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One of the best ways to know our own ecosystem is by getting to know that of others. By doing so we are able to establish the differences and similarities that will enrich and empower us to generate new ideas that, in the long run, will help all of us to build the kind of world we dream of living in. 

I am proud to introduce the latest edition of the Social Innovations Journal dedicated to the unique ecosystem of Asia -- “Asia 2019: A Dynamic Social Innovation Ecosystem.” 

Social innovation practices have had considerable success in the West. Yet, what has social innovation looked like in the East during the course of the last year? 

To answer this question, we must understand the context of the region. Asia is not a homogeneous region and its diverse paths to democratization and industrialization imply a more complex approach to social innovation. 

Since the practice of social innovation is leveraged to tackle unmet social needs that cannot be solved solely by the government or certain stakeholders in a given society, a unique approach is required to solve today’s societal problems across Asia. 

The Hope Institute research team, with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation, has investigated how social innovation practices have been put into effect in Asian countries and how they have influenced its societies.1 This research strongly supports the core principle that “social innovation is neither context-free nor value-neutral”.2 

The Asian region includes about 50 countries all composed of a myriad of cultures, religions, and sociopolitical systems. The level of economic and democratic progress varies so much that it is necessary to create subregions similar to those in advanced economies (e.g. Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea).

Even though there has been considerable development through industrialization and modernization, these benefits have not been shared equitably to support sustainable development and the consequence of this is that the gap between poor and rich has widened. 

Social innovation in Asia has emerged as a response to growing challenges like the lack of resources, climate issues, aging populations, globalization, mass urbanization, among other pressing concerns. According to the Asian Development Bank, the Asia and Pacific regions have the dubious distinction of having the largest number of poor citizens (63 percent of the poor worldwide lived in this region in 2008). Many work for low wages in manual labor and lack access to education. They are further underserved by a lack of access to social welfare services and quality health care. This is exactly the fertile ground ripe for social innovations to emerge where the sharing of information, knowledge, financial resources, and technology offer the promise of creating a self-reliant economic ecosystem in a way that cannot be replicated in innovative ideas from western societies. 

Under these unique circumstances, it is important to highlight the special characteristics that are represented by the authors of this edition: 

1. Community empowerment summarizes an important characteristic of the Asian ecosystem, where trust, solidarity, and cooperation are key. People have realized that together they can obtain more, and better, solutions to their problems. In this sense, they build up an informal network by connecting the right person with a creative idea to those in need of this new idea that offers a solution to an existing concern. 

2. Social Entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurs have emerged to provide solutions to problems that are beyond the reach of the government or the market alone. They tend to fill in gaps in the social welfare system. The role traditionally performed by governments in welfare states is now owned by social initiatives. Many nonprofit organizations evolved into social enterprises to find better opportunities for self-financing and this change has encouraged the government to create policies to support the growth of this industry. As part of this change, young professionals who have worked in for-profit companies are moving into social venture and its related spaces. 

According to the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in the United Nations, a social enterprise can be defined as “an organization committed to explicitly including social and/or environmental returns as part of its core business while seeking profit or return of investment”.3 It is a concept that is not well understood and that should be promoted in other regions as they have proven the merits of solving social challenges with an appropriate business model that ensures sustainability. 

3. Intermediary actors (Ashoka, British Council Asian Social Ventures, universities, et al) have emerged to fill a void by connecting social enterprises with funding entities and are performing a counseling role to help social innovators through the process of finding their own sustainable economic model. 

The nonprofit sector has not been strong enough to lead partnerships alone, and some governments also lack strong governance. Under these constraints, Asian social innovation can be described and understood by the active role informal participants and their contributions to cross-sectoral collaboration play in leading the charge of this movement. 

4. Governance context: Many countries in Asia have weaker governance in part due to a low level of government transparency and accountability, which means that the government lacks the capacity to deal with societal problems. Although, according to studies from the United Nations’ Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, governments in the region are making efforts by implementing policies to encourage the foundation of a solid ecosystem for social enterprises and a positive climate for impact investment so that the private sector finds appealing opportunities to adopt social enterprises. Finally, the evaluation of these initiatives should be a top priority to establishing a system of best practices to better facilitate a positive climate for this ecosystem to not only be created but to thrive.

The result of all of this is that social innovation projects are crucial for Asia. The potential of social innovation to change the economic and social dynamic in Asia is huge.  

The articles included in this edition show this precisely in context of the work taking place at a grassroots level. They are making paradigm changes by replacing the culture of old and encouraging people, accustomed to traditional ways of solving problems, to take a leap of faith and embark on the journey to finding new ways of perceiving the problems as opportunities and to become active participants in leading the charge to these solutions to pave the way to build new lives and a brighter future. 

As a Latin American, I have been impressed by the courage, strength, discipline, and commitment of the authors of this edition who are the leaders of a new paradigm for the region of Asia. I feel honored to have had the opportunity to meet Mark, Lehui, Isabel, Arlin, Alvin, Stanley, Jane, and Awen and thank each of them for all that I have learned from them. I am very excited now to present their experiences and I hope they will impact your lives as much as they did my own. 


Works Cited

“Social Innovation Landscape in Asia”, the final report of the research conducted by the research team of the Hope Institute based in Seoul, 2013-14. Chapter 10 “Social Innovation in Asia: Trends and characteristics in China, Korea, India, Japan and Thailand”.

United Nations – ESCAP- Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. Strengthening implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the Asia-Pacific Region. “Policy approaches to Scaling Social Enterprise and Impact Investment in Asia and the Pacific”. Bangkok. March 2nd, 2017. 8 pages. 


1 This chapter was presented at the conference “Grassroots of social innovation practices in East Asia: held by the Australian National University and was revised by Dr. EunKyung Lee, research fellow in the Hope Institute. 

2 Idem

3 United Nations – ESCAP – Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. “Policy approaches to scaling social enterprise and impact investment in Asia and the Pacific”. Bangkok. March 2017.


Alejandra Navas is the Director of International Editions for Social Innovations Journal.


POPULATION HEALTH recognizes the challenges of incorporating social and environmental factors into health services. The current and increasing health care workforce gap and population inequities serve as multiple barriers to Universal Access and Equitable Health Care. The urgency to resolve population health issues is not new. However, in recent years there is an increasing awareness that the main stakeholders in the health sector, along with the community, should improve their contributions for greater quality, equity, relevance, and efficiency in health care delivery. To this end, a unity of purpose must link key health actors. To meaningfully mobilize talents and resources, a clear understanding and recognition of the role of all members of the health team and community, along with culturally sound best practices must be established.  

COMMUNITY HEALTH, prioritized by The Network: Towards Unity for Health (TUFH), focuses on effective approaches to serve and engage remote and rural, indigenous, migrants and refugees, women, and elderly populations. 

Remote and Rural Health experts consider that remote populations are smaller, more isolated, and more highly dispersed. Central political power is weaker in remote areas; the nature of economic activity varies between rural and remote areas; and socioeconomic disadvantage is higher. As a result, morbidity and mortality are generally worse in remote areas. There are also workforce supply problems and decreased access to health services in remote areas. Different models of service delivery have developed in response to these conditions. Remote areas rely more heavily on visiting services, with differences in the relative roles of health professionals. In remote areas there is a stronger emphasis on public health approaches. 

Indigenous populations, according to WHO, are communities that live within, or are attached to, geographically distinct traditional habitats or ancestral territories, and who identify themselves as being part of a distinct cultural group, descended from groups present in the area before modern states were created and current borders defined. They generally maintain cultural and social identities, and social, economic, cultural, and political institutions, separate from the mainstream or dominant society or culture.

Migrant and Refugee Health experts (WHO) indicate that more people are on the move now than ever before. There are an estimated one billion migrants in the world today of whom 258 million are international migrants and 763 million internal migrants -- one in seven of the world’s population. This rapid increase of population movement has important public health implications, and therefore requires an adequate response from the health sector. Ratified international human rights standards and conventions exist to protect the rights of migrants and refugees, including their right to health. Nevertheless, many refugees and migrants often lack access to health services and financial protection for health. The WHO Promoting the Health of Refugees and Migrants Draft Global Action Plan, 2019–20231 identifies six priorities:

  • Priority 1. Promote the health of refugees and migrants through a mix of short-term and long-term public health interventions;
  • Priority 2. Promote continuity and quality of essential health care, while developing, reinforcing, and implementing occupational health and safety measures;
  • Priority 3. Advocate the mainstreaming of refugee and migrant health into global, regional, and country agendas and the promotion of: refugee-sensitive and migrant-sensitive health policies and legal and social protection; the health and well-being of refugee and migrant women, children and adolescents; gender equality and empowerment of refugee and migrant women and girls; and partnerships and inter-sectoral, inter-country and interagency coordination and collaboration mechanisms;
  • Priority 4. Enhance capacity to tackle the social determinants of health and to accelerate progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, including Universal Health Coverage;
  • Priority 5. Strengthen health monitoring and health information systems; and
  • Priority 6. Support measures to improve evidence-based health communication and to counter misperceptions about migrant and refugee health.

Women Health experts (WHO) indicates that being a man or a woman has a significant impact on health, as a result of both biological and gender-related differences. The health of women and girls is of particular concern because, in many societies, they are disadvantaged by discrimination rooted in sociocultural factors. Some of the sociocultural factors that prevent women and girls from benefitting from quality health services and attaining the best possible level of health include: 

  • unequal power relationships between men and women;
  • social norms that decrease education and paid employment opportunities;
  • an exclusive focus on women’s reproductive roles; and
  • potential or actual experience of physical, sexual and emotional violence.

While poverty is an important barrier to positive health outcomes for both men and women, poverty tends to yield a higher burden on women and girls’ health due to, for example, feeding practices (malnutrition) and the use of unsafe cooking fuels (COPD).

Elderly Experts Health experts (WHO) indicate that populations around the world are rapidly aging. Aging presents both challenges and opportunities. It will increase demand for primary health care and long-term care, require a larger and better-trained workforce, and intensify the need for environments to be made more age-friendly. Yet, these investments can enable the many contributions of older people -- whether it be within their family, to their local community (e.g. as volunteers or within the formal or informal workforce), or to society more broadly. Societies that adapt to this changing demographic and invest in Healthy Aging can enable individuals to live both longer and healthier lives and for societies to reap the dividends. 

To ensure adults live not only longer but healthier lives, a Global Strategy and Action Plan2 on Aging and Health was adopted in May 2016 by the World Health Assembly. This Strategy focuses on five strategic objectives and is a significant step forward in establishing a framework to achieve Healthy Aging for all. It includes a call for countries to commit to action, and develop age-friendly environments. It also outlines the need to align health systems to the needs of older people, and the development of sustainable and equitable systems of long-term care. It emphasizes the importance of improved data, measurement, and research, and involving older people in all decisions that concern them.


POPULATION HEALTH: The UN High-Level Meeting (UN HLM) on Universal Health Coverage : “Universal Health Coverage: Moving Together to Build a Healthier World” seeks to integrate the “the entire health agenda under the umbrella of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and sustain health investments in a harmonized manner.” The objective is to raise awareness of the importance of investing in health workforce education that is oriented towards meeting the needs, as well as in tracking and assessing, the impact of education to ensure policies, strategies, and approaches are aligned and optimized to improving quality, relevance, equity, and cost effectiveness of health service delivery. Addressing the health workforce shortage, maldistribution, and performance challenges is essential for progress towards all health-related goals, including Universal Health Coverage. Furthermore, the health sector has the potential to be a driver of economic growth through the creation of qualified employment opportunities, in particular for women. There is growing recognition that CHWs and other types of community-based health workers are effective in the delivery of a range of preventive, promotive, and curative health services, and that they can contribute to reducing inequities in access to care.  

COMMUNITY HEALTH recognizes that effective approaches to serve and engage remote and rural, indigenous, migrants and refugees, women, and elderly populations, are often contrary to mainstream health policy, are often ignored, and not included, or recognized in global, national, regional policies and practices that inform mainstream practices.  


The beginning of moving global systems and policy change to local action starts with inspiring individuals and/or institutions through the sharing of ideas and success of others. Below outlines a three-step model, using network relationships as a strategy, to move global systems and policy recommendations toward local action. 

Step 1: Knowledge Sharing

The Network: Towards Unity for Health (TUFH) is serving as a platform to share and distribute best practices and success from countries around the world that have made progress in tackling and implementing ideas regarding Social Accountability and Population Health. The Network: Towards Unity for Health (TUFH), a non-state actor in official relations with WHO believes that relationships are not only between organizations, but between people based around common interests. These relationships are not static, but rather grow and develop from new members and future generations. A key element of The Network: TUFH is that it is not an insular organization. It is an ever evolving and inclusive network that embraces other organizations that are striving to create educational best practices, share community health approaches, and partner on research to develop the evidence for what works.

The articles on Population and Community Health contained in this edition represent case studies and success stories. Through the sharing of ideas and stories we inspire others to consider adoption and adaptation of the ideas and model for local change. 

Step 2: Building Local Capacity 

The road to global adoption and implementation is long and arduous. TUFH believes that the sharing of knowledge in the form of research and implementation best practices leads to inspiring local change agents to take action. Once inspired, local change agents can be supported by international and peer-to-peer policy and system change leaders and institutions whose primary role is to build their capacity and provide continual support and adaptation. 

Building the capacity of local change agents takes the form of introducing a systems and policy change framework, providing formal opportunities to adapt the framework for a local context strategy, and providing continual support and adaption by and with other change agents across the globe. Networks, such as TUFH, being independent of local actors serve in the capacity of a convener and filling any knowledge gaps that might exist to create a culture that is supportive and learning based.  

Step 3: Replication

The third step of moving global systems and policy change toward Universal Health and Equitable Health Care is to ensure there are community-to-community sharing platforms. As one community innovates and/or experiences success, networks such as TUFH, must ensure this knowledge is communicated and shared to other communities who have similar goals. Related to Population and Community Health, below outlines two examples for local replication via model adoption. S i

  1. Local actors adopt, adapt, and implement the successful integration of Community Health Workers into the Health Care Team. 
  2. Local actors inspired by successes in serving and engaging remote and rural, indigenous, migrants and refugees, women, and elderly populations in other countries adopt, adapt, and integrated them into their own systems. 


To bridge the gap between good intentions and government or institutional transformations, organizations such as TUFH must continue to serve as the link and connector between global policy organizations and local change agents such as policymakers, institutions, and associations who are doing the work on the ground. The work of TUFH and similar organizations continues to foster dialogue, build global consensus, grow the capacity of local change agents, and create platforms for knowledge to be shared and distributed. Collectively, we can change healthcare, but we first have to change the conversation.







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The World finds itself ad portas of a new era. The massive diffusion of digital technologies and complex systems combining hardware, sensors, data storage, microprocessors, and software are changing the nature of products, altering value chains, transforming political, economic, and social structures at a global scale, more quickly than in other periods of history. These changes have been causing a breakdown within the actual life model, leading to the current digital era.  

According to a report by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean CEPAL, it is expected that for 2020, the broadband speed will be doubled, the number of devices connected to the IP network will be three times bigger than the world’s population, and the total number of smart phones will represent about the 50 percent of global connections and devices.1

This context presents new scenarios: Robots and automatized learning and the substitution of job positions with repetitive tasks; new ways of production requiring digital skills, and the development of specialists to create and manage new production systems, on one side. On the other side, new scenarios of competition for companies with the imperative necessity to increase productivity through innovation.  

The immediate circulation of information has led to the emergence of social media that connects people and communities that could not otherwise connect, and with that, they produce a flow of information that is becoming a fertile ground for social changes.  

In the words of Sheryl Sandberg, COO de Facebook: “Technology puts a name and a face -- a true identity -- to those that were invisible before and gives sound to voices that otherwise could not be heard.” 2 

This situation has caused technology hubs, incubators, and laboratories working all around the world to enable knowledge and adaptation to situations that should be considered opportunities to think out of the box, outside of comfort zones where the same solutions are being used to solve social and economic problems that require different solutions.  

It is precisely at this point that the mission of the Social Innovations Journal acquires special importance, by giving visibility to these new ideas that will resonate and become examples that will generate new ideas that will solve social problems on a global sclae. Collaboration is key, and technology causing this change, will also be the instrument to face these challenges and enable all of us to adapt to this new era.  

In this edition, we will focus on the articulation of Technology and Social Innovations in Latin America.  

 TEPSIE, the acronym of Theoric, Empiric, and from Policies Foundations for the Social Innovation Construction in Europe, provides a definition of Digital Technology in social innovation as the “use of Information, Communication, and Technology (ICT) such as online network and other digital tools to support and/or allow the social innovation.” 3 

According to this definition, social innovation is being improved by the use of ICT. This does not mean that in all the social innovations the final user and the beneficiaries are going to use digital tools to meet their needs and solve their problems, but to perceive technology as a tool that, used in a certain way by one of the actors or in a particular moment of the development process of the social innovation, will support, improve, and/or allow the searched social change.  

This means that digital technology: 

  • is an important support for existing social innovations because it allows them to have better results in terms of performance and efficiency; 
  • allows the emergence of new types of social innovation producing new impacts and opportunities through having access to the required information to develop and facilitate new forms of collaboration seen as a dynamism in communications between the stakeholders; and  
  • can modify in a significant manner the structures and type of governance in a society and set new social and business models that were not possible before, since it fosters new different production process, value chains and organization models. 

Thus, it can be said that digital technology is producing a change of culture that modifies the relationships between people and changes the approach of problems and their solutions. Understanding the cultural context, is then fundamental to designing social innovation projects and to adapting them to the present reality.  

The challenge lies in answering the question of how science, technology, and innovation can contribute to development and how to achieve participation in global growth from the perspective of sustainability and social, environmental, and economical inclusion. 

Latin American Summary 

Latin America is a continent of contrasts. According to a report made by the CEPAL during the Open Forum of Latin American and the Caribbean Sciences held on September 20164 it is a region that on one side, is focused on the production and exportation of products from natural resources with low added value, and, on the other side, there continues to be a low level of investment in science and technology. In addition, while industrialized countries have preeminence of private financing for research and development issues, in Latin America, this financing is essentially from public institutions. Companies in the region are deficient in supporting research and development and most of them prefer to import technologies and adapt them to their needs.  

The New Objectives of Sustainable Development and the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development presents additional challenges for the region given the necessity to reach a certain level of economic growth, social inclusion, and environmental sustainability. 

In fact, according with the CEPAL’s report, the indicators of efforts in innovation and access to technology are not positive:  

  • The capacity for the region to absorb the new technological paradigms and participate on their creation is still weak. 
  • The implementation of policies and agendas on research are timid.  
  • There is a lack of articulation of capacities and opportunities in science, technology, and innovation to optimize a sustainable development. 
  • There is an important need for public policies that will generate inclusive and sustainable development processes based on science, technology, and innovation.  
  • Micro and small companies represent the biggest percentage of participation in the region’s production and nonetheless have several problems in accessing appropriate credit, they do not have capacity to support innovation, and absorption of new knowledge due to low contact with other companies. There are a lot of start-up projects that, for different reasons, cannot succeed and scale for lack of financing and dependency on ever demanding philanthropic sources. 

According to recent predictions, it is expected that, in the developed countries, the technological change will produce more than 5.1 million losses of positions between 2015-2020. This scenario is tough for countries experiencing bigger population growth without the needed skills for the new challenges, as well as inappropriate and lacking institutional framework to respond to these changes.  

The global technological dynamics show that competitivity and growth of countries will depend increasingly on their capacity to integrate the global digital ecosystem. This ecosystem will push them to improve their infrastructure, the human capital, and the entrepreneurial environment, define the world’s standards, regulate the data flow, protect intellectual property rights, and defend the safety and privacy of users.  

In a study of about 100 initiatives of digital social innovations that are transforming Latin America conducted by the ESADE ( Upper School of Administration and Management of Enterprises), University Ramon Llul and the Institute of Social Innovation, consider the subject of digital social innovation  regionally is starting to have an important impact especially in the sectors of education, health, and financial inclusion, allowing, in general, measurement of social impact; a better understanding of people’s behaviors through tools like big data analysis; connection between actors that usually would not be connected; and the scalability and replicability of social innovations. The study also shows that some countries in the region are perceived as having more advances, such as Chili who is having a more consolidated innovative and entrepreneurial ecosystem, Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia with dynamic ecosystems and intermediaries that are supporting social innovations, and Argentina with a promising future thanks to the high number of B certified companies.  

Final Considerations 

In general, it can be affirmed that technology is pushing the region to adopt, own, and implement social impact as a necessary tool to support and improve innovation projects promoting  sustainable social impact, not only to position itself in the international economy but, also, to face new problems arising in the present digital world. 

It is essential for the region to analyze opportunities and challenges arising because of the digital economy. It requires the development of new skills to work with technology to solve problems rather than seeing it as a threat that would replace humans.  

To close the productivity gap between Latin America’s countries and developed countries, it is necessary to incorporate technology in the productive process and articulate it with the development objectives of the countries. Inasmuch as there has been progress in this matter, the only way to accomplish this is by creating more fair and inclusive societies. For that, two essential aspects should be considered:  

On one hand, a change of perception is needed. A cultural change through which the innovative way of thinking is promoted in order to encourage people to think “out of the box,” look for new solutions and new ways of approaching problems, and to use technology as a tool at service of their creativity. In other words, being aware of the necessity to promote research, and the development of new skills, required not only to adapt technologies coming from abroad to the regional context, but specially to create it locally.  

On the other hand, collaboration. It is clear that the articulation of private sector, public sector, civil society, and academia is essential to support, develop, and scale social innovations in a framework of relevant public policies that are consistent with the population’s needs. 

Finally, I would like to highlight a proposal made by the CEPAL concerning the necessity to enhance actions of regional cooperation. The region faces similar challenges and problems and a joint effort to boost a digital economy only represents benefits for all. 

In this sense, I would like to introduce the subjects developed in this edition:  


INTERPRETA Foundation: The Use of Technology in Humanitarian Work

Bastián Díaz

The Foundation was born in 2016 in Santiago, Chili, as an answer to problems of the migrant communities in Chili, a growing issue in recent years. Moving away from assisting solutions such as delivering breakfasts or giving Spanish courses to Haitians, the Foundation prefers to position itself as an example of innovation by using tools of the corporate world and technology to solve problems related to immigration issues. 


Local Innovation Ecosystems to Strengthen Agroecology in Colombia: The Preliminary Case of LabCampesino of Tierra Libre's Organization

Juan David Reina and Julián Ortiz

The use of digital technologies based on free hardware to contribute to the promotion of groecology isa in itself an innovative idea. However, it is the process of social owning of science, technology, and innovation in the rural sector and specially from the rural population, which creates disruptive conditions facing the traditional practices of technological transfer. In this sense, the article presents the progress and opportunities that are creating the Tierra Libre Project and, in particular, its initiative of LabCampesino that aims to strengthen a social innovation’s ecosystem and to promote agroecological practices in the rural population of the province of Sumapaz, Colombia. 


The Social Innovations Scientific Park

Paula Estefanía Castaño

The Minuto de Dios Organization (MDO), created by Father Rafael García-Herreros in the second half of the 20th century, has focused its efforts on service to society as the driving force of each of its entities; these, always seeking to respond to social problems in Colombia in various aspects such as health, housing, education, and others. And it is thanks to this approach, that in 2012 the work of the Social Innovation Science Park (SISP) begins as a commitment to social innovation responding to social needs. In this, we will take a closer look at how the SISP came about, what it is, how it works, and its impact.


MPZero: Sustainable, Affordable, and Clean Heating Available for Everyone

Ricardo Soto

Every winter, the air pollution caused by the combustion of biomass for residential heating is one of the biggest environmental problems suffered by the cities of South-Central Chile. Because the use of wood-burning stoves is the most affordable heating method, it remains today, despite its negative environmental implications, the most used tool by the population of Chile, despite causing serious health problems in the community, especially for children and the elderly. MPzero is a device for reducing emissions of fine particulate material, developed in Chile, which captures up to 97 percent of the emissions produced by this heating equipment, helping to keep the air clean and heating costs low for families who do not have access to heating methods that produce less pollutions.


Leadership Profile: Martha Leticia Silva

María Alejandra Navas 

The leader of tomorrow is humble and authentic, curious and sensitive, flexible to learn new things and adapt easily to changes. It is someone who does not give up and versatile enough to consider differences as opportunities for growth,  

I met Martha Leticia Silva Flores during a social innovation event organized by the CISAI, Center of High Impact Social Innovation, in Jalisco, Mexico last June. She is its director and the impression that she made when we met, and what I was able to learn about her in just a few days’ time, convinced me to write about her as a leader of tomorrow.     


Connecting Points: Intelligence on Field to Solve Social Problems

Iván Yza

Facing the search for the democratization of the media and the need to access new technological tools to allow for the solution of problems related to transparency and accountability, most of which we know little to nothing about their functioning or how to put them in operation, Virk came into existence in 2014. Virk had a clear objective: to create tools that will allow organizations to innovate in issues like the systematization and documentation of information in low-cost and user-friendly, simple ways. This enabled Virk to become a channel for innovations and avoid restrictions that most users have facing new technologies, and to develop the first tools for reports and documentations in Mexico and Latin America.


1 CEPAL-NACIONES UNIDAS. Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación en la Economía Digital. Septiembre 2016. 

2 Patricia Morizio. Huffington Post. Febrero 2013. 

3 Jeremy Millard, Gwendolyn Carpenter. Digital Technology in Social Innovation. 



Works Cited

“How Tech Can Maximize Social Impact.” Kevin Barenblat July 6, 2017. Stanford Social Innovation Review

“Two of a Kind: Where Technology Meets Social Innovation.” Patricia Morizio. Feb 11, 2013. Huffington Post.

Digital Technology in Social Innovation, A Synopsis. November 2014.

TEPSIE: Acronym of The Theoretical, Empirical and Policy Foundations for Building Social Innovation in Europe. Research project founded under de European Commission’s 7th Framework Programme 2012-2014. Authors: Jeremy Millard, Gwendolyn Carpenter.

Esade Universidad Ramon LLUL. Instituto de Innovacion Social. “La Revolución Digital ante los Grandes Retos del Mundo” 100 Iniciativas de Innovación Social Digital que están transformando América Latina. Autores Heloise Buckland, Alejandra Garmilla, David Murillo. Martha Leticia Silva Flores. Junio 2018. 

“Ciencia, Tecnolofia e Innovacion en la Economia Digial: La Situacion de America Latina y El Caribe.” Sept. 2016 -- CEPAL .“Políticas de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación Sustentable e Inclusiva en América Latina. Isabel Bortagaray. Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la Educación, Ciencia y la Cultura UNESCO. 2016. Cilac -- Foro abierto de ciencias latinoamericanas y Caribe. 

“Ciencia, Tecnologia e Innovacion en la Economia Digital La Situacion de America Latina y El Caribe.” Cepal – Naciones Unidas. Segunda Reunion de la Conferencia de Ciencia, Innocacion y Tic de la Cepal. Sept. 2016. 






Ashoka launched the field of social entrepreneurship in 1980, and today it is the largest global association of social entrepreneurs. This article provides an overview for the journal issue that focuses on insights from Ashoka’s Global Impact Study of its network of social entrepreneurs with the following 10 articles ranging from regional, gender, sector, and subject matter analyses. Over the last decade, new technologies have enabled transformations in communications, media, and financial systems that have accelerated the pace of change and radically opened new means for citizen participation. In this context, social entrepreneurship has become a globally recognized practice, welcoming corporate, university, and government participation in the movement previously dominated by the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. This article summarizes pioneering insights of Ashoka that serve as the foundation for the field, and it updates our thinking on the impact of our Fellows based on evidence from our most comprehensive survey of our global network of 3,500 social entrepreneurs in 92 countries. These data confirm the core framework for Ashoka's current vision of realizing an Everyone a Changemaker world. 

Social Entrepreneurship is Transformative: Scaling it to Address New Challenges Requires an Everyone a Changemaker world 

By any measure, the idea of social entrepreneurship as a way to spread effective social change for the good of all, and to address the world’s most pressing problems, has been successful. It is not an overstatement to say that, since Bill Drayton coined the phrase in the early 1980’s, social entrepreneurship as a movement has been deeply influential in philanthropy, academia, major global corporations, government, and other institutions. Consider:  

  • Entire publications such as this journal and Stanford Social Innovation Review, among others, are devoted to social entrepreneurs’ solutions that are working. The New York Times’ weekly on-line column “Fixes” by David Bornstein, and the organization he founded, Solutions Journalism, continue to engage journalists and practitioners to report on systems-changing solutions that are working to move the needle on previously entrenched social problems. And social entrepreneurs themselves are writing books each year to tell their inspiring stories of how change happens. 
  • Governments are looking to social entrepreneurs for new policy ideas and for transformational leadership. In the United States, we saw the establishment of the White House Office of Social Innovation and the Social Innovation Fund. In the European Union the Social Impact Fund was created, and the United Kingdom led the way in the developing the concept of social impact bonds. 
  • The World Economic Forum and the Skoll World Forum regularly feature social entrepreneurs and their ideas. More corporate CEOs are finding that working with social entrepreneurs and young changemakers fuels their ability to see the future differently (See Mourot in this issue.) 
  • In the last 15 years, universities have moved from offering courses in social entrepreneurship and innovation to degree programs and Centers of Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship. In addition, university presidents, provosts, and donors understand that these programs offer critical opportunities to prepare the next generation of leaders. Students gain a competitive edge in participating in these offerings, and universities are adding them as a means to recruit the best and brightest. 
  • Finally, the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Mohammed Yunus has been followed by subsequent Nobel awards to Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi in 2014 -- all three social entrepreneurs with systems-changing ideas. Many other prizes, including the MacArthur, Goldman Environmental Prize, Skoll, Echoing Green, and Schwab all feature social entrepreneurs. Foundations large and small, including MasterCard, Gates, Ford, MacArthur, and Rockefeller, have all given awards or grants to social entrepreneurs.

Early on Ashoka estimated that only one in 10 million individuals has a systems-changing vision and the lifetime personal commitment to realize that vision. Meanwhile, the rate of change in the world is simply increasing too fast for the relatively few numbers of social entrepreneurs to tackle alone the challenges we are facing and the ones we will be facing soon. The old world is crumbling, and we need to quickly retool for what is coming. Rapid technological change, in creating mistrust of our national and global institutions, fraying (and in many cases tearing) of the postwar consensus on overarching social values such as tolerance, rule of law, liberalism, and even truth itself, the exponential rise of artificial intelligence, ethnic, and other nationalisms -- not to mention the growing existential threat to the human race of climate change --  will soon create a world characterized by a “new inequality.” The long-standing inequalities of wealth, race, gender, geography, education, and social status will persist, but they will be overlaid by a new inequality between individuals, institutions, communities, and nations that have the ability to drive the changes that are coming and those that will be steamrollered over by it. If we under-stand its dimensions and seize the opportunities it creates, this new framework can be a vital tool for addressing these long-standing inequalities in a transformative way. 

Therefore, we need to build the specific skillset of every individual to be able to function in a world of constant change, what Ashoka calls the Everyone a Changemaker world -- a world where every young person masters the skills of empathy, leadership, teamwork, and changemaking, and where every individual has the ability to identify social problems and create positive change.  

In the pages that follow, we glean key insights and themes that have emerged based on the experience of Ashoka Fellows, our network of social entrepreneurs, over the past 40 years. The articles in this volume plumb the data gathered in an extensive study comprised of survey and interviews conducted by Ashoka over the past several months and validated by LUISS University in Rome. The results present a rich portrait of the ways in which Ashoka Fellows have learned what it takes to thrive and succeed in rapidly changing contexts. More importantly, the data show us how they act as role models to inspire others to see that change is possible, and how they grow others’ changemaking skills by offering a myriad of roles for many more to participate in the change process.    

Social entrepreneurs are the critical ingredient in the changemaking ecosystem. Their experience and their example are precisely what informs the conclusion that we need to build an Everyone a Changemaker world. In every field and geographic context, their innovations chart the how-to steps for stakeholders ranging from policymakers to social activists and university faculty. Their continued participation is vital to achieving that goal and once again to help us see what comes next. Accordingly, I want to focus briefly on Ashoka’s history and the evolution of our movement to further set the context for the results of this study.

Building the Field of Social Entrepreneurship

Social entrepreneurs are the driving force of Ashoka’s past, present, and future. Yet, their role in Ashoka’s journey has evolved over time. Ashoka’s pathway for building the social entrepreneur-ship movement is comprised of four main stages. In the first stage, in the 1980’s, Ashoka focused on defining the qualities of truly leading social entrepreneurs and proving the concept that investing in them was an efficient way to generate large-scale impact. At the time, the term “social entrepreneur” did not even exist in the public lexicon. Ashoka demonstrated with example after example that social entrepreneurs have existed across history, cultures, and geography, and therefore that the concept had resonance globally. The name “social entrepreneur” offered an identity and the community we call “The Ashoka Fellowship” -- the world’s first professional association of social entrepreneurs -- was designed to support these individuals’ ability to persist in their changemaking for the good of all.1 It is in this stage that Greg Dees pioneered the academic field first at Yale School of Management then with the first known course on social entrepreneurship at Harvard Business School. Dees later launched the Center at Stanford Business School and then the Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Duke Business School in 2001. In this same period Jed Emerson began writing on social enterprise, a different endeavor. Even today social enterprise gets confused with social entrepreneurship -- see Ganz, et al 2018.2 (Osberg and Martin’s article from 20073 is the definitive discussion which Zakaras adds to in his 2018 response to Ganz,’ et al.4 Zakaras agrees with Ganz that social enterprise is not necessarily social change, then makes the important distinction that social entrepreneurship is not the same as social enterprise.)

In the second stage, new proven solutions created demand for new philanthropic models to spread what works. Ashoka’s work inspired other organizations and investors. In the 1990’s, Ashoka spread from its initial work in South and Southeast Asia to Latin America, Africa, and Central Europe. We shared our learning with Echoing Green, Omidyar, Skoll, and Schwab, all of whom were looking for highly leveraged ways to invest in big change. They, along with others, listened and added enormous fuel to the movement in the form of ideas, funding, and visibility through numerous collaborations and touch points with Ashoka’s team, its Fellows, and its broader network contributing to an ecosystem of support for social entrepreneurs. This phase of knowledge sharing spurred a kind of “wholesale” replication of the concept of social entrepreneurship where many organizations began independently replicating both financial and non-financial support to social entrepreneurs. Within Ashoka’s network, it was very early 1990 that we first recognized how social entrepreneurs were offering new roles to young people and others as changemakers5 and that doing so was key to spreading their ideas and social change efforts. And we built ties to the Corporate sector to bring added resources and ideas, as well as to expose this sector to the commitment and creativity of social entrepreneurs. 

By the early to mid-2000’s, stage three was underway. We continued to expand geographically to new regions including Western Europe and the Middle East. Social entrepreneurship as a field was catapulted into a new level of awareness in the world by David Bornstein’s seminal book, How to Change the World, which featured the work of Ashoka and many of its Fellows and has been translated into more than 30 languages. Ashoka’s recognition that our social entrepreneurs offer roles to young people and others to grow their changemaking muscles inspired Ashoka to launch our Youth Venture and Changemakers competitions as new ways to spread these ideas globally with partners on multiple continents and representing a wide variety of fields. And new geographies brought new innovations to our network that then spread globally. For instance, the Ashoka Support Network founded by an Ashoka staff member in the United Kingdom now has members from around the global who engage directly with social entrepreneurs to support their work. And university professors and administrators asked for advice to answer demand from students asking for resources which we answered with Ashoka’s network of Changemaker Universities and Ashoka U. 

By the late 2000’s, Ashoka built a robust global network of leading social entrepreneurs. Follow-ing our Fellows’ examples, Ashoka invited other changemakers to join us. We could see how social entrepreneurs practice a new style of leadership that enables everyone to lead -- that their constant iterative engagement with the people involved in the issues they seek to solve puts “beneficiaries” in the role of co-creator and collaborators. Ashoka Fellows serve not only as role models for those who want to make positive change in the world, but also actively recruit changemakers to get the work done and ensure it endures. Through the lens of our Fellows, we saw the world differently: one where each and every person has the power to drive change. And the way they do so is by practicing empathy, new leadership, teamwork, and changemaking. This is what an Everyone a Changemaker world looks like. 

Today, social entrepreneurs have both a name and a recognized place in society. Ashoka’s pioneering role in building the field and creating the largest association of social entrepreneurs --Ashoka Fellows -- has directly served millions around the world. But beyond that, countless more have spread their ideas thanks to the numerous pathways Ashoka’s ideas and work has created for investors, partners, and influencers to contribute to the broader social good. In this fourth stage Ashoka continues to invest in finding and supporting a growing number of Ashoka Fellows, adding more than 100 per year and bringing them into our expanded network of change leaders. Ashoka benefits from the opportunity to constantly be looking for the cutting edge social innovations globally, with teams on the ground in 38 countries whose role is to do just this. As a result, Ashoka has a unique bird’s-eye view not of problems but solutions -- a sort of epidemiologist for solutions sets. Across fields and geographies, we see a common pattern: Social entrepreneurs close inequality gaps by cultivating changemakers to continue to advance a world in which everyone is a changemaker. (See Wells and Sankaran 2016 for examples of our social entrepreneurs employing and building these skills in their own institutions and movements).6  

Measuring Impact 

From its beginning Ashoka has sought to understand the what and how of its Fellows’ impact and how Ashoka can best support them and change for the good of all more broadly. In 1998, Ashoka launched a periodic study of our social entrepreneurs’ impact to see if those in our network were having the quality of impact our selection process was designed to produce. We also sought to understand what kind of impact Ashoka’s efforts had on their work. Doing so required designing a study to measure systems change. We began to track independent replication; policy change, and persistence as approximate measures of systems change and to test how our network was faring against these measures. In 2006 we published an article in ARNOVA about this re-porting system and the pattern that our findings over several years revealed.7 A lot has happened over the last two decades since we started: social entrepreneurship has become a globally recognized practice, and we have seen radical changes in new technology fueling revolutions in finance and communications-media which have accelerated the pace of change as well as enabled broad citizen participation. New sectors have joined the movement. Our own network of Fellows has more than doubled since 2006, and as a result we continue to learn about the how-to of social change across 92 countries and all fields of social need. Based on what we have learned over this time, our strategy has evolved and while consistent measures do offer an important perspective on patterns over time, our understanding of impact has also evolved as we learn what members of our network are doing. 

While speaking to groups I have frequently gotten the question from skeptical audience members asking me to name one social entrepreneur who has “really scaled.” While there are similarities between the business entrepreneur and the social entrepreneur there is also a fundamental difference: The social entrepreneur is motivated to ensure that the solution is in the hands of the people who need it. For them, therefore, success is determined by idea spread, not by size of budget, staff, nor shareholder earnings.8 In our most recent study only 12 percent of those surveyed re-ported that their sole revenue was from the sale of products and services. One can imagine a radically different sized budget number needed to account for return on investment to account for all the resources expended by external entities which independently replicated the idea. My favorite example to illustrate this is Florence Nightingale. Nightingale is largely credited with creating the nursing profession, it was during her work with soldiers in the Crimean war where she recognized soldiers were dying due to infectious disease rather than wounds and introduced radical changes. Nightingale did build a nursing school but had no marketing machinery or branding crediting her with the idea; there were no shareholders whom she made wealthy. And yet her ideas around infectious disease control, hospital epidemiology, and hospice care revolutionized the medical industry and remain relevant today even in the face of radical advances in medicine and the extraordinary rapid changes in technology and social life in the last century since she left us.9

Unlike business, there still is no uniform standard for social impact. David Bonbright’s Keystone concept of “constituent voice” made an important contribution even before the technology and media revolutions which provided the rocket fuel enabling the widespread business practice of today bombarding customers with requests for customer feedback.10 Constituent voice, however, recognizes that customer feedback and program delivery satisfaction are very different from measures of long term social change which may be invisible or horribly uncomfortable for those experiencing needed changes for the good of all.  

Ashoka’s latest view of impact has also sharpened and is articulated in the chart below. While many organizations in the sector expend vast resources to count direct service -- relatively few have focused on how to assess system change or framework change.11 Ashoka has been focused on system change since the 1990’s and today, also on measuring framework change. 


What Does the Evidence Say?

This journal issue highlights some of the data from our global study, supporting our strategy, our programming and, I hope, the field more generally.  

In 2018 more than 850 Ashoka Fellows from 74 countries took part in a Global Fellows Study designed to understand their impact as well as the role Ashoka has had in contributing to that impact. We do not know of a more diverse database of social entrepreneurs in the world. 

The paragraphs which follow present a summary of some of the results; please find a more in-depth analysis of our findings in the articles to follow in this issue (referenced below).

The Data Set Represents a Diverse Group of Fellows in Various Sectors and Geographies

Of the 858 responses, 42 percent were women, 57 percent were male, and one percent identified as “other gender identity.” This distribution is representative of Ashoka’s overall network. The respondents focus on a wide variety of population groups including people living in poverty (55 percent), women (48 percent), and people with disabilities (25 percent). The Fellow respondents also represented a variety of business models, with 32 percent reporting that they received no revenue from selling products or services, and 12 percent reporting that they received all of their revenue from selling products or services.

LUISS University’s article in this issue analyzed Fellows’ diverse sectors of work by geography in order to explore whether Fellows’ focus areas were aligned with the priorities set by the World Bank and other international bodies. Their robust framework is easily transferable to other organizations working in the civil society sector.   

Fellows Generate Systems Change that Sticks

Ashoka’s view of system change is emergent and context-dependent. It is open to a whole array of system elements as well as how they interact -- including but not limited to public policy, industry norms, changes in market systems, building new professions, how different systems interact, etc. Ashoka learns with each social entrepreneurs’ journey not simply the issues relevant in each geography where that entrepreneur is working, but the how-to’s of strategy as well as the skills required and support needed for building leadership for deep and lasting positive change.   

Our metrics to measure systems change have evolved since we first conducted this study in 1998, and include: independent replication, public policy change, market change, and shifting mind-sets. As Sara Wilf details in her article in this issue, 90 percent of Fellows report having seen their idea replicated by independent groups or institutions, 93 percent reporting having changed markets and/or public policy, and 97 percent report that their strategy focuses on mindset shift.  

Systems change often necessitates many different strategies targeting a diverse array of stake-holders, demonstrated by Fellows’ reported partnerships. 86 percent of Fellows report partnering with other citizen sector organizations, 72 percent with universities, and 61 percent with for-profit companies. As Arnaud Mourot details in his article, the corporate sector is learning from Fellows’ partnerships with companies by leveraging their work to rethink business to include social benefit long term.      

Ashoka is a Powerful Accelerator for Fellows’ Impact

In this study Fellows report that Ashoka has had a substantial impact on their work -- from validating their identity as a social entrepreneur, to providing mission-critical financing, in the early stages of their venture, to offering access to a global network and strategic support. 

A core principle which Ashoka got right from the beginning, is the discipline of applying clear criteria to a disciplined selection process. Every Ashoka Fellow elected has passed a five-stage selection process where at each of the five stages the criteria has been met. Ashoka has never been prescriptive of the how-to’s of getting to system change nor prescriptive about the time horizon for getting there. The selection process is designed to be predictive and recognizes that big change does not happen overnight which is why we recognize that we need to assess a life time pattern of persistence. As Alessandro Valera explores in his article), 92 percent of Ashoka Fellows reported that the stipend helped them focus full-time on their idea and several Fellows in the interviews confirmed that this early stage funding was “mission critical.” In addition, extremely high percentages of Fellows report that Ashoka had an influence on their thinking and how they practice leadership, and perhaps most importantly, that their strategy or behavior changed as a result. All told, 84 percent of Fellows agreed that Ashoka had helped increase their impact.

Maria Clara Pinheiro and Dina Sheriff detail in their article how Ashoka creates an ecosystem of support for Fellows and our entire network of partners. Fellows in the study reported that they gained a wide variety of ecosystem supports from Ashoka staff, partners, and other Fellows -- from strategic guidance and mentorship to new funding connections and wellbeing support.  

Beyond interactions with Ashoka staff, Fellows report high rates of collaboration with other Fellows and partners. This is no surprise as we have heard for decades that Ashoka’s Fellowship (the global network of Fellows) has been a key source of support in allowing social entrepreneurs to persist through times of challenge. The data shows that 74 percent of Fellows have collaborated with at least one other Fellow, with an average of four peer collaborations per Fellow globally. Reem Rahman’s article reviews Fellows’ collaboration habits through case studies and explores how collaboration is key to systems change. It also speaks to a view of leadership that builds social capital and trust.13 

The Study Has Surfaced Insights That Point to New Opportunities Moving Forward

Claire Fallender and Ross Hall explore how findings from this study around Fellows’ young changemaking experiences and influences in childhood are critical to Ashoka’s LeadYoung strategy and our Everyone a Changemaker mission. We see in this data that exercising a muscle of changemaking while young lays a foundation for life. It enables young people to gain more comfort with being uncomfortable -- a critical survival skill in this rapidly changing world. With new evidence validating our strategy (such as half of surveyed Fellows report leading a changemaking initiative under the age of 21), Fallender and Hall explain the incredible opportunity to create a world in which every young person has mastered changemaking skills for the social good.  

Using data from this study on Fellows’ young changemaking experiences, Michael Gordon and Sara Wilf’s article create a comparison with a non-Fellow group to examine any differences. They find that there is a substantial difference both in Fellows’ first changemaking experience and childhood influences and express the need for more research into how changemaking experiences in childhood may affect adult outcomes and achievements.

Irene Wu supplements these results with a case study on young changemaking in the East Asian context. She demonstrates how East Asian Fellows’ young changemaking experiences and strategies to promote youth changemaking in their ventures differs from Fellows in other geographies. Kenny Clewett’s article is also a case study, albeit on a new trend emerging from Fellows’ work around migration and refugees. While his case study focuses on migration in the European context, he provides recommendations and insights that can be applied in other geographies as well.

Finally, Iman Bibars’ analyzes the Fellows’ impact results by gender to identify and examine a complex web of factors that may lead to impact differences for male and female Fellows. We see social entrepreneurship has created a remarkable space for women to lead -- what other sector can boast women leading institutions they founded and pursuing ideas they authored at a rate of 40 percent? Her article is a powerful call to redefine “success” in scaling asking us to examine the merits of scaling deep.

A Note on Methodology

The 2018 Global Fellows Study used a "mixed-methods" approach which incorporated both quantitative and qualitative research methodology. Of the 50 questions in the survey 47 were close-ended, enabling a purely quantitative analysis. We piloted the survey with a small group of Fellows in April. The survey was modified according to their suggestions, and any additional questions were incorporated into the qualitative interviews. LUISS University in Rome conduct-ed an audit of our data and fully validated the data and methodology. 

The online survey was available to all Fellows for five weeks from May through June 2018. It was distributed to 3,363 Fellows through a combination of automated emails from Qualtrics and Dotmailer, as well as personal communications from Ashoka staff across the globe. No survey question was a force-response, and all Fellows were given the option to remain anonymous. The survey was available in 12 languages corresponding with the linguistic diversity of Ashoka’s Fellowship. In terms of accessibility, we offered Fellows without reliable internet connection in their area or other physical constraints (such as blindness) to take the survey by phone. 

Overall, the survey received 858 unique respondents (26 percent of our Fellowship population) representing input from Fellows in 74 countries. The highest response rate came from Europe, with 34 percent of their Fellows, and the lowest from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), which represents 17 percent of their Fellows. 62 percent of surveys were completed in half an hour or less, and 79 percent were completed in 1 hour or less. 

43 Fellows were selected for one-hour qualitative interviews from a randomized sample of respondents to the survey. This sample was also representative in terms of gender and geographic location. The interviews were scheduled and conducted from June through August 2018.

Limitations of the study include potential selection bias, the survey emails going to Fellows’ spam, and the self-reported nature of the study. We did attempt to validate certain aspects of Fellows’ response (such as policy/legislative change) and verified the authenticity of any outlier response to numerical questions. In order to determine the extent of any potential “extreme opinion” bias we ran a test comparing Fellows who responded to the survey in the beginning and the end of the distribution period. We found no significant difference in these two groups’ opinions towards Ashoka in the survey, and concluded that extreme opinion bias was likely not an influencing factor in survey response. 


It is increasingly clear that governments, corporations, philanthropy, and individual citizens alone cannot solve the world’s most pressing problems. In a world where the rate of change is ever increasing, we need more people with big ideas and the tools and competencies to work effectively across fields and sectors to realize answers together. Ashoka finds our social entrepreneurs and the patterns across our broad network to be predictive of future trends charting a path-way to where the world is going. Ashoka sees a new generation of young people who want to create change for good as part of their professional lives. 40 years ago, this professional pathway simply did not exist. It took Ashoka years to develop a way to find and bring to light those entrepreneurial innovators who were putting positive impact for the good of all before everything else. By definition, these social entrepreneurs were living the problem so deeply that they came to understand both the systems driving the problem and the key levers to solve it. And they were perceived by many, including their own families, to be either crazy, dangerous, or both. And in many countries today, this is still the case. 

In those early years of building the profession, these systems-changing social entrepreneurs were the vanguards for social change. Not because of an idea alone but in the way they achieved their impact. When looking at the network of Ashoka Fellows in aggregate, Ashoka sees that what matters most in how well and how far impact is achieved is not the size of one’s budget, nor the number of those directly served. Rather it is idea spread: how many people are collectively en-gaged in achieving that impact through independent replication of the ideas, insights, and how to’s.  Success in terms of impact also hinges on how well these social entrepreneurs attract and build teams with other entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial leaders across sectors. In other words, the most effective social entrepreneurs are those whose models help everyone be problem-solvers. This is the insight which has led to Everyone a Changemaker and enabled Ashoka to develop a road map to getting there. 


Even in just the last decade, the world has shifted significantly. The rapid pace of change and the level of connectivity across geographies and diverse groups is unparalleled. Fellows continue to deeply live the problems they address and in order to succeed in big change they must have earned the trust from the communities they serve. Through Ashoka Fellows, Ashoka now has a deeper understanding of what it takes for people to lead and thrive in a world where so much change is happening. Ashoka sees that being able to understand the emotional state of another person (empathy) and change behavior as a result is critical to functioning in a team that is not governed simply by hierarchy and rules. The recipe for success includes practicing empathy and experience working in teams in which all are empowered. Leadership in Ashoka’s Everyone a Changemaker World requires recognizing and enabling agency directed toward the good of all. It is this foundation from which people can change their own lives and the lives of those close to them from an authentic, trust-based way. Trust inspires trust and enables ordinary people to do extraordinary things. 


This critical insight is what we have learned from social entrepreneurs themselves and what has guided Ashoka’s strategic shift in the last decade. However effective individual social entrepreneurs are, and however strong our movement of social entrepreneurship may be, it is not enough if we are to avoid the crisis of the new inequality. To really bring our work to scale, to truly have idea spread go viral, we need to give young people command over the changemaking skill set. As friends, parents, aunts, uncles, educators, and caregivers to young people, we can be part of the movement to change what our education systems value. Young people, whether in the U.S. or Brazil or Sri Lanka, need to know and feel what it means to co-lead teams and empower others to address a problem that they are living. They need this just as much as math and reading skills. Having this young experience as a changemaker may not mean a career as a social entrepreneur. But it will enable us to address the challenges emerging from our rapidly changing world and to close the emerging inequality gap. And we do know it is a fundamental skill for anyone to thrive, whether they are going to lead change from within business or government, teach in a classroom, discover a new cure, write computer code, travel in space, succeed as an athlete, or support a social entrepreneur’s organization. And when young people behave this way, they inspire us to do more of the same, so that together we really can realize an Everyone a Change-maker world.

This issue of the Social Innovations Journal was curated by Diana Wells, Alessandro Val-era, Sara Wilf, and Terry Donovan.

Works Cited

1 Bornstein, David. How to change the world: Social entrepreneurs and the power of new ideas. Oxford University Press, 2007.

2 Marshall Ganz, Tamara Kay and Jason Spicer. “Social Enterprise is not Social Change.” Stanford Social Innovation Review (Spring 2018).

3 Martin, Roger L., and Sally Osberg. Social entrepreneurship: The case for definition. Vol. 5. No. 2. Stanford, CA: Stanford social innovation review, 2007.

4 Zakaras, Michael. “Is Social Entrepreneurship being Misunderstood?” Medium (April 16, 2018). 

5 Barone, Michael. What Does ‘change maker’ mean? Washington Examiner Magazine (July 27, 2016).

6 Wells, Diana and Supriya Sankaran. “New Paradigm for Leadership - Everyone Leads.” Next Billion (December 26, 2016). 

7 Leviner, Noga and Leslie Crutchfield, Diana Wells  “Understanding the Impact of Social Entrepreneurs: Ashoka’s Answer to the Challenge of Measuring Effectiveness,” Research on Social Entrepreneurship: Understanding and Contributing to an Emerging Field ARNOVA Occasional Paper Series-Volume 1, No 3) Rachel Mosher-Williams ed 2006.

8 McPhedran, Jon and Roshan Paul Scaling Social Impact When Everyone Contributes, Every-body Wins Vol 6, 2.

9 Gill, Christopher and Gillian Gill. “Nightingale in Scutari: Her Legacy Reexamined.” Clinical Infectious Diseases Vol 40: 12, July 15, 2005. 

10 Proctor, Andre, and David Bonbright. "Keystone Accountability and Constituent." Harnessing the Power of Collective Learning: Feedback, accountability and constituent voice in rural development(2016): 83.

11 Meadows, Donella Thinking in Systems: A Primer. Chelsea Green Publishing 2008

12 Beverly Schwartz shares wonderful, in-depth case studies  in:
Schwartz, Beverly. Rippling: How social entrepreneurs spread innovation throughout the world. John Wiley & Sons, 2012.   See also:  Crutchfield, Leslie R. How Change Happens: Why Some Social Movements Succeed While Others Don't. John Wiley & Sons, 2018; Martin, Roger and Sally Osberg Getting Beyond Better: How Social Entrepreneurship Works.  Harvard Business Review Press 2015; 

13 For more on this see Praskier, Ryzard and Andrzej Nowak Social Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice Cambridge University Press 201. 

Author bio

As President of Ashoka for the last twelve years, Diana Wells has led Ashoka's global expansion and significant increase in the number of Fellows, helping to shape overall strategy and operations. She implemented one of the first standard assessment tools for systems change impact. Ms. Wells has a Ph.D in anthropolgy from NYU, and she was named a Fulbright and a Woodrow Wilson Scholar. She received a BA from Brown University, where she now serves as a Trustee of the Brown Corporation.


Today, factors such as the high level of expectations by the public, the increasing cost of health care, the recognition of social and environmental determinants of health, along with rampant inequity and poverty are further calls to action for society to become more socially accountable. Social Accountability and Interprofessional Education are being recognized by global health organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) as a practice and innovative strategy that will play an integral role in advancing universal health, equitable health care, and mitigating the global health workforce crisis. Nevertheless, in spite of a growing worldwide momentum in favor of the concept of Social and Interprofessional Education,1 and some outstanding achievements to implement them, there remains a large gap between good intentions and local government or institutional transformations. 


Global organizations such as WHO, United Nations, and Global and Regional Associations have dedicated a tremendous amount of time and effort to successfully frame the global health conversations driven by health data, health priorities and trends, research, policy recommendations, global calls to action, and regularly convening global and regional health leaders, governments, and institutions to foster dialogue and learning.  

In releasing global system and policy recommendations for local adoption and implementation, global organizations and associations recognize that adoption and implementation is complex and must take into account the local political and economic circumstances. In analyzing the limits of local change agents toward local innovation and collective action to adopt and implement global policy recommendations and calls to action, I am outlining the four factors that limit their implementation:

  1. Leaders at a local level must be prepared to better respond to local challenges and optimize local assets. Their relationships and experiences lead them to focus on local patterns they can observe and control directly. They need new skills and relationships with other stakeholders in the health sector to leverage complex change at scale. 
  2. Resources for local change are constrained by a variety of factors, and each community experiences its own unique barriers. Local change agents require external technical guidance and sources of funding, not to replace, but to leverage local resources. 
  3. Local action, while a powerful catalyst to people and day-to-day procedures and practice, is insufficient to support national and regional policies required for systemic transformation. Change agents at the local and regional levels need to understand the complex dynamics that work in regional, national, and global contexts and be able to interact with them to efficiently contribute to system change.  
  4. Lessons learned in one local context are not accessible for system-wide analysis and continuous improvement for systemic change or application in other locales. The lack of system-wide evaluation also limits the evidence base for national and global policy change. Local Change Agendas need systems that collect data across a wide range of local contexts and systems-based analysis approaches to reveal patterns of systems change as it progresses.  


The beginning of moving global systems and policy change to local action starts with inspiring individuals and/or institutions through the sharing of ideas and success of others. Below outlines a three-step model, using network relationships as a strategy, to move global systems and policy recommendations toward local action. 

Step 1: Knowledge Sharing
The Network: Towards Unity for Health (TUFH) is serving as a platform to share and distribute best practices and successes from countries around the world that have made progress in tackling and implementing ideas regarding Social Accountability and Population Health. The Network: Towards Unity for Health (TUFH), a non-state actor in official relations with WHO, believes that relationships are not only between organizations, but between people based around common interests. These relationships are not static, but rather grow and develop from the contributions of new members and future generations. A key element of The Network: TUFH is that it is not an insular organization. It is an ever evolving and inclusive network that embraces other organizations that are striving to create educational best practices, share community health approaches, and partner on research to develop the evidence for what works.

The articles on Social Accountability and Interprofessional Education contained in this edition represent case studies and success stories about how individuals and institutions are taking global policy recommendations and implementing and incorporating them into local policies and health system structures. Through the sharing of ideas and stories we inspire others to consider adoption and adaptation of the ideas and model for local change. 

Step 2: Building Local Capacity 
The road to global adoption and implementation is long and arduous. TUFH believes that the sharing of knowledge in the form of research and implementation best practices leads to inspiring local change agents to take action. Once inspired, local change agents can be supported by international and peer-to-peer policy and system change leaders and institutions whose primary role is to build their capacity and provide continual support and adaptation. 

Building the capacity of local change agents takes the form of introducing a systems and policy change framework, providing formal opportunities to adapt the framework for a local context strategy, and providing continual support and adaption by, and with, other change agents across the globe. Networks, such as TUFH, being independent of local actors serve in the capacity of a convener and fill any knowledge gaps that might exist to create a culture that is supportive and learning based.  

Step 3: Replication
The third step of moving global systems and policy change towards Universal Health and Equitable Health Care is to ensure there are community-to-community sharing platforms. As one community innovates and/or experiences success, networks such as TUFH, must ensure this knowledge is communicated and shared to other communities who have similar goals. Related to Social Accountability and Interprofessional Education, below outlines two possible courses for local replication via model adoption. 

  • Local actors work with local accreditation agencies to incorporate Social Accountability and Interprofessional Standards into their Accreditation Practices for medical, public health, and nursing schools.
  • Local actors work with local medical, public health and nursing schools, and health systems to incorporate into their governance and advisory structures representatives from the Partnership Pentagram composed of Health Administrators; Policy Makers; Health Professionals; Academic Institutions; and Communities. These representatives will organically inform institution policies and strategies toward Social Accountability and Interprofessional Education Standards.


To bridge the gap between good intentions and government or institutional transformations, organizations such as TUFH must continue to serve as the link and connector between global policy organizations and local change agents such as policymakers, institutions, and associations who are doing the work on the ground. The work of TUFH and similar organizations continues to foster dialogue, build global consensus, grow the capacity of local change agents, and create platforms for knowledge to be shared and distributed. Collectively, we can change health care, but we first have to change the conversation.

1 Interprofessional education occurs when students, or members from two or more professions learn about, from and with each other to enable effective collaboration and improve health outcomes and services.  

Inglés | Español

Panorama General 

El mundo se encuentra ad portas de una nueva era. La masiva difusión de las tecnologías digitales y los sistemas complejos que combinan hardware, sensores, almacenamiento de datos, microprocesadores y software están cambiando la naturaleza de los productos, alterando cadenas de valor, transformando las estructuras económicas, políticas y sociales a escala mundial, más rápidamente que en otras etapas de la historia que marcaron, con sus cambios, una ruptura con el modelo de vida imperante, dando paso a una era digital. 

Según informe de la CEPAL, se prevé que para 2020 las velocidades de banda ancha se duplicarán, el número de dispositivos conectados a la red IP será tres veces mayor que la población mundial y el número total de teléfonos inteligentes representará casi el 50% de los dispositivos y conexiones globales.1

Este contexto presenta nuevos escenarios: Los robots y el aprendizaje automático y la sustitución de puestos de trabajo con tareas rutinarias y repetitivas; nuevas capacidades de producción que requieren de habilidades digitales y el desarrollo de especialistas para crear y manejar nuevos sistemas de producción, por un lado, y por el otro, nuevos escenarios de competencia para las empresas con la necesidad imperiosa de incrementar su productividad a través de la innovación. 

La circulación inmediata de la información ha dado lugar al surgimiento de las redes sociales que están conectando a personas y comunidades que de otra manera no podrían hacerlo, y, con ello, están generando un flujo de comunicación que constituye terreno fértil para cambios sociales. 

En palabras de Sheryl Sandberg, COO de Facebook: “la tecnología le pone nombre y una cara – una verdadera identidad- a aquellos que antes eran invisibles y está subiendo el volumen de voces que de otras manera no podrían ser escuchadas”.2  

Esto ha ocasionado un boom de hubs de tecnología, incubadoras y laboratorios trabajando en todo el mundo para permitir el entendimiento y la adaptación de todos a situaciones que deben ser consideradas como la oportunidad de “salir del molde” , de la zona de confort en donde se utilizan las mismas soluciones para resolver problemas sociales y económicos que cada vez requieren de nuevas ideas. 

Es aquí en donde la labor del Social Innovations Journal adquiere especial relevancia por su misión de darle visibilidad a esas nuevas ideas que se constituirán en ejemplos y resonarán en otras personas que, a su vez, generarán más nuevas ideas para darle solución a los problemas sociales de una manera más global. La colaboración es la clave, y la tecnología, causante del cambio, será asimismo el instrumento para hacerle frente al desafío y permitirnos adaptarnos a esta nueva era. 

En esta edición, nos enfocaremos, precisamente, en la relación entre la tecnología y la innovación social en América Latina. 

TEPSIE, el acrónimo de Fundaciones Teóricas, Empíricas y de Políticas para la Construcción de la Innovación Social en Europa, nos proporciona una definición de  tecnología digital en innovación social como El uso de Información, Comunicación y Tecnología (ITC) tales como las redes online y otras herramientas digitales para apoyar y/o permitir la innovación social.3 

De acuerdo con esta definición, la innovación social está siendo mejorada por el uso de TIC. Esto no quiere decir que en todas las innovaciones sociales el usuario final y los beneficiarios van a usar herramientas digitales para satisfacer sus necesidades y solucionar sus problemas, sino en el sentido de percibir la tecnología como una herramienta que, usada de determinada manera por alguno de los actores, o en algún momento del proceso de desarrollo de la innovación social, apoyará, mejorará y/o posibilitará el cambio social buscado. 

Esto significa que, la tecnología digital:   

  • Es un apoyo importante para innovaciones sociales existentes ya que les permite tener mejores resultados en términos de eficiencia y eficacia. 
  • Permite el surgimiento de nuevos tipos de innovación social que producen nuevos impactos y nuevas oportunidades a través de la forma de tener acceso a la información que necesitan para desarrollar, y para facilitar nuevas formas de colaboración a través del dinamismo de las comunicaciones entre los actores implicados. 
  • Puede alterar de manera significativa las estructuras y el tipo de gobernanza de una sociedad y configurar nuevos modelos sociales y de negocios que antes no eran posibles, pues propicia nuevos procesos de producción, cadenas de valor y modelos de organización diferentes. 

Es así como, podría decirse que la tecnología digital está produciendo un cambio cultural que modifica las relaciones entre las personas y su manera de abordar los problemas y las soluciones. Un entendimiento del contexto cultural es, pues, fundamental al momento de diseñar proyectos de innovación social que se adecúen a la realidad actual. 

El desafío se centra en responder a la pregunta de cómo la ciencia, la tecnología y la innovación puede contribuir a su desarrollo y participar del crecimiento mundial desde una perspectiva de sostenibilidad e inclusión social, ambiental y económica.  


América Latina es un continente de contrastes. De acuerdo con un informe de la CEPAL durante el Foro Abierto de Ciencias Latinoamericanas y del Caribe en Septiembre de 2016 es una región que cuenta, por un lado, con una producción centrada en la exportación de productos basados en recursos naturales con un bajo valor agregado, y, por otro lado, con un nivel bajo de inversión en ciencia y tecnología. Adicionalmente, mientras que los países industrializados tienen una preminencia de financiación privada en temas de investigación y desarrollo, en América Latina, dicha financiación es fundamentalmente pública. Las empresas en la región presentan una ausencia de investigación y desarrollo y prefieren, la gran mayoría, tecnologías importadas y su adaptación a sus necesidades. 

Los nuevos Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible y la Agenda 2030 para el Desarrollo Sostenible presentan retos adicionales para la región pues hay una necesidad de alcanzar un nivel de crecimiento económico, inclusión social y sostenibilidad ambiental. 

La realidad es que, según informe de la CEPAL, los indicadores del esfuerzo innovador y acceso a la tecnología no son favorables. 

  • La capacidad de la región de absorber los nuevos paradigmas tecnológicos y participar en su creación es aún débil. 
  • La puesta en práctica de políticas y agendas de investigación son tímidas. 
  • Falta articulación de las capacidades y oportunidades de ciencia, tecnología e innovación que potencialicen el desarrollo sostenible.
  • Hacen falta políticas públicas que generen procesos de desarrollo sostenible e inclusivo basados en ciencia, tecnología e innovación. 
  • Las micro y pequeñas empresas son las responsables del mayor porcentaje de participación en la producción en la región, y sin embargo, tienen muchos problemas para acceder al crédito, no tienen capacidad de innovación y absorción de nuevos conocimientos ya que su vinculación con otras empresas es baja. Existen muchos proyectos en fase start-up que, por diversas razones, no logran prosperar y escalar, en muchos casos por falta de financiación y por su dependencia de fuentes filantrópicas cada vez más exigentes. 

De acuerdo con predicciones recientes, se espera que, en los países más desarrollados, el cambio tecnológico produzca la pérdida de más de 5.1 millones de puestos de trabajo durante el período 2015-2020. Este panorama es difícil para los países que experimentarán un mayor crecimiento de la población por lo que carecen de las habilidades necesarias para los nuevos desafíos y no cuentan con un marco institucional adecuado para dar respuesta. 

La dinámica tecnológica mundial muestra que la competitividad y el crecimiento de los países dependerán cada vez más de su capacidad para integrarse al ecosistema digital mundial. Dicho ecosistema los obligará a mejorar su infraestructura, el capital humano y el entorno empresarial, definir estándares mundiales, regular los flujos de datos, proteger los derechos de propiedad intelectual y defender la seguridad y privacidad de sus usuarios. 

En un estudio sobre 100 Iniciativas de Innovación Social Digital que están transformando América Latina, realizado por el ESADE, Universidad Ramón Llul y el Instituto de Innovación Social, consideran que el tema de la Innovación Social Digital en la región está comenzando a tener un impacto importante especialmente en los sectores de la educación, la salud y la inclusión financiera, permitiendo, en general: La medición del impacto social; una mayor comprensión del comportamiento de las personas a través de herramientas como el análisis del big data;  la conexión entre actores que normalmente no estarían conectados; y la escalabilidad y replicabilidad de las innovaciones sociales. El estudio también señala que en algunos países de la región se perciben mayores avances, tales como Chile quien cuenta con un ecosistema emprendedor e innovador más consolidado, Brasil, México y Colombia con ecosistemas dinámicos e intermediarios que apoyan las innovaciones sociales, y Argentina con un futuro prometedor gracias al elevado número de empresas B certificadas. 


De manera general, se puede afirmar que la tecnología está empujando a la región a adoptarla, apropiarla y utilizarla como la herramienta necesaria para apoyar y mejorar proyectos de innovación que promuevan un impacto social sostenible, no sólo para posicionarse en la economía internacional sino, también, para hacerle frente a las nuevas problemáticas que están surgiendo en el mundo digital actual. 

Es imperativo para la región analizar las oportunidades y los retos que surgen de la economía digital. Se requerirá el desarrollo de nuevas habilidades para que, en lugar de que las máquinas reemplacen a los seres humanos, éstas se conviertan en instrumentos, en herramientas con las cuales se pueda trabajar para solucionar los problemas que aquejan a la humanidad hoy. 

Para cerrar la brecha de productividad entre los países de la región y los países más desarrollados, se requiere incorporar la tecnología a los procesos productivos y articularla con los objetivos de desarrollo de los países. Ya que, si bien ha habido importantes progresos en esta dirección, la única manera de lograrlo es creando sociedades más justas e incluyentes. Para ello, se requiere la incorporación de dos aspectos esenciales: 

Por un lado, se requiere un cambio de percepción. Un cambio cultural a través del cual se promueva el pensamiento innovador que lleve a las personas a osar “salir del molde”, buscando nuevas soluciones, nuevas maneras de abordar los problemas y utilizar la tecnología como una herramienta al servicio de su creatividad. En otras palabras, concientizarse de la necesidad de promover la investigación, el desarrollo de las habilidades necesarias no sólo para adaptar tecnologías de afuera, sino para crearlas localmente, a la medida del contexto en el que viven. 

Y, por otro lado, se requiere la colaboración. Es claro que la articulación del sector privado, el sector público, la sociedad civil, la academia  es fundamental para apoyar, desarrollar y escalar las innovaciones sociales en un marco de políticas públicas pertinentes y coherentes con las necesidades de la población. Y finalmente, quisiera resaltar la propuesta de la CEPAL en cuanto a la necesidad de impulsar acciones de cooperación regional. La región enfrenta desafíos y problemáticas similares y el trabajo conjunto para impulsar una economía digital regional sólo puede aportar beneficios a todos. 

Finalmente, quisiera introducir brevemente los temas desarrollados en esta edición:    


Fundación INTERPRETA: El uso de tecnología en trabajo humanitario

Bastián Díaz

La Fundación nació en 2016 en Santiago, Chile, como una respuesta a los problemas de las comunidades migrantes en Chile, una situación que ha venido aumentando en los últimos años. Alejándose de las soluciones asistencialistas como, por ejemplo, entregando desayunos o dando clases de español a los Haitianos, la Fundación ha preferido posicionarse como un ejemplo de innovación al utilizar herramientas del mundo corporativo y la tecnología para resolver problemas relacionados con situaciones migratorias.  


Ecosistemas de Innovación Local para Fortalecer la Agroecología en Colombia: El caso preliminar de la organización Tierra Libre: LabCampesino

Juan David Reina and Julián Ortiz

El uso de tecnologías digitales basadas en hardware libre para contribuir a la promoción de la Agroecología es, como tal, una idea innovadora. Sin embargo, es el proceso social de apropiación de la ciencia, la tecnología y la innovación en el sector rural y especialmente en la población campesina, lo que crea condiciones disruptivas frente a las prácticas tradicionales de transferencia de tecnología. En este sentido, este artículo presenta el progreso y las oportunidades que está creando el Proyecto Tierra Libre, en particular, en su iniciativa de LabCampesino que busca fortalecer el ecosistema de innovación social y promover prácticas agroecológicas en la provincia de Sumapaz, Colombia.   


El Parque Científico de Innovación Social

Paula Estefanía Castaño

La organización Minuto de Dios (MDO), creada por el Padre Rafael García-Herreros en la segunda mitad del siglo XX, ha enfocado sus esfuerzos en hacer del servicio a la sociedad la fuerza motriz de cada una de sus entidades, las cuales siempre buscan responder a los problemas sociales en Colombia en aspectos como la salud, la vivienda, la educación y otros. Gracias a esta visión, en 2012 el trabajo del Parque Científico de Innovación Social comienza como un compromiso con la innovación social canalizada para responder a necesidades sociales. En este artículo se muestra cómo surgió el Parque, qué es, cómo trabaja y cuál es su impacto. 


MPZero: Calefacción Sustentable, Económica y Limpia al Alcance de Todos

Ricardo Soto

Cada invierno, el aire contaminado causado por la combustión de biomasa para calefacción residencial es uno de los mayores problemas ambientales que sufren las ciudades del Centro-Sur de Chile. Debido a que el uso de estufas a leña es el método de calefacción más económico, sigue siendo al día de hoy, a pesar de sus negativas implicancias medioambientales, el más utilizado por la población, acarreando graves problemas de salud en la comunidad, principalmente en niños y adultos mayores. MPzero es un equipo de reducción de emisiones de material particulado fino, desarrollado en Chile, que captura hasta un 97% de las emisiones producidas por estos equipos de calefacción, ayudando a mantener el aire limpio y bajo los costos de calefacción, sobre todo a familias que no tienen acceso a métodos de calefacción menos contaminantes.


Perfil de un Líder: Martha Leticia Silva

María Alejandra Navas 

El líder del mañana es una persona humilde y auténtica, curiosa y sensible, flexible para aprender y adaptarse rápidamente en los cambios y para quien las diferencias son oportunidades de enriquecimiento mutuo. Finalmente, el líder del mañana es una persona versátil y perseverante con sus metas.  

Conocí a Martha Leticia Silva Flores en el evento sobre Innovación Social que realizó el Centro de Innovación Social de Alto Impacto CISAI, en el estado de Jalisco en México en Junio de este año, Ella es su Directora y el impacto que me produjo conocerla y lo que pude percibir del ser humano y la profesional, me convencieron de la necesidad de escribir sobre ella, por ser un ejemplo de todo lo que hemos venido aprendiendo sobre los líderes del mañana.  


Conectando Los Puntos: Inteligencia En Terreno para Resolver Problemas Sociales

Iván Yza

Frente a la búsqueda de la democratización de los medios de comunicación y la necesidad de acceder a nuevas herramientas tecnológicas que permitieran resolver problemas relacionados con la transparencia y la rendición de cuentas, de los cuales en la mayoría de los casos sabían muy poco o nada sobre su funcionamiento o como ponerlos en marcha, surgió Virk en 2014 con una premisa clara: Crear herramientas que permitiera a las organizaciones innovar en materia de sistematización y documentación de la información, de bajo costo y simples de usar. Permitiéndole convertirse en un vehículo para la innovación y evitar restringir las posibilidades de quienes usan nuestra tecnología, gracias a lo cual desarrollaron la primera herramienta de reporte y documentación en su tipo en México y Latinoamérica.  


1 CEPAL-NACIONES UNIDAS. Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación en la Economía Digital. Septiembre 2016. 

2 Patricia Morizio. Huffington Post. Febrero 2013. 

3 Jeremy Millard, Gwendolyn Carpenter. Digital Technology in Social Innovation. 




“How Tech Can Maximize Social Impact.” Kevin Barenblat July 6, 2017. Stanford Social Innovation Review

“Two of a Kind: Where Technology Meets Social Innovation.” Patricia Morizio. Feb 11, 2013. Huffington Post.

Digital Technology in Social Innovation, A Synopsis. November 2014.

TEPSIE: Acronym of The Theoretical, Empirical and Policy Foundations for Building Social Innovation in Europe. Research project founded under de European Commission’s 7th Framework Programme 2012-2014. Authors: Jeremy Millard, Gwendolyn Carpenter.

Esade Universidad Ramon LLUL. Instituto de Innovacion Social. “La Revolución Digital ante los Grandes Retos del Mundo” 100 Iniciativas de Innovación Social Digital que están transformando América Latina. Autores Heloise Buckland, Alejandra Garmilla, David Murillo. Martha Leticia Silva Flores. Junio 2018. 

“Ciencia, Tecnolofia e Innovacion en la Economia Digial: La Situacion de America Latina y El Caribe.” Sept. 2016 -- CEPAL .“Políticas de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación Sustentable e Inclusiva en América Latina. Isabel Bortagaray. Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la Educación, Ciencia y la Cultura UNESCO. 2016. Cilac -- Foro abierto de ciencias latinoamericanas y Caribe. 

“Ciencia, Tecnologia e Innovacion en la Economia Digital La Situacion de America Latina y El Caribe.” Cepal – Naciones Unidas. Segunda Reunion de la Conferencia de Ciencia, Innocacion y Tic de la Cepal. Sept. 2016. 





Last month an incredibly diverse group of 145 cross-sector Philadelphia leaders traveled to Seattle on the Economy League’s Greater Philadelphia Leadership Exchange (aka “GPLEX”), to study how the Emerald City works, moves, lives, thrives -- and how it deals with major challenges. The GPLEX cohort included emerging and established leaders from the private, nonprofit, and public sectors -- including senior officials from the Philadelphia airport, SEPTA, and the Kenney administration.

Seattle has incredible wealth and a political system and culture conducive to collaborating to solve public problems. Because Seattle raises revenue primarily by special levies on property, which must be approved at the ballot box, policymakers must present coherent value propositions to the electorate. During a session on transportation, for example, we learned how a coalition of public and private actors made the case for a $54 billion 10-year levy to fund a massive upgrading of transit infrastructure, winning 56 percent of the vote.  

The "Seattle process" involves inclusive, consensus-based decision-making, leading to maximum buy-in for tough policy choices like the imposition of a citywide $15 an hour minimum wage. Labor leader David Rolf of SEIU and business leader Howard Wright of the Seattle Hospitality Group helped us understand how a very broad-based center coalesced around the wage increase, including the role played by well-organized forces at the extremes of the political spectrum in providing incentive for cooperation. In the end, consensus was achieved on the complex compromise that phases in $15 an hour over a multi-year period, with different schedules according to industry and firm size. As Wright noted, he and Rolf didn’t know each other when the process began, but soon realized they shared a fundamental conviction that America’s greatest asset is its middle class and that this asset is under threat like never before, and this has formed the basis of an enduring relationship.

Seattle’s innovative approach to philanthropy is embodied in Social Venture Partners (SVP). Seattle philanthropy encourages failing forward, risk-taking, and innovation. SVP connects private sector CEOs to nonprofits to help them achieve financial stability, develop active and engaged boards, and get them ready to scale. SVP’s Solynn McCurdy was forthright, noting that most foundations were built on social inequality, on the backs of marginalized people, and operate from a position of noblesse oblige, “giving back a little to make themselves feel good,” but the new model is built on ground-up learning and co-creation of initiatives.  

Seattle’s problem-solving political and philanthropic culture are fortuitous, since the city faces some vexing issues. Gentrification is a problem with median housing prices hovering close to $700,000 and a dearth of affordable housing for both low-income and working-class Seattleites. The housing crisis is exacerbated by inadequate transit infrastructure to move workers from where they can afford to live to where the jobs are; like European cities, the suburbs are becoming enclaves of the marginalized, but without European-style mass transit. Seattle has yawning inequality, especially racial inequality, as residents of marginalized communities fight to maintain identity and property in the face of gentrification. And Seattle’s homelessness problems are well-known and particularly acute: the one-day count in 2017 was more than 8,500 in the City of Seattle, a per capita rate 3.5 times greater than Philadelphia’s.  

Yet Seattle has mobilized the political will to tackle big issues like $15 minimum wage and $54 billion in transit funding, and I left feeling like it would apply its can-do, engineering mentality to its housing crisis and closing opportunity gaps.  

What about Greater Philadelphia? First and foremost, the challenges we face are equally daunting to those facing Seattle, but our processes for problem-solving are inadequate at best. In introducing a panel on transportation, Jim Markham of Pennoni noted that in Pennsylvania, much of our transit funding comes from an annual payment from the PA Turnpike of $450 million, but that in a few years, this sum drops to $50 million -- that is, if a lawsuit filed by a truckers association arguing that toll revenues should be spent only on highways doesn’t cut it off earlier. During a panel on innovation in philanthropy, United Way CEO Bill Golderer noted that of the top 50 metros, Philadelphia ranks 43rd in philanthropic giving, 45th in volunteer hours, and 48th in voter participation -- a statistical rendering of “the Philly Shrug,” he said.  Fortunately, Golderer aims to do his part, bringing a chapter of Social Venture Partners to Philadelphia to help him implement to United Way’s mission to address our region’s top challenge, intergenerational poverty.  

At the Economy League, we are ready to get beyond the shrug, beyond “Nega-delphia,” and build on our region’s considerable assets, like our great eds-and-meds institutions, robust transit infrastructure, cultural diversity, relative affordability, emerging tech sector, burgeoning hospitality sector, vibrant downtown. For the first time in decades the City of Philadelphia is growing, schools are back in local control, we are growing jobs and the tax base. Yet we have formidable challenges.

Our cohort of nearly 1,000 emerging and established leaders assembled by the Economy League through GPLEX cuts across all of these sectors, and in the coming months we will be seeking interested partners to tackle our toughest problems and build economic prosperity for all. Our leaders are ready to go.

“The coming together cements us, sharpens our ability to problem solve. The ROI is higher because we get to know Philly’s leadership, our collective self-reliance increases because we know our context.” – Beth Miller, Executive Director, Community Design Collaborative

“You know what’s the most important thing to me? Data. Data I did not have before. I am more informed.” – David Grasso, CEO Grasso Holdings

"I’ve walked away energized and determined to see how I can be part of the solutions that may enable us to apply some of the lessons observed into lessons learned and acted upon." – Michael Mittleman, President, Salus University

It’s time to work together, like Seattle does, to develop a pragmatic center that can find points of common ground and leverage our assets. We need business, labor, philanthropy, and the social sector to build “a Philly process.”


The GPLEX program is built around Regional Explorations, carefully curated deep dives into issues of significance to both Philadelphia and the host city. The Seattle Exchange featured six RegExes: Arts & Community Preservation: the Battle for Seattle’s Soul; Food Waste Innovations: Strengthening People & Preserving the Environment; the Economic & Social Impacts of Washington’s Global Health Sector; South Lake Union: Tech Mecca; Moving Goods and People: SEA-TAC Airport; and Models for Inclusive Redevelopment. GPLEX participant and CEO of the Brandywine Health Foundation Vanessa Briggs reports below on her learnings from the Inclusive Redevelopment excursion.

Seattle’s Models for Inclusive Redevelopment

Seattle’s rapid population growth and runaway housing costs are pushing out long-term residents and communities particularly those that traditionally been home to immigrants and African Americans.  In response, government, philanthropy, developers, and community organizations are working together to create affordable housing and preserve communities so that all residents can be part of the city’s booming economy.

About a third of the 2018 cohort of the Economy League’s Greater Philadelphia Leadership Exchange (GPLEX) got a first-hand look as they loaded the bus from the Westin Hotel in downtown Seattle to visit and tour Yesler, awaiting to learn how Seattle tackled redevelopment while minimizing re-gentrification. The transformation of Yesler from 2006 to present day is quite spectacular. Yesler is a community comprised of more than 30 acres sitting atop a hill in close proximity to downtown Seattle, in the hub of the job market, public transportation, and beautiful views. 

In order for GPLEXers to truly appreciate the modern designed urban community, Andrews Lofton, Executive Director of Seattle Housing Authority provided some context to how this public housing community will transform from 561 units to more than 5,000 attractive apartments, affordable to residents across a broad range of incomes. What was once the city’s first publicly subsidized housing community is now a new vibrant mixed-income community that honors the neighborhood’s history and cultural richness while meeting the growing needs of its residents.

Yesler’s 1940s-era aging infrastructure is what ignited the SHA to begin conversations with residents, surrounding neighbors, city officials, key partners, and citizens of Seattle to imagine a new community while not displacing residents. The vision for a new Yesler community model was formed. Not only was Seattle able to replace the 561 subsidized public housing units, it doubled the number of units for families earning below 30 percent of the Area Median Income to ensure that all residents living at Yesler at the time redevelopment began have the opportunity to continue to live in their community. Instead of displacing or pushing low-income residents out of their community they gave them a choice to move out of the community or move into a new unit. All residents living at Yesler at the time redevelopment began are covered for related relocation and moving cost and have first priority for apartments in the new housing.      

To meet the growing demand for affordable housing in close proximity to downtown Seattle and to address the onerous land covenants that dictate the construction of single-family homes only, Yesler attempts to meet the needs for people with low and moderate incomes, as well as for those who pay market-rate rents in buildings developed by private partners. 

Some of the amenities at in the community include Yesler Terrace Park currently under construction. It is a 1.8-acre park near the Yesler Community Center in the heart of the neighborhood. The park will have an outdoor fitness loop, community gardening spaces, play spaces for area community fairs and markets, soccer arena, paths and seating for strolling and community gathering.  The Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation manages the planning designing, development and operation of the park and Community Center. Because the space is so inviting and adjacent to other communities, some of the challenges they face include scheduling special activities for Yesler resident’s verses groups or organizations outside of the community requesting use. 

Our last stop of the tour was Yesler Community Center where many of the GPLEXers were interested in learning about the many social service programs, youth focused activities, cultural, and arts events and sports related activities available for all ages.

The Yesler community is a prime example of how a public-private partnership came together to address complex social and economic issues like affordable housing, economic development, and revitalization - along with the ongoing need for social services and community cohesion with the goal of minimizing the type of gentrification that leads to displacement. When comparing Seattle to Philadelphia there are stark differences in affordable housing, the magnitude of homelessness in Seattle, and the availability of jobs for highly skilled workers, yet Philadelphia can glean insight from how Seattle tackled community displacement while still growing the economy and transforming community living and recreation spaces in partnership with community.

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