Social Entrepreneurship: Building the Field

Ashoka has pioneered the field of social entrepreneurship, identifying and supporting the world’s leading social entrepreneurs since 1980. Social entrepreneurs are individuals with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social, cultural, and environmental challenges. They are ambitious and persistent — tackling major issues and offering new ideas for systems-level change.

“Social entrepreneurs are the essential corrective force. They are system-changing entrepreneurs. And from deep within they, and therefore their work, are committed to the good of all.”

- Ashoka founder Bill Drayton

Ashoka Fellows directly impact the lives of millions of people across the globe. They also provide examples, ideas, and insights that can serve as a roadmap in the new “everyone a changemaker” world.


By continuing to develop our expansive network of Fellows — providing financial, knowledge, and logistical support to more than 3,500 change leaders in 93 countries — Ashoka works to share the wisdom of leading social entrepreneurs with a global audience. Ashoka social entrepreneurs serve as role models and provide the how-tos that enable individuals, organizations, and whole societies to flourish in a world of rapid change.

Ashoka Venture and Fellowship
Ashoka's Venture and Fellowship program identifies the world’s leading social entrepreneurs through an intensive search process and selects them into our global fellowship of peers. Venture and Fellowship chooses Fellows based on the criteria of creativity, originality, entrepreneurial quality, ethical fiber, and social impact. With these qualities, Ashoka Fellows are leading the way to an everyone-a-changemaker world. The Fellows network includes more than 3,500 of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs, spread across 93 countries.

Ashoka Support Network (ASN)
Are you a professional? You can support our Fellows by joining the Ashoka Support Network, a global community of successful, innovative leaders from a variety of fields who see entrepreneurship as the primary engine for economic and social development. ASN members engage with Ashoka and Ashoka Fellows based on their interests and skills: ASN members participate in Ashoka Globalizer events, serve on advisory boards for Ashoka Fellows, attend local/regional retreats with members of the Ashoka community, assist Ashoka staff with institution-building efforts, and congregate at the ASN Global Summits. The network currently includes more than 350 members in 25 countries. To learn more about how members bring value to and benefit from the Ashoka network, email [email protected].

Are you a company? You can support Ashoka Fellows by collaborating in international training programs for our social entrepreneurs. Read more about the Ashoka Executive in Residence, Ashoka Changemakers, and Ashoka Globalizer programs .

Executive in Residence (EIR)
Through Ashoka's Executive in Residence program corporate executives work on-site with leading social entrepreneurs around the world for a period of two weeks to six months. During this time with the social entrepreneur, the executive tackles a challenge that is critical to the social entrepreneur’s ability to scale-up their impact. At the same time, by working with the world’s leading social innovators, the executives bring back lessons learned about new innovations, emerging markets, and leadership techniques. At the end of their on-site placement, the executive and social entrepreneur continue to collaborate virtually and gain the opportunity to create shared value partnerships for their organizations.

Ashoka Changemakers
Changemakers is an Ashoka program that rapidly accelerates the impact of social innovators’ work on critical social issues by building and nurturing networks of these leading changemakers. Ashoka Changemakers empowers these networks to ignite sweeping change in their fields. Changemakers has built a global network of hundreds of partners and more than 30,000 solutions from innovators in 200 countries by hosting more than 100 online challenges during the past decade with partners such as GE, Google, the Rockefeller Foundation, and many other innovating organizations. Follow us on Twitter: @changemakers.

Ashoka Youth Venture®
Youth Venture designs holistic strategies and experiential youth engagements that insert changemaking into the cultures of companies, schools and universities, and youth organizations. Youth Venture works with young people and partners to co-create tools and programs that help young people self-identify as changemakers and master critical pathways for thriving as changemakers, such as: empathy, collaborative leadership, team-of-teams culture building, and changemaking (creative problem solving). Visit Youth Venture online and follow on us on Twitter: @Youth_Venture.