The Social Innovations Journal is driven by the belief that the potential for good ideas to inspire more good ideas cannot be underestimated. We must ask the question whether this belief holds true and is it enough? Ashoka, the world’s oldest and most significant leader in the field of social entrepreneurship, asked a similar question and in doing so designed a study in 1998 to measure Ashoka Fellows’ impact and began to track independent replication, policy change, and persistence as approximate measures of systems change.
20 years later, the articles in this edition titled: “From Social Entrepreneurship to Everyone a Changemaker -- 40 Years of Social Innovation,” point to what’s next curated by Ashoka, plumb the data gathered in a more recent extensive study comprised of survey and interviews conducted by Ashoka over the past year and validated by LUISS University in Rome. The results paint a rich portrait of how and what it takes for social entrepreneurs, identified by Ashoka as changemakers, to thrive and succeed in rapidly changing contexts.
Diana Wells, Ashoka President, in the introductory and framing article, states that what matters most in determining a changemaker’s impact is not the size of one’s budget nor the number of those directly served. Rather measures of impact include: independent replication, public policy change, market change, and shifting mindsets, and can be measured, as seen in Ashoka’s image below, through direct service, scaled direct service, systems change, and/or framework change metrics. In other words, the most effective social entrepreneurs are those whose models help everyone be problem solvers. Ashoka defines itself through systems change and widespread framework change.
Returning to our question on whether the potential for good ideas to inspire more good ideas holds true and is it enough, we conclude that it is because it is stimulating the environment and context for all individuals to be problem solvers and changemakers. The journal challenges our academic and professional institutions to change not only the way they operate but the way they support young people and employees. People, despite their age or geographic location, need to know and feel what it means to co-lead teams and empower others to address a problem that they are experiencing. Peter Goldmark, former Publisher of the International Herald Tribune and former President of the Rockefeller Foundation once said, “Ashoka has shown how to invest successfully in pattern-breaking, powerful ideas and the people behind them -- and how to do so early when a little makes an enormous difference -- when hope can overcome cynicism, when tenacity can prevail over inertia. It has given us all the lessons in how to harness the most powerful energy in the world -- human talent -- to the task of adapting to the demands of the 21st century. We could not agree more.
Carol Sanford, in her most recent book: The Regenerative Business, agrees as she emphasizes that successful businesses today stop the practice of motivating people with incentives, rewards, and recognition, and shift to fostering initiative and self-management. She states that just important as technical skills, people need to develop a regenerative mindset defined by the fundamental characteristics of 1.) a desire to grow and improve, 2.) a motivation to engage and learn from others, and 3.) derive meaning from contributing to something larger than themselves.
We thank Diana Wells, Alessandro Valera, Sara Wilf, and Terry Donovan for the countless hours of curating and compiling their collective 40 years of experience, knowledge, and research into this edition which will be the driving force shaping how the global social sector approaches social innovation. We are inspired by Ashoka and because of their work we can imagine a world where Everyone is a Changemaker and where we all live in a Changemaker World.
We hope this edition will achieve our mission to inspire leaders and organizations to become changemakers; create the space for leaders to tap into their own creativity to innovate; empower leaders with the tools and knowledge to launch and grow their ideas; challenge leaders to become more empathetic; and transform everyone into a leader in a team of team’s world.
Yours in changemaking,
Ashoka 2018 Article Summaries
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."
Since Ashoka first began electing Fellows in the early 1980s, our selection criteria and impact measurement metrics have mirrored Fellows’ single-minded focus on spreading an idea rather than achieving traditional private sector measures of “scale.” Based on this view, Ashoka first began measuring Fellows’ systems change in 1998. In this article we will use Ashoka’s systems change measures of independent replication, mindset shift, public policy change, and markets change, to share both a “big vision” picture of Fellows’ systems-level impact emerging from the study, and new insights we’re learning from a more in-depth analysis of Fellows’ systems change achievements.
Ashoka’s previous effort in gauging the impact of its works focused mostly on the systemic change that its Fellows achieved five and 10 years after election. The aim of the 2018 Ashoka Fellows Global Study was to go further and enquire what role Ashoka played in accelerating that impact. This paper will present the evidence that has emerged from both the quantitative and qualitative side of the Global Study which confirms that a large majority of Fellows have found benefits from their association with Ashoka in terms of systems change thinking, leadership, reception of practical help, and connection to other fellows and Ashoka staff and third parties within the network. We will also present the evidence that working with Ashoka has made large number of fellows change their strategies while continuing to focus on the resolution of the social or environmental problem they had originally sought to solve.
Women in leadership positions across the globe and in all sectors have not reached the desired or deserved rates. In the for-profit sector, women constitute only 31 percent of leaders in the U.S. and approximately 18 percent in the UK. However, over 36 years and across 88 countries, 38 percent of leading social entrepreneurs elected by Ashoka have been women. Ashoka is the largest network of social entrepreneurs in the world, and with more than 1,200 leading women social entrepreneurs, marks the world’s largest resource for knowledge on women in social entrepreneurship. In this article, we leverage the compelling results of Ashoka’s 2018 Global Impact Study to argue that women in the social entrepreneurship field have excelled and have created impact that affects deep and lasting social change. However, we also highlight two very important aspects in the journey of women changemakers: first, that they face pervasive gender-specific challenges that can disrupt the achievement of their full potential. Secondly and more importantly, success and growth in social impact have been narrowly defined to the neglect of more encompassing descriptions, systematically excluding women social entrepreneurs from being widely acknowledged as successful by the mainstream. The insights within this article tell the story of how women’s leadership and success can and must be redefined from a gender perspective, transforming how women, and indeed all social entrepreneurs, are perceived in the field.
Claire Fallender and Ross Hall
In a world of rapid change, value comes from how people adapt to and guide positive change rather than from simply following rules or routines or from blind repetition. In this article, the authors look at the world’s largest network of top change leaders -- Ashoka Fellows -- to see what factors led them to become changemakers. Nearly half of these leading social entrepreneurs -- regardless of geography and gender --started changemaking (i.e. solving a problem they cared about) before the age of 20. They named their most important influences as their parents and teachers. The authors explore what implications this data might have both for the priorities that define our education systems as well as for the kinds of support parents and teachers need to guide young people to lead young: follow their passions, find creative solutions, create teams, and experience changemaking at an early age.
Michael Gordon and Sara Wilf
A number of research studies have examined the field of entrepreneurship in an effort to understand the social, environmental, and personal antecedents of entrepreneurship. While these studies provide key insights to understand the origins of entrepreneurship, they may be misleading in the context of social entrepreneurship because entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs have different primary motivations. Our interest in this article is in understanding if early experiences and behavior in childhood and adolescence are a factor in determining an individual’s journey as a social entrepreneur. With the 2018 Fellows study data, we can go a step further and attempt to use childhood experiences to predict which social entrepreneurs are likely to produce extraordinary social transformation by comparing the 2018 findings with data collected through Ashoka Changemaker’s Pulse study.
Dina H. Sherif and Maria Clara Pinheiro
When it comes to entrepreneurship and social change, the existence of enabling and supportive ecosystems is a key ingredient and catalyst. Organizations like Ashoka who are working to promote social entrepreneurship often find themselves asking the question: Have we succeeded in creating the kind of ecosystem necessary to support social entrepreneurs? While many of us working in the sector may constantly debate the concept of an ecosystems framework, one reality remains -- social innovators might be able to survive without an ecosystem of support, but it is highly unlikely that they will thrive. Vibrant ecosystems of support are necessary for truly transformative systems change. What ecosystems do to support social innovators is as significant as what social innovators do to transform ecosystems. This article will take a close look at what matters to Ashoka Fellows as a guide to building better and stronger ecosystems of support.
There’s a myth that still needs to be busted. It’s the idea that the main way that social change happens is with a hero, that change won’t happen until we have a charismatic leader to show the way. This article presents evidence for how collaborations -- and the collective leadership needed to achieve them -- have been central to the most effective pathways for social change, and deserving of greater recognition.
Mattia Margonari, Lumen Ventures & ERShub; Francesca Capo, LUISS & ERShub, Francesco Rullani, LUISS & ERShub; and Luca Mongelli, PUSC & ERShub
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are of primary importance and help to concretely define the most urgent issues the world is facing as a whole, by analyzing the relative problems and bottlenecks, and promoting clearly identified avenues to solve them. With the most urgent issues at hand, it becomes pivotal for Ashoka and its network of social entrepreneurs to understand how far they have gone in tackling them, and which paths to walk to achieve a more pervasive social impact and scale.
In this article we offer a perspective on this point by the analysis of the “Alignment Issue-Mission” (AIM) index, that we created to measure the alignment between the most urgent issues faced by a country and the mission pursued by the Ashoka fellows operating in it. We computed the AIM index for all projects fellows undertake in each country and analyzed how its distribution changed over time between 2014 and 2017. Additionally, we also separated fellows’ projects in groups according to their technology familiarization, profit-seeking intentions, and community-building purposes, and checked the difference in the AIM index among these groups.
Today’s global issues have changed so dramatically in size and complexity that no single class of player can pretend to solve them alone. As a result, alliances have been forged to tackle major issues (access to vaccines, new forms of energy, and food) but very often in emergency contexts, and most of the time led by government or private donation programs. Yet in a world marked by an increasing rate of change, social problems have become so widespread and numerous that these classical alliances between international or local NGOs and international bodies are no longer sufficient. New types of approaches must be invented that leverage market dynamics to solve our world’s most entrenched and challenging issues. Ashoka Fellows, two-thirds of whom have partnered with for-profit companies, are leading the way on transformative alliances with the private sector. In this article we will share best practices and lessons from our Fellows on creating transformative change through strategic business alliances.
Decades of international development has taught us many valuable lessons, including the importance of contextualizing problems and solutions. While the principle may seem obvious, much of the contextualization is deeply embedded in social norms and are thus highly implicit and not easily noticed. The field of social entrepreneurship is no different: while leading social entrepreneurs -- Ashoka Fellows -- across the world may share certain common traits, they too, are influenced by their respective societal rules and cultures. This highlights the necessity of applying contextual lenses when examining both the social solutions as well as the creators of these solutions.
Using the data collected from the most recent Ashoka Global Fellows Survey, we illustrate the abovementioned point with a focus on the East and Southeast Asia regions. Although East and Southeast Asia vary in their modern historical trajectories, significant similarities remain in much of their cultural imprint including conformity and compliance, deference to social hierarchy, and traditional conservatism. These unique characteristics of East and Southeast Asian societies have undoubtedly casted various degrees of influence on social entrepreneurs from these regions, both in terms of their own experience in changemaking and informing the strategy with which they approach systems and framework change.
To understand Fellows’ own personal journeys of changemaking, we look at the age at which Fellows joined someone else's initiative to create a solution to a social problem as well as the age at which they personally took the initiative to create a solution to a social problem. To explore youth-related strategies Fellows utilize to scale their work, we look at the percentage of Fellows who put young people (0-18) in charge of leading initiatives/projects within their organizations, the percentage of Fellows who encourage young people (0-18) to create independent initiatives to spread or scale their work, and the percentage of Fellows whose ideas focus on influencing societal mindsets/cultural norms.
Systems change includes impacting public policy. This is why a key metric to measure Ashoka Fellows’ success is how they have impacted public policy. As the world becomes more globally connected and complex, we need models that help social innovators impact public policy more quickly, deeply, and collectively. This article outlines such a model in the area of migration, integration, and refugee movements in Europe and how we foresee this kind of work spreading to other sectors across the globe.
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