How Ashoka is Making Everyone a Changemaker

Note: In honor of Social Venture Network’s 25-year anniversary, the network is inducting 25 of its most innovative and influential leaders into its hall of fame Nov. 13 at Gotham Hall in New York City. To recognize these sustainable business pioneers, SVN’s news program, ‘Sustainable Solutions,’ is interviewing the hall-of-famers to celebrate their accomplishments and learn what more needs to be done. Read the whole series here

When Bill Drayton envisions the future, he doesn’t see a small group of people holding the levers of power.

Instead, the Ashoka founder sees a world where people across the globe understand their ability to effect change and have the freedom and support to rise to the challenge.

“There is no possibility of problems outrunning solutions when everyone is a changemaker,” says Drayton, adding that empowering people to make change is the new wave of innovation.

“The key factor for success now is what proportion of your people are changemakers, at what level, and how good of a job you are doing at helping them to be changemakers in an open, fluid way.”

Ashoka’s mission has been helping create this transformative shift, since its formation 32 years ago.

That’s when Drayton saw the very beginnings of social entrepreneurship, a model where individuals and organizations working on social and environmental challenges adopt business tools to create sustainable impact.

Wanting to accelerate this opportunity, Ashoka became the network to help social entrepreneurs focus on changing systems. The organization identifies and invests in the top game-changing individuals knowing their disruptive work will lead to more innovation and changemaking by other players in the field.

Called Ashoka Fellows, these individuals are given the tools and resources they need to do their best work, including access to social financing, business and academic sectors and partnerships that deliver social and financial value.

Under this model, the fellows — whose work spans healthcare to technology — flourish.

Ashoka evaluates its impact and consistently finds that within five years, 76 percent of the fellows have changed national patterns in their field and 52 percent have changed national policy.

There are now more than 2,700 Ashoka Fellows in 70 countries.

It’s for these reasons Drayton is being awarded a Social Venture Network (SVN) Impact Award for his work as a Visionary Social Entrepreneur. SVN executive director Deb Nelson applauds Drayton and other social visionaries, referring to their innovation models as ahead of their time.

For Drayton who says SVN is a peer organization pursuing the same goals and ascribing to the same values, the honor is even more meaningful.

“When your close family hugs you, it means more than any other type of hug,” he says.

Drayton will join 24 other SVN Hall of Fame inductees at SVN’s Hall of Fame celebration Nov. 13.

This article written by is part of a Social Venture Network series featuring its Hall of Fame honorees.


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Vicky P.
Vicky P5 years ago


Mike L.
Mike L.5 years ago

I now have to read upon Ashoka :o) THANKS!

Linda T.
Linda T5 years ago

Good stuff but having seen what oil, gas, and coal did to the elctric car can we be sure that innovation is not going to be wiped out by large companies with lots of money and lots of political clout they frighten?

Duane B.
.5 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Deborah F.
Deborah F5 years ago

Good article.

Neal King
Neal King5 years ago

It would be informative if the article gave a few concrete examples of what Ashoka has accomplished.

Robert Hardy
Robert Hardy5 years ago

Good stuff.

David Nuttle
Past Member 5 years ago

I have followed the efforts of Ashoka for several years, and they are helping to make some positive social changes, worldwide.

Michael Kirkby
.5 years ago