Ashoka: Investing in Social Entrepeneurs

  • Posted on: 8 January 2008
  • By: Bryan Schaaf
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Social entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish, or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry. — Bill Drayton


I attended an interesting presentation today by Ashoka, an organization that supports individuals who apply their entrepeneurial skills to solve urgent social problems.  Since 1981, the organization has supported over 1800 entrepeneurs by providing them with stipends so they can focus on their social endeavor full time, receive professional support, and access to a wide network of mentors from sixty different countries who can provide guidance and feedback.  


Ashoka is not the sort of organization that would fund yet one more clinic or one more school.  They are interested in supporting established entrepeneurs who are developing innovative solutions that can be established locally and adapted to other countries. 


At present, the organization is supporting fellows throughout the world, including the Western Hemisphere and the United States.  There are many fellows in Washington DC where we are based.  Ashoka is presently raising funds to provide support to Carribean countries as well. 


We would be thrilled if Ashoka provided support for social innovation in Haiti. Haiti HAS developed innovative models that have benefited other developing countries.  The community based model for treating HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis developed by Partners in Health have been replicated in numerous countries throughout the world, for example. 


Criteria for being selected:

1) A New Idea

2) Creativity

3) Entrpeneurial Quality

4) Social Impact

5) Ethical Fiber (of the candidate)


Process for selection:

1) Nomination

2) Site Visit

3) Second Opinion Review

4) Selection Panel

5) Board Approval


Though the totak budget was only 67 million (2006), the organization punches above its weight. 93% of projects supported by Ashoka fellows have been replicated by other organizations.  56% have achieved changes in national government policy or legislation.  


Take a look at the website - you can sign up for newsletters, nominate fellows, become a mentor, or invest.  Country Specific Ashoka websites are also available in local languages. Were Ashoka able to support Haitian social entrepeneurs, it would certainly benefit Haiti.  And it could ultimately benefit other countries as well. 



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