I Hope One Day to Become an Ashoka Donor Myself

If one organization has had a profound impact in Lumni´s evolution, that organization is Ashoka. When Ashoka crossed paths with Lumni and elected me a Fellow in November 2006, I had been working part time to implement my vision for five years and had succeeded in financing some 75 students. Ashoka gave me a stipend that allowed me to reduce the burden of my own student loans, cover my basic expenses, and fully dedicate myself to scaling Lumni. Ashoka also provided me with a range of valuable introductions, intellectual support, and a framework to better understand the nature of my work. Less than four years later, Lumni operates in four countries, manages 20 funds that have financed more than 2,000 students, and has created a very solid track record. Following this high growth trend, we project that Lumni will have financed a total of 10,000 students by early 2013. 

Most importantly, we believe that in the course of the next 10 to 20 years, Lumni will have led a global revolution, providing the resources for hundred or thousands and even millions of students to invest in their own human capital without asking for collateral or a cosigner.  Lumni's platform dramatically reduces students' risk by asking them to commit a small fraction of their income for a fixed period of time and providing them with coaching and services needed to reduce attrition and increase their opportunities to obtain the job or follow the career path of their choosing. I see a clear parallel between the work of Ashoka investing and supporting its fellows for success and the work of Lumni investing in and coaching its students who are, themselves, the young entrepreneurs and changemakers of the future.

I have long thought that it would be magnificent and would speak highly of our community if every Ashoka fellow, no matter how limited their financial situation, would give back to Ashoka at least a dollar, a peso, or a rupee per year. In most of the cases, whatever we give back will be a very small fraction of the value that Ashoka created when it invested in us so early in our work.  But over time, I'd hope this would help Ashoka continue to support new generations of entrepreneurs just as it supported each of us.

Last year I had the privilege to donate $200 to Ashoka. This year I will donate $2,000 through Lumni. Please note that this donation is not only mine, but is jointly made by all the people who have invested in Lumni. My goal is to continue donating to Ashoka every year.  I hope one day to reach and exceed the contribution needed to become an Ashoka Support Network member (or donor) myself. I will also be inviting several other fellows, specifically from Latin America, to give back to Ashoka, according to their possibilities.

Thank you again for your continuous support and encouragement.

This article was originally published on April 13, 2011
Related TopicsSocial enterprise, Business & Social Enterprise, Social Entrepreneurship

Author

Felipe Vergara
This story was submitted to the Ashoka 30th Birthday Card by Felipe Vergara, an Ashoka Fellow from Colombia since 2006

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