George Roter

Ashoka Fellow
Toronto, ON, Canada
Fellow Since 2011

Citation

This profile was prepared when George Roter was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2011.
The New Idea
George is preparing Canadian citizens to engage with the broader world and become agents of change in international development assistance. By encouraging them to be “aware, care, prepare, dare, and share,” George plans to make all Canadians feel responsible for their government’s foreign assistance to developing countries, especially in Africa. With his organization, Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Canada, George has cultivated leaders across the country to be champions in their local communities, giving people diverse options to engage in the movement to make Canada a role model in global development. This open-ended approach allows for ideas to blossom organically, while also being strongly integrated with EWB Canada’s national strategy.

Engineers are at the crux of George’s idea, for he sees their technical expertise as having powerful potential to engage others in development. George first changes engineering curricula at universities to incorporate global development issues, which he has already achieved in half of the engineering schools around the country. He then instructs engineering students and professionals in tactics to rally other Canadian citizens into taking part in activities that can generate varying degrees of local and global impact, such as through purchasing habits, voting, civic engagement, and larger community mobilization. EWB Canada leaders undergo a rigorous selection and training process in alignment with the organization’s values, encompassing the tools to support their ideas and the entrepreneurial motivation to innovate in ways that are relevant to their local communities. With this approach, he has accomplished nationwide impact through a 50,000-member movement led by a network of thirty-four distinct chapters.

Harnessing this large-scale change in attitudes among the Canadian citizenry, George is working to influence Canada’s foreign aid on a public policy level. Employing methods from door-to-door campaigns to meeting with government officials, Members of Parliament and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), George has fostered a national dialogue with public and citizen sector partners about aid effectiveness. In doing so, George has raised a new consciousness and sense of responsibility among society by encouraging the education and participation of the Canadian public. He is transforming Canada’s social fabric by emboldening Canadians to take action and advocate for more meaningful and accountable foreign aid.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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