How Do Leading Social Entrepreneurs Change Systems?
Ashoka is the global platform for social entrepreneurship. Ashoka elects leading social entrepreneurs who have innovative solutions to social problems and the potential to change patterns across society — called Ashoka Fellows. Ashoka sources the best social entrepreneurs working to mobilize thousands of people to create change, enables businesses, the media, policy makers and “Changemakers” to work together to solve the world’s most pressing social challenges.
Now after thirty years of work, Ashoka has successfully built a global community distinguished by its attention to system change and ethical entrepreneurial leadership. The knock-out test for electing Ashoka Fellows and for starting new Ashoka initiatives is the same: there needs to be a system change idea in the hands of an entrepreneur. Rather than looking to someone who is building one school or one hospital, Ashoka looks for individuals who are changing the way children learn or the way healthcare is delivered. In other words, rather than investing in incremental innovation, Ashoka thinks the most leveraged way to invest in social innovation is to invest in the people who have system change ideas.
Ashoka defines system changes as impact resulting from the social entrepreneurs, ideas and networks we support that affect (or have the potential to affect) large numbers of people. We understand that Ashoka Fellows change systems in five different ways:
- redefining interconnections in market systems (market dynamics and value chains),
- changing the rules that govern our societies (public policy and industrial norms),
- transforming the meaning of private vs. citizen sector (business social congruence),
- fully integrating marginalized populations (full citizenship and empathetic ethics) and
- increasing the number of people who are social problem solvers (culture of changemaking and social entrepreneurship).
How does Ashoka know whether it has changed systems? How do we understand, define and measure changes in a system?
Through Ashoka’s close work with the Fellows globally, we found that almost all Fellows have changed systems at a national level in at least one way. On average, Fellows change systems in three different ways.
We have learned that Ashoka Fellows change systems primarily through the power of their ideas. Most build organizations to serve as vehicles to advance their ideas and significantly contribute to strengthening the citizen sector. Ashoka Fellows recognize that achieving large-scale change spreads and advances their ideas through complex and diverse networks.
To find out more about Ashoka’s mission, vision and program visit www.ashoka.org