Al Etmanski

Ashoka Fellow
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Fellow Since 2002


This profile was prepared when Al Etmanski was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2002.
In order to enhance the quality of life and the security of disabled persons, Al Etmanski, who is based in Vancouver, B.C., is weaving a safety net that can withstand both the death of their care-giving parents and the unpredictable changes in government-funded support services. Its strength derives from secured networks of family and friends, increased financial independence, and avenues for true contribution and citizenship.
The New Idea
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person


Becoming an Ashoka fellow enabled Al to spread his original work at PLAN to more than 40 locations around the world. PLAN supports families prepare for the social and financial well-being of people with disabilities after their parents die. Al's leadership in creating the world's only disability savings plan, the RDSP, led to his focus on social innovation that spreads and endures. This paradox between short term success and long term impact is the topic of his latest book, Impact - Six Patterns to Spread Your Social Innovation.

In addition to his continuing work addressing the poverty and social isolation of people with disabilities, Al is curious about the role of culture (habits, attitudes, beliefs) in making the world a better place. He is interested in what unites us. For example, the omnipresence of natural caring for each other and our environment is a universal that transcends ideology and background. When he grows up he'd like to be a peacemaker.

Al blogs regularly at

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