Gift Social Entrepreneurship This Holiday Season

Submitted by: John Converse Townsend on 12/15/11

The holidays is the perfect time to join Ashoka in supporting remarkable social entrepreneurs who are changing the world one idea at a time.

Support outstanding people and their ideas by giving a gift that gives back, entrepreneurial style. From our editors, some ideas:

* Give insight. In 2011 alone, several books by Ashoka Fellows and staff have been published. Here are just a couple:

* Give bling (the kind that really sparkles!) An interactive bracelet, designed by Venezuelan designer Luis Pons, has two U-shaped magnets that, when joined together, read, “I am a Changemaker” and “Yo soy un Agente de Cambio.” For less than $20, you can sport the changemaking fashion; 100 percent of the net profits will benefit Ashoka’s Youth Venture.

* Give your old phone. Already planning to get a new phone yourself, or buying a new one as a gift? Give the old one to Ashoka Fellow Josh Nesbit’s organization, Medic Mobile. They’ll recycle the pieces and give working phones to health workers, improving the lives of millions. You’re not just giving a phone, you’re giving health care.

* Give handmade. Through Ashoka Fellow Alice Freitas’ ASTA, you can buy local artists’ creations, including everything from colorful pillows to stylish notebooks or gorgeous tote bags. (But alas, they only ship to Brazil!)

* Give a fair deal. You can find the Fair Trade items as you go about your shopping with the Fair Trade App from Ashoka Fellow Paul Rice’s organization. You can browse from home via their Facebook application to see the nearest Fair Trade products near you, or grab it from the iPhone  or Android shop now.

* Give cookies. Ashoka Fellow Alicia Leal’s organization produces Amaranth Miracles. Gluten-free cookies, made with love and wisdom by women for women. To order, send an email to

* Give power to young girls. By buying t-shirts, bracelets, and badges with “Girls are not for sale,” you support Ashoka Fellow Rachel Lloyd’s organization GEM Girls, in their fight to stop commercial sexual exploitation of young children.

Or perhaps everyone on your Christmas list already has everything they need. Want to show your kids that the best gifts can't fit under a tree?

* Give a rat. Oh yes, at HeroRat, founded by Ashoka Fellow Bart Weetjens, you can adopt a landmine-sniffing rat or a tuberculosis-sniffing rat as a gift. These highly trained rodents have saved lives all over the world, together with their locally trained handlers. The hard part will be deciding: should you name it Blossom or Cheeky?

* Give the gift of sight. Thanks to Ashoka Fellow Jordan Kassalow and Vision Spring, $100 will enable a female entrepreneur to launch her own business selling eyeglasses.

* Give livelihood. Ashoka Fellow Greg Van Kirk is applying the consignment model—in which a supplier gives a product to a retailer, who in turn sells it on commission—to meet critical needs, enabling individuals to make a secure living without having to take on the loans and risk common to starting small businesses. $40 buys a water purification bucket for a MicroConsignment entrepreneur in Guatemala.  

* Give to create a world where everyone is a Changemaker. You can donate directly to support Ashoka’s work at the site (

And that's just the beginning. The above gifts are a fraction of the many ideas you can support within the Ashoka community. Why not have your family try a pay-it-forward Christmas, with everyone investing the money that they'd usually spend on soon-forgotten gifts for a cause they love?

Happy Holidays!