Sir Fazle Abed: The World Mourns the Passing of a Great Social Entrepreneur

Fazle Abed

The global Ashoka community mourns the loss of Sir Fazle Abed, founder and chairperson of BRAC, the world’s largest civil society organization and a founder member of Ashoka's Global Academy and World Council. Abed is probably the greatest social entrepreneur of the last 50 years. And he is one of the earliest, best, and most loved co-leaders of the Ashoka movement.

“When Ashoka and I came to Bangladesh in the 1980s with the then-little-understood idea of building social entrepreneurship, Fazle welcomed us," said Bill Drayton, founder and CEO of Ashoka. "He guided us in many ways. 

"The global Ashoka community and I also steadily learned from Fazle’s flow of new, big ideas - and how he turned them into the new reality, one after another. All of us at Ashoka, indeed all social entrepreneurs everywhere, have lost something entirely unique and deeply precious.”

Abed nominated the first Ashoka Fellow. He served on selection panels. Ever since, in hard times and good, he has helped guide Ashoka. Ashoka will soon elect the first group of Fazle Abed Ashoka Young Changemakers in Bangladesh.

Abed created BRAC as newly independent Bangladesh faced unimaginable challenges. He built it into, by far, the world’s largest civil society organization. In one year, it served 126 million people, disbursed $8.4 billion in micro-loans, and catalyzed grassroots community groups to launch 498,000 community projects. BRAC works across continents and raises 80 percent of its budget from for-profit businesses wholly owned by nonprofit BRAC.
More important, every year BRAC has many new ideas to make the world a place where everyone can contribute, where all are therefore powerful and far more equal. Then BRAC quickly tests, refines, and spreads these new openings. As these ideas spread, BRAC’s impact multiplies over and over. Even more powerful and contagious are the values and entrepreneurial quality that Abed and his BRAC define.