Ashoka was founded in 1980 by Bill Drayton in Washington, D.C. Ashoka elected its first Fellows in India in 1981. Read more information about Ashoka's history.
Frequently Asked Questions
Ashoka has offices in 36 countries on five continents. You can find a listing of all of Ashoka’s offices here.
By learning from and collaborating with social entrepreneurs, Ashoka identifies patterns and key levers to help society gain a new framework that enables everyone to become a changemaker. Currently, Ashoka is building and activating networks to create fundamental changes in the growing up experience of children and young people so that they gain the outlook, skills, and opportunities to become a changemaker. The ideas of Ashoka Fellows today will point to the areas for greatest collective impact tomorrow. Ashoka is investing in the people and patterns of collaborative entrepreneurship that are critical to live in an everyone a changemaker world. Current Investments:
- Leading social entrepreneurs creating systems changing impact.
- Every child grows up practicing empathy.
- Every young person is practicing the skills of empathy, new leadership, teamwork, and changemaking.
- Society organizes as a fluid, open team of teams.
Read more about Ashoka's Strategic Focus Areas here.
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. They create value, whether through a social sector organization or a business, that sustains and spreads their solution. As Ashoka founder Bill Drayton says, "There is nothing more powerful than a new idea in the hands of a social entrepreneur."
Ashoka Fellows are the leading social entrepreneurs that Ashoka has recognized for their innovative solutions to social problems and their potential to change patterns across society. They demonstrate unrivaled commitment to bold new ideas and they prove that compassion, creativity, and collaboration are tremendous forces for change. Ashoka Fellows work in more than 90 countries around the globe in every area of human need.
If you know a social entrepreneur who is doing awesome work, or you are one yourself, we would love to hear from you. Learn how to recommend an Ashoka Fellow.
Ashoka was named to honor the Indian Emperor Ashoka, one of the world's earliest great social entrepreneurs. After unifying India in the 3rd Century B.C., Emperor Ashoka renounced violence and became one of history's most tolerant, global-minded, and creative leaders, pioneering innovations in economic development and social welfare. For his creativity, global mindedness, and tolerance, Ashoka is renowned as one of the earliest examples of a social innovator. The Sanskrit word Ashoka means the "active absence of sorrow."
A changemaker is anyone who is taking creative action to solve a social problem. They seek to create the kind of change that really matters: social change, or any other kind of change that can help people. Changemakers apply a sense of empathy for others, identify a specific problem or opportunity and give themselves permission to do something about it, and then use a combination of knowledge, resources, and determination to tackle it. Read more.
An everyone a changemaker world is a world where more and more people respond efficiently and imaginatively to social problems, and where each person has the confidence, skills, and support to drive change for the better. This world is both more resilient and more inclusive because each person—regardless of age or background—will play a role in shaping the future. This new paradigm has massive implications for how children grow up and learn, how cities organize for the future, how companies think about talent and strategy, how philanthropists think about impact, and how societies define success and development.
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