies in the fight against human trafficking. (This last is a NPR story broadcast just a few weeks ago.)
Ashoka needs your help, if at all possible before its fiscal year ends August 31 (to help with a match challenge). Ashoka could double the number of Fellows it elects in six months if it had the resources. And it needs your help if it is to help society see and seize the historic turning point now before us.
Please do what you can. It’s truly important. With thanks, and every good wish,
Founder and CEO of Ashoka