About Ashoka India
Founded by Bill Drayton in 1981, today Ashoka is the world’s largest network of leading social entrepreneurs and ranks among the top 5 NGOs of the world. The first-ever social entrepreneur to be selected as an Ashoka Fellow was Gloria De Souza from India, in 1982, who revolutionised the system of learning in classrooms.
Impacting millions of people and communities through their work, our Fellows include people like Nobel Laureates Kailash Satyarthi (Bachpan Bachao Andolan) and Magsaysay awardee Anshu Gupta (Goonj), among several others. Currently, we have over 400 Ashoka Fellows in wide-ranging fields such as farming, education, human rights, finance, local media, and women and youth empowerment, across India.
Ashoka India functions as a collaborative network that supports and amplifies change by bringing together these changemakers.
In the course of our work, having witnessed the changing patterns in society over close to three decades, and the way our problems are increasing at a pace faster than we can solve them, we have realised that to truly make things better for everyone we need to head towards a world where everyone is a changemaker. And just like social entrepreneurs, the world needs everyone to start practising skills like empathy, teamwork, leadership, and problem solving.
To this end, we believe that changemaking has to start young, and through our programs like Youth Venture, Changemaker Schools, and Health and Nutrition, we find, develop, and support young changemakers, enabling them to be role models in their communities, and give them the skills to thrive in our changing world.
Our office also serves as the regional hub for Ashoka’s activities in South Asia. Find out more about our work in Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. And to know more about our activities around the year, do read our latest annual report.
For the past 20 years, Maria Clara has worked extensively to identify, support and engage leading social entrepreneurs in different parts of the world. She co-created The Wellbeing Project in 2012 and launched Ashoka’s global efforts in building a culture of wellbeing for changemakers. After leading Ashoka’s Global Fellowship Program for 3 years, Maria Clara is now building the new strategy and leadership team in South Asia. Maria Clara currently lives in Bangalore with her partner and daughter. She is passionate about yoga and ayurveda and is very committed to her practice and learnings.
Jaya joined Ashoka in April 2015 as a part of the Integrated Technology Initiative team. She is a mother of two, multilinguist, Drupal evangelist who started her career as an Analytical Chemist and then a Russian Technical translator and Interpreter and now enjoys development of websites since 2007.
Yashveer leads the “Ashoka Young Changemakers” program at Ashoka. Ashoka Young Changemakers program was launched in the year 2018 to identify, select and build a global community of Teen Changemakers. Prior to this, he founded a youth non-profit to address talent inequity in the development sector and influence youth culture in India by inspiring and educating university students to pursue social innovation and entrepreneurship. Yashveer has co-authored a book #ChangeStartsYoung featuring inspiring stories of young changemakers from across India.
For his work, Yashveer has been recognized in "Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia" list in the year 2016. He was also awarded Youth Action Net 2012 Fellowship – as 1 of the 20 young social entrepreneurs representing 16 different countries by International Youth Foundation.
Yashveer earned his MBA at University of Oxford, where he was the only MBA student to receive Vice-Chancellor Social Impact Award 2014 for his initiatives as Co-Chair Social Impact, Oxford Business Network (OBN). As the President of Student’s Union BITS Pilani 2006-07, Yashveer co-founded the University VISION 2020 Plan.
Shruti leads Ashoka’s Youth Years program in South Asia. In her role, she leads the efforts to search, select and build a community of teen changemakers & institutional partners to help society re-imagine a world where every young person can grow practicing to be a changemaker. Prior to this, Shruti has helped various social enterprises and impact organisations in measuring and communicating their impact. In her previous role, Shruti has worked with Aavishkaar, one of the largest Impact Investment fund in India and Social Venture Partners, an international venture philanthropy organization.
Shruti has a Ph.D. in Media Studies from Florida State University, and also holds a Master’s degree in Mass Communication from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
Venkata has over 10-years of experience in Accounting, Finance analysis and Reporting. Venkata works with Ashoka Finance Team on Ashoka consolidated audit, Finalizing GL, Grant analysis, Forex analysis and Data Screening. He did his bachelor’s in Finance & Accounting and pursuing CA & MBA. Venkata Speaks Telugu, Hindi, Kannada and English with varied degrees of fluency.
Nikitha Varsha joined Ashoka as Assistant Manager for Finance & Accounts. She comes with 12 years of experience in the field. Prior to joining Ashoka, Nikitha was specialized in the preparation of receipts & payment, income & expenditure accounts, profit & loss account, cash flow statement & balance sheet, payroll, budget & MIS reports, coordinating with the auditors for the finalization of accounts and also interacting with statutory work like ESIC, PF, PT, TDS and Service Tax. She is well-versed in accounting softwares like Tally ERP 9 & Netsuite.
Divyadarshan works with the global Ashoka Young Changemakers team. At 13, Darshan and his friends launched a student club for environmental action in his hometown of Trichy and he has led several changemaking initiatives since. Prior to Ashoka, he worked with the Delhi University Research Council on improving the status of undergraduate education in the country. He did his bachelor’s in liberal arts and during college, he worked on a series of social innovation projects on issues like bullying, transgender rights, migrant labours, oral history, and higher education reform.
Dr. Neelam Maheshwari, in past twenty years, have championed the cause of catalyzing philanthropy to scale social enterprises and building gender and socially inclusive programs.
Before Joining to Ashoka, Neelam has headed Philanthropic initiatives of Deshpande Foundation India and contributed to building a social impact Ecosystem in various parts of India.
Building on her academic background Neelam has worked on creating poor and gender-inclusive programs at the foundation. She has worked with over 100+ enterprises including for profits and not for profits working on various sectors including Livelihoods, Health, Microfinance & Education sectors. Neelam has Launched and scaled one of the first Microentrepreneurs accelerator programs called Navodyami specially focusing on women enterprise owners. Neelam has also chaired the Development Dialogue, an annual conference hosted by DF at Hubli, Karnataka for over eight years.
Neelam is passionate about leveraging global ecosystems to leverage entrepreneurship to bring gender equity and livelihoods for all.
Neelam has a Ph.D. in Gender Studies from SUNY Buffalo (USA) and a Masters in International Development from Brandeis University (USA). Neelam is a recipient of the prestigious British Chevening Gurukul Fellowship (2020-21).
Photo Credit: Sebastiaan ter Burg (CC BY 4.0)
Subhashish has been a steward in the Openness movement with intersectional work in digital/human rights, and diversity and inclusion. For over a decade, He has led strategy and has implemented high-impact programs to further the multistakeholder internet governance, open knowledge, open licensing and Open Educational Resources (OER) across Asia-Pacific in many NGOs including Wikimedia Foundation, Centre for Internet & Society, Mozilla and Internet Society. As a documentary filmmaker, he has investigated India's biometrics and digital identification landscape under the Yoti Digital Identity Fellowship 2019. He has produced films for the protection of indigenous and endangered languages as a National Geographic Explorer, especially through the project OpenSpeaks that he founded. A long-time Wikipedia editor and leader in many open initiatives like Creative Commons and Mozilla, Subhashish has fostered the growth of 40,000 volunteers across 40 economies in Asia-Pacific and has designed Wikipedia Education Program and 200+ outreach programs for growth of Indian-language Wikipedias. Subhashish speaks Odia, Kannada, Hindi, Bengali and English with varied degrees of fluency.
Gopal Garg is ASPI-Re´s Ecosystem and Partnerships Director. Last 20yrs he has led many social impact initiatives with a focus on Youth. Innovation, big thinking, and systems change has been his strength. He co-founded Youth4Jobs Foundation, an organization mainstreaming persons with disabilities in the job market. His innovative programs on ecosystem building for inclusion of people with disabilities in corporate has changed mindsets and influenced many policies in corporate which was recognized as a global best practice. He scaled the program across India, Mauritius and Kenya through knowledge sharing and partnerships. During his work with the Government as part of the World Bank programs, he was instrumental in designing and implementing the one million jobs mission for the unemployed youth and changing policies for systems change in this field. He is a Vipassana meditator and a trekker. Gopal holds a Master's Degree in Management and is an Acumen and UnLtd India Fellow.
Manoj has over 20 years of experience in resource generation, partnerships building and leadership development. He is the co-founder of Fundraising Made Easy, which supports NGOs in developing fundraising strategy and communications for sustainability. Prior to that, Manoj worked for large social organizations such as CRY, HOPE Foundation and United Way helping them develop their fundraising efforts. Manoj is passionate about Transformational Coaching and is shortly publishing his first book on Transformative Parenting called 'Empower the Super Parent in You'.
Rajesh leads the admin and talent efforts for Ashoka in India. Rajesh has been with Ashoka from November 2014. Before joining Ashoka, he has worked for international not-for-profit organizations and various corporate sector organizations in Administration and Finance Departments.
Consultant, Ecosystem & Operations, ASPIRe.
Akshay Nambiar graduated as a computer engineer and developed interests at the cross-roads of international policy and sustainability. He held various leadership roles at AIESEC - the world's largest youth-run leadership development organization. As the President of AIESEC India and later as Global Vice President, he led key initiatives and headed financial strategies for the network of 119 countries-and-territories. Over the four years at AIESEC, he has worked across twenty-one countries for implementing SDG based projects to amplify awareness and actions towards the UN's 2030 agenda. Akshay Nambiar is enthusiastic about policy and impactful youth leadership. He is an incoming candidate (2022) for a Master's in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
Consultant, impact assessment for Law for All Initiative
Meghana leads the impact assessment for Law for All Initiative at Ashoka, South Asia. In her role, she strives to empower changemakers’ communities to shape practices and influence policies in the law and justice landscape through evidence-based impact assessments.
Previously, she worked as an International Consultant for the United Nations Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disability, hosted by UNDP NY Headquarters. She has a diverse research background in science, policy studies, and international development.
Meghana finds her ardent passion in human rights law, equal access to justice and legal rights, social and international development, and has worked on related projects in her recent professional experience.
She holds an MS degree from Binghamton University with a specialization in public health and biological sciences. She has also completed a certification programme in UN, Global Challenges, and policy reforms from the Graduate Institute, Geneva, Switzerland.
Consultant - Venture and Fellowship
Avantika’s role includes fellow research and evaluation under the Venture arm at Ashoka India. In her role, she digs deeper into different social ecosystems and keeps up with upcoming changes and innovations in the social sector.
With a diverse background, she brings an understanding of local cultures and cross-sectoral experience with non-profits, politicians, government officers, marketing, and PR.
Avantika is passionate about animal welfare and has been working on stray animal rescue in India since 2012. She is a keen climate activist and is also passionate about working towards livelihoods and criminal justice.
She holds an MSc degree in Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare, along with a BA degree in Psychology, English Literature, and Economics. Apart from this, she holds 2 certificates in Equine Behaviour and has been selected as a participant for the ClimateForce Leadership Expedition to Antarctica in March 2022.