Ashoka Helped Take Me from Lawyer to Social Entrepreneur

I approach this birthday card for Ashoka from an unlikely angle. I wasn’t the recipient of funding, technical assistance, or employment from Ashoka. I wasn’t part of any population served (notwithstanding the interconnectedness of all people). As a matter of fact, as a young attorney at Latham & Watkins, all Ashoka did was rather impassively heap piles of additional legal review and drafting on my already overflowing plate. 

But, in the course of my pro bono legal work for Ashoka, I increasingly realized that, even when severely under the gun to close a deal for a corporate client, I never took umbrage at receiving inconveniently-timed queries or requests from Dessa Del Porto, Joe Sinatra, Danielle Goldstein, or anyone else from Ashoka. I realized that, in spite of being understandably preoccupied, I found what Ashoka and its superlative cast of fellows and partners did utterly inspiring. And, as importantly, I realized I felt residual pride in my relationship to them. 

As a corporate attorney with a somewhat amorphous, long-term agenda of social impact, representing Ashoka breathed new life into what it could mean to commit myself to becoming an agent of social change. More succinctly, Ashoka got me unstuck. Each Ashoka engagement, whether collaborating with other thought leaders in social enterprise, structuring strategic partnerships with likeminded NGOs, or directly supporting fellows, exposed me further to a spectacular constellation of independent-thinking, talented and highly-motivated social entrepreneurs.

It was that irresistible pull, that uncorked vision of what is possible, that ultimately engendered my transition from Latham & Watkins to Indego Africa, from mighty law firm to grassroots social enterprise, from Wall Street to Rwanda, and from execution to innovation. 

So happy 30th birthday Ashoka and thank you for drawing me close and emboldening me to become a changemaker in every sense of the word.

This story was submitted to the Ashoka 30th Birthday Card.

This article was originally published on March 21, 2011

Author

Conor French
COO and CFO of Indego Africa and former pro bono outside counsel to Ashoka

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