Bill Drayton is a social entrepreneur with a long record of founding organizations, bringing big change, and service. As a student, he founded organizations ranging from Yale Legislative Services to Harvard’s Ashoka Table, an inter-disciplinary weekly forum on how society truly works. After graduation from Harvard, he received an M.A. from Balliol College in Oxford University and his J.D. from Yale Law School. Over ten years at McKinsey & Company, he brought significant structural changes to policy and organizations. He also taught at Stanford Law School and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He served in the Carter Administration White House and as Assistant Administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency, where he launched emissions trading and many other lasting reforms. He launched Ashoka in 1981. He used the stipend he received when elected a MacArthur Fellow in 1984 to devote himself fully to Ashoka. Bill is Ashoka’s Chair and Chief Executive Officer. He is also chair of three other organizations; Youth Venture, Community Greens, and Get America Working!
Bill has won numerous awards and honors throughout his career. He has honorary doctorates from Yale, NYU, and others; and he is a Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford. He is a member of the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Council on Foreign Relations. He was selected one of America’s Best Leaders by US News & World Report and Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership. Other awards include the Yale Law School’s highest alumni honor, the National Wildlife Federation’s Conservation Achievement Award International; and the National Academy of Public Administration National Public Service Award.
Bill is an avid backpacker. He especially loves long, off trail, above the tree line immersions.
As Ashoka’s CEO, Bill brings history-based vision and a deep grasp of how things work to help Ashoka keep learning and keep changing big time so that it and its community can make the truly big contributions it can and must. He has overall management responsibility and, as one of three members of the Leadership Team, has special responsibilities for Purpose Teams (e.g. Young People, Climate), “Jujitsu” Partners and Metro Areas, Frame Change/Communications, organizational evolution, and Search/Talent.
(photo: (c) Yusuke Abe)
Will a World of Changemakers Be Ethical?
We now live in a world where everything is changing faster and faster and where each change ripples out and sparks more change. These are facts, not an opinion.
An everything-changing world must be an "everyone a changemaker" society.
The old game was efficiency in repetition. Everyone learned a skill, be it banker or barber, and repeated it in walled workplaces for a lifetime. This world is fast dying.
Many from this fading past haven't learned changemaking's complex skills and are being pushed aside. As are their kids. They are deeply angry.
A bidding war for changemakers and the dysfunction of hiring those without these skills is why income distributions are getting worse everywhere — and why poisonous us-versus-them politics is spreading.
Unless we ensure that everyone is a changemaker, we will be ever more bitterly, hurtfully divided.
However, how confident can we be that a world of powerful changemakers will be a good, ethical place?
Both the great religious prophets and science tell us that expressing love and respect in action is what brings happiness, health, and longevity. In the "everyone a changemaker" world that is now upon us, every aspect of society needs and helps everyone do so. A key part of being an effective team member in this team-of-teams world is to help all the other team members build this core strength.
People intuitively want this, and the "everyone a changemaker" society needs and will consistently encourage/insist on it. But people have to have the skill. That requires their learning how to get their mirror neurons ("I feel your pain" — the common definition of empathy) to mesh with their cerebral cortex and the lifelong work of consciously understanding the world of ever more numerous, interconnected, and fast-changing contexts.
Without this skill, you will hurt others and disrupt groups. With it, you can learn sophisticated teamwork, a very new type of leadership, and changemaking, the other three critical (learned) skills and become an everywhere-needed changemaker.
If we give all children this skill, they can have welcomed, needed lives expressing love and respect in action. Without it, they will, regardless of intent, hurt others and be marginalized.
A society of such givers/changemakers will be structurally, powerfully ethical.
It is also a world where, again structurally, people treat one another far more as equals.
And when everyone is an ethically-driven changemaker, and when changemakers know how to work together well in fluid, open teams of teams, there is no way the problems can outrun the solutions.
To deny any young person the growing-up opportunities to become a changemaker today is to deny them (and their family) a life. Economically, socially, emotionally, even in terms of health.
It denies them opportunity, hope, and dignity.
The world is doing this to many hundreds of millions of young people right now.
If we consciously knew what we are doing, it would be criminal.
(Read David Brooks' article in the New York Times: Everyone a Changemaker.)