It used to be that if you went to school and studied hard, you would get a job, buy a house and be a generally successful person. But the world is changing too fast now. Hierarchies are flattening, rules are constantly in flux and often in conflict, and the global information flow is rapid and ambiguous. We are seeing dramatic shifts in power from a few elite people and institutions to the crowd. Each of us has an unprecedented ability to change the world.
To harness and foster that power, we must master new skills (and break a few rules along the way). We must reorganize our schools, our workplaces, our communities. The question, of course, is “How?”
This is the guiding frame for the Ashoka Future Forum, taking place May 30-31, which will bring together 400 leading social innovators, business entrepreneurs, philanthropists and journalists to plumb the world’s biggest problems and strengthen emerging innovations in a world defined by change. These people are working with kids in foster care, scaling clean energy solutions, supporting juvenile justice, and building inclusive financial systems. They are leading organizations of all types—Fortune 100 companies (General Electric, Verizon, Intel), financial institutions (U.S. Bank, American Express, Deutsche Bank), philanthropic institutions (Knight Foundation, Rita Allen Foundation, Lemelson Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation), media (Washington Post, National Public Radio, Christian Science Monitor), and powerful citizen sector organizations (PeaceFirst, YearUp, Code for America).
This diverse and inspiring group of people will tackle questions such as:
- Can we create a new business-social ecosystem without any walls between the business and social sector?
- How should the news media consider its social impact?
- In a culture that increasingly relies on the digital arena to create connections, does geography and place matter?
- In a world where rules mean less and less, how do we collectively make decisions and work for social justice?
At its core, more important than the topics discussed, the Ashoka Future Forum will be about stories and about people.
People like Sarah Hemminger, who looked in the mirror one day and, instead of seeing the biomedical engineer she had trained to be, saw a person who could support children in poverty by redefining the roles of families and the communities they live in. And stories like Kendis Paris, who had the audacity to see that truckers have both the tools and the networks needed to end human trafficking.
Joining them will be June Cohen, who launched TED Talks (which now has more than 150 million viewers worldwide), and Asad Mahmood, whose vision for Deutsche Bank is “to be the investment bank for social capital.” Bill Draytonpioneered the entire field of social entrepreneurship, and Talia Leman discovered that if she could be a changemaker at age seven, then any random kid could be one, too—provided they’re empowered to become their biggest selves.
Yet these innovators, and all the others joining the Future Forum, each understand that they will never have the social impact they want unless they share their ideas, engage others in collaboration and continue to innovate. They are working to recruit more and more changemakers into their work, and thinking about how their work can create more and more changemakers for our world.
They have mastered the skills of the future and are pursuing radical visions with immense amounts of pragmatism. They know that each conversation, each connection, each business card opens up a possibility of creating a new future.
They know that we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. So let’s start acting like it.
Tune into Ashoka Conversations Online May 30-June 4:
The 2013 Ashoka Future Forum will bring together 400 of the foremost social innovators, business entrepreneurs, philanthropists and media to share their biggest problems and celebrate their most thought-provoking solutions. We will livetweet from the event with the hashtag #FutureForum May 30-31.
Also tune in for the online event about the Nutrients for All Competition on May 29 at 11:30am EST. We are hosting a twitter-based #SocEntChat on how we can go beyond “raising awareness” to create sustainable and innovative solutions for delivering nutrients. This topic will be highlighted and discussed amongst Ashoka Fellows and executives at the Ashoka Globalizer Summit in Frankfurt, Germany from which we will live tweet on June 3-4 with the #nutrients4all hashtag.
Editor's Note: This article first appeared on Forbes.