In times of crisis, one thing is clear: strong societies are made up of many changemakers.

When crises occurs and we see humankind responding to uncertainty, it's a test of our potential as society to unlock people's potential as changemakers building better futures for all
3 girls chatting over coffee at Impact Africa Summit
Source: Sarah Mujulizi

When Covid-19 hit, we saw Ashoka Fellows and many other changemakers around the world quickly step in as first responders, active supporters and visionary entrepreneurs designing new models to react and to build forward – towards resilient societies in which everyone is powerful. When crises occurs and we see humankind responding to uncertainty, it’s also a test: a test on how well we do as society in unlocking people's potential as changemakers building better futures for all. 

Changemakers United (CMU) is one of Ashoka’s global responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. We mobilized its network of social entrepreneurs as well as partners, workforce, and communities to support Ashoka Fellows and Young Changemakers in times of crisis.  

We worked with 75 selected social entrepreneurs from Europe, Africa, Latin America, and South Asia to amplify their ideas. While doing so, we brought in many to support them. Partner companies and individuals, pro bono experts and funders—they all got a direct pathway into the world of changemaking and their own contribution to it. The initiative beautifully showed the power of organizing around shared causes. What is more: through broad communication activities we have been able to inspire hundreds of thousands globally and engage over 9,300 people in online events. 


The effects we saw: 

Scaling steps 
Involved Ashoka Fellows in Europe scaled or are in the process of scaling their solutions to 35 countries worldwide.  

High satisfaction  
Throughout the regions, Fellows, mentors, and experts alike stated they would recommend the initiative or participate again (8/9 out of 10). 

First responders 
In the initial phase of the pandemic in South Asia we saw Ashoka Fellows collectively providing direct relief to over 9 million people. 

Diverse strategies 
Fellows in Asia implemented hybrid learning models for over 1,000 schools, scaled their work across 27 states and spread their solutions by developing over 600 partnerships with various organizations.  

Direct and indirect reach  
Overall, the Ashoka Fellows in Latin America reached over 25 million people directly and indirectly through their Covid-19 related solutions and scaled to over 24 countries. 




Just as the pandemic evolves, CMU shifts from individual support to strengthening collective efforts, from immediate to long-term. With our key partners Zalando, Target Foundation and Beiersdorf we search and select leading social entrepreneurs in critical fields, empower them with co-learning and networking opportunities, and amplify their stories on their way to achieve a systems change. Within groups focusing on health care, economic inclusion, future of education, and equity, Changemakers United provides space to share shortcomings in these fields, how to overcome them and what pathways to collaboration to take. “The pandemic exposed the weaknesses of many social systems,” says Marie Ringler, Director Ashoka Europe, and concludes: “Weaknesses where the causes lie deep. Quick fixes can alleviate symptoms but not eliminate the issue. What we need are solutions that get to the root of a problem in order to eradicate it in the long run”.  

Read more from Zalando about the CMU initiative.