An Introduction to Systems Change

It's no secret that at Ashoka we believe that social entrepreneurship – the concept of an innovative solution to a social problem in the hands of an exceptional entrepreneur – is the key to solving society’s problems.

At the heart of every social entrepreneur’s ambition is to fundamentally change the system within which they work, so as to impact on the largest possible number of people, without the need for the entrepreneur to replicate their organisation or themselves. As Ashoka’s Founder and CEO, Bill Drayton, once said, “Social entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionised the fishing industry.”

At Ashoka, we identify and support those social entrepreneurs who have found an idea that is systems-changing; indeed, at the heart of our selection criteria is the notion of ‘a systems change idea in the hands of an entrepreneur’.

Ashoka Fellows change systems in five different ways:

  1. Redefining interconnections in market systems
  2. Changing the rules that govern societies
  3. Diminishing the gap between the private and citizen sectors
  4. Integrating marginalised populations
  5. Increasing the number of people who are social problem-solvers

More For You

Vision - A Social Entrepreneur's Starting Point

A vision is the starting point of any enterprise - social or otherwise. It is a dream, but with a plan to make it happen. A social entrepreneur has a vision of what society would look like if the problem they have identified has been solved. That might be a society where the oceans are clear of...
Read more

Purpose - The Guiding Star

The journey of any social entrepreneur can be difficult, both emotionally and physically, and problems can sometimes seem insurmountable. They constantly need to revisit their purpose and reconnect with the reason that they committed their lives to solving the problem they identified. Our Fellows...
Read more

Problem - Observation of a Systemic Gap

We are all aware that society is by no means perfect, and that it leaves many behind. All social entrepreneurs have identified a particular problem that they feel needs to be fixed in order for society to work better for all. It could be within their field of expertise - such as a farmer who sees...
Read more

Strategy - A Plan of Action

A social entrepreneur’s strategy is their roadmap to bring their idea to fruition, in order to achieve their vision for a better society. It is the very practical enactment of the idea - and includes the steps that need to be taken, and the way those steps will add up to significant change. A...
Read more

Partnerships - Mobilising Stakeholders

There are no two ways about it: in order to achieve their vision and drive tangible social impact, social entrepreneurs must partner with a wide variety of organisations. The benefits of teaming up with organisations with similar goals or who would benefit from the ambitions of the social enterprise...
Read more

Impact - An Organisation's Footprint

Of course, impact is at the heart of social entrepreneurship. A social entrepreneur is driven by a desire to effect positive change on a community, on society, or on the world, rather than the more ‘traditional’ desire to make money. So the way that a social enterprise measures its effectiveness is...
Read more

Challenges - The Unavoidable Trials

As Michael Sani points out in a video clip we will be posting later today, there is no manual to being the CEO of a social enterprise, so social entrepreneurs have to learn on the job. This means that there will be challenges along the way, and the only way forward is to try your best and learn from...
Read more

Learnings - The Wisdom Obtained

All social entrepreneurs (and indeed ‘regular’ entrepreneurs) are on a journey. They will have started their organisations with a vision, as we’ve discussed previously, and an idea with which they will solve a problem achieve that vision. From that idea comes a strategy. But here’s the thing – as...
Read more