Ashoka has pioneered the fields of social entrepreneurship and made great strides in committing the world to framework change since its founding in 1980. From the beginning, measuring the impact of its efforts has been a top priority for the global Ashoka team. We define impact as systemic changes, affecting large numbers of people, that flow from the social entrepreneurs, their ideas, and the networks that Ashoka supports.
Ashoka’s Fellow network includes more than 3,000 Fellows spanning 89 countries. They account for some of the most significant and sustained social changes that have occured in recent decades.
Rather than looking for someone who is building one school or one hospital, Ashoka looks for individuals who are changing the way children learn or the way healthcare is delivered, a process known as systems change. For example, Ashoka Fellow Kailash Satyarthi has acted to protect the rights of more than 83,000 children from 144 countries. It is largely because of Satyarthi's work and activism that the International Labour Organization adopted Convention No. 182 to prevent the worst forms of child labor, which is now a principal guideline for governments around the world. In 2014, Kailash received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work.
How do we know if Ashoka Fellows change systems? What systems do they change? These questions and more are answered in Ashoka’s Impact Studies. Every two years, a selection of Fellows answer a battery of questions to help Ashoka assess the efficacy of the Fellowship program and how it could be improved. These studies consistently show that about 80 percent of Ashoka Fellows have changed a national-level system in at least one way within 10 years of their election to the Ashoka Fellowship. In 2013, 87 percent of Ashoka Fellows surveyed indicated that Ashoka had helped to increase the impact of their work, with 49 percent saying that Ashoka had made a “critical difference” in their efforts.
Apart from the impact of the Fellows network, Ashoka is committed to helping the world adapt to an age that increasingly is defined by change rather than repetition. Through partnerships with media leaders and journalists, Ashoka has helped define social entrepreneurship and what it means to live in an Everyone A Changemaker world. Ashoka’s Changemaker Schools Network is a global community of more than 1,100 leading elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as universities, that prioritize empathy, teamwork, leadership, problem-solving, and changemaking as student outcomes. Through Ashoka’s Youth Venture program, founded in 1986, nearly 5,000 teams of young people have launched and led their own community-serving ventures. These ventures serve thousands more people.
Ashoka’s impact is both multifaceted and far-reaching, spanning many levels of change in many nations across the globe. Going forward, we will continue to seek and develop sophisticated means of measuring the impact of Ashoka’s efforts and improving their effectiveness.