Since Ashoka’s founding in 1981, Venture & Fellowship has been the core of our work, developed and refined to identify leading social entrepreneurs with transformative ideas and provide them with the support and community they need to thrive. Ashoka’s role is to bet on these entrepreneurs at a key time in their trajectory when minimal resources have maximal leverage. In this way, year after year, we seed ideas that represent potentially groundbreaking paths forward for society. In the process we collect insights and spot patterns that guide the rest of our work and that enable our partners—and society at large—see with more clarity the direction the world is moving.
Many of the 230 U.S. Ashoka Fellows who have come through this process have gone on to get to get second and third-tier growth investments from major foundations and philanthropists as they scale nationally.
Our Fellows are:
- Building entirely new fields—like Participatory Defense—to give communities most affected by mass incarceration the avenues to influence the court process and case outcomes;
- Leveling the educational playing field via organizations like Donors Choose, Beyond 12 and the New Teacher Centre;
- Drafting legislation and changing policy at the state level—like the groundbreaking Domestic Worker’s Bill of Rights in New York and California—and at the federal level too, as Paul Reickhoff and his Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America were instrumental in the US Senate’s unanimous passing of the Clay Hunt Bill in 2015 to provide better help for veterans with serious mental health issues;
- Enabling millions to access critical benefits: Jennifer Pahlka’s Code for America used mobile technology to reduce the application time for California’s CalFresh nutrition program from 45 to 8 minutes;
- Shaping a more welcoming country via David Lubell’s Welcoming America, which reduces the barriers that immigrants face to fully participating and builds bridges between newcomers and long-time residents;
- ... and much more!
I have been constantly blown away by the generosity and vision of Ashoka. They have been unmatched as a thought partner, helping me and my organization to see connections in our work that transcend geographic boundaries and the usual discipline silos. And they have been unparalleled as a connector. My own experience as an Ashoka Fellow has been nothing short of transformational.- Jill Vialet, Ashoka Fellow and founder of Playworks