Ashoka Arab World is calling for social innovators in the UAE in the fields of health, energy efficiency and environment protection and women’s participation in inclusive growth for our upcoming forum on social entrepreneurship and innovation in Dubai.

The event is both a scaling program and a forum that gathers the brightest of Arab social innovators, business, civil service, and the citizen sector.  Our focus for the 2014 forum is the scalability of growing social innovations, bringing local solutions to the global level and importing relevant global innovations to the local arena. 

The scaling 
program begins in advance of the forum with the search and
 selection by Ashoka of high potential social innovators in the 
Arab Gulf. Based on thorough research concerning key challenges and issues in the Arab region, we are focusing on three fields of impact for our selection of social innovators: health, energy efficiency and environment protection, and women’s participation in inclusive growth.

Once selected, each innovator will receive 
the help of management consultants and business experts to develop their scaling models and create strategies for growth.

The shortlisted social innovators of the scaling program will be invited to present their scaling models to a panel of judges at the forum. The forum will also offer a platform for social innovators in the greater Arab region to showcase and launch their initiatives, as well as hold round table discussions with expert panelists that tackle the most pressing issues within our selected focus areas.

We are currently on the look out for social innovators in the above-mentioned focus areas in the UAE who have innovative business ideas that have demonstrated sound social impact. The selection criteria of social innovators focuses on

the innovation of the approach,
its proven track record of success and
the potential of the idea to scale.

These social innovators may be showcased as models of positive change at the forum or may become a part of our scaling program.

We are accepting nominations for social innovators for the scaling program until November 14th.

We would greatly appreciate your support in helping us locate social innovators for the coming forum. This is a wonderful opportunity for the youth to showcase and scale their initiatives.

For more information, or to nominate – email the following information at :

– The name of the social innovator
– A 300-500 word description of  the social innovation
– Links to any material concerning the social innovation (Social media, website, articles, ect.)

We look forward to receiving your nominations!



“The Meaning of Change”, by our new AWSIF intern Adrian Noronha

Around a year ago, I experienced a significant shift in my aspirations. As I read literature and articles about the struggles of marginalized women of rural India, and the human-trafficking epidemic in South-Eastern Asia, I was struck profoundly by how fortunate I am to live as comfortably and freely as I do. At the same time, doubts began to manifest in me as I felt that it was horribly unfair how luck had favored me, while the subjects I read about and millions of others continued to live in poverty, and amongst violence and unspeakable misfortune. I decided, perhaps somewhat naively and maybe a bit pompously that I was to change purpose in my life. I decided I wanted to help these people in whatever way I could, but I was at the same time unwilling to give up the comfort of my life. My head began to buzz with questions about how a single person could create legitimate change in the world. What is legitimate change? What defines a changemaker? What constitutes an authentic action of change in a world where the lines between authentic and inauthentic are so blurry? And what is required of the ideal changemaker? Should one spend two weeks building shelters and wells in rural Latin America? Or perhaps two months teaching English to orphans in the slums of India? Or is it handing out food packages in impoverished sub-Saharan Africa that facilitates change? Or, are the real changemakers the policy makers who make decisions on the grand scale? I was very confused and as I investigated further, I learned about many problems that existed in the international development spectrum – there was the sick cycle of foreign aid, the misguided industry of voluntourism, and the ineffective bureaucracies of governments and many international development organizations. I felt defeated and cynical to read about these but I resolved to find out some way in which there could exist authentic systematic change.

Ashoka Logo small

A few months into my first year of university, I was introduced to the idea of social entrepreneurship in a business class, and I was immediately drawn to it. As a business and economics student, I believed for long that I was destined for a life of financial figures, and market demand projections that meant little to me on a personal level. The work of social entrepreneur pioneers like Bill Drayton (Ashoka) and Muhammed Yunus (Grameen bank), demonstrate that inspired individuals can be some of the most ripe, idealistic and effective changemakers with the right ideas and experiences.

The name Ashoka came up a few times throughout my first year but it was not until I read a book on women’s empowerment, “Half the Sky” in which Ashoka is mentioned often on its work empowering social entrepreneurs, that I became more familiar with Ashoka and the rapidly growing movement of social entrepreneurship.

Ashoka’s theory of change and social entrepreneurship present a radical outlook on solving world problems. Social entrepreneurship reflects how business models and principles but most importantly, innovation can be applied directly to solving serious world problems. Ashoka’s founder Bill Drayton stated that, “social entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry.” The best entrepreneurs disrupt the norms with innovative solutions. The difference with social entrepreneurs is that their disruptive solutions apply not to a market gap but to pressing social problems.

Ashoka refocuses the lens of changemaker onto the individuals in our societies that are disrupting the norms with the most innovative solutions. They are entrepreneurs, adventurous risk-takers who are revolutionizing their respective industries – health, environment, women – with paradigm-shifting ideas.

From my perspective, Ashoka’s theory of change, “Everyone a changemaker,” reflects two ideas. Firstly, that in the ideal world, each and every person must aim for change. And second, that every person, regardless of gender, social class, age, skin-color, religion can create change if they are motivated and empowered.

The motivation to change something, I believe comes from experiences. Perhaps it is the experience of young Craig Kielburger, who read an article in a newspaper about a 12 year old Pakistani boy who had been murdered for his fight against child labour; in his frustration, young Craig wanted to continue the legacy of this boy and he founded “Free the Children,” now an internationally recognized movement against child labour. Or perhaps it is the experience of young Pakistani girl Malala Yousafzai who survived being shot by the Taliban because she spoke out about wanting an education; she has now become the voice of every young girl around the world who wants an education and she gave a speech recently at a UN Assembly about the need for action. Or it might be the experience of a woman like Sunitha Krishnan, an Indian Ashoka fellow, who witnessed the shocking sex-trafficking epidemic in her hometown of Bihar, India and founded Apne Aap, a relief centre for sex-trafficking survivors in the region of Hyderabad. Each of these changemakers has experienced a social problem in some capacity and has gained the motivation to pursue a solution to it.

An old conception was that one had to have power and wealth to have influence and to trigger any sort of systematic change. With the emergence of social entrepreneurship, this has been replaced by a new reality. It seems that the ability to make change comes from empowerment. And this is where Ashoka comes in. Ashoka empowers motivated changemakers to make the changes they seek through the recognition of fellows, seed financing, training and education, and collaborative platforms through a global network of changemakers.
Adrian Noronha PhotoAshoka’s vision of change reflects that ideas for change are born to individuals, but can only survive and thrive under collaboration of a community of changemakers. A revolutionary idea for change may begin with a single person but it  is only an idea until it is taken into action by the power of the collective movement. Ashoka’s collaborative platforms connect likeminded changemakers to work on shifting the paradigms in various sectors of development (for example maternal health or women’s empowerment). Successful models are then replicated by social entrepreneurs in other regions that are experiencing similar issues. Armies of social entrepreneurs are thus created, working towards common goals. The women’s suffrage movement in the United States of the 20th century was successful because of the support it had from a veritable army of women with revolutionary ideas about their rights. Ideas are powerful, but so are numbers.

A single stone hitting a pool of still water will create only a few ripples. But throw several stones into the water, and the ripples will multiply, weave together and after a few moments, the entire pool is in a disquiet motion. To me, Ashoka is the hand that throws these stones into the still water, enabling these ripples to be created, multiplied and connected.

Entering into my first week as an AWSIF intern at Ashoka Arab World, I remain curious and very open-minded to the concept of changemaking. I chose to work for Ashoka because it represented an organization that is not only reputable, but presents a very unique model of what change can be. As well, I wanted very much to learn about the strange and mysterious world of social entrepreneurship. Particularly in the Arab World, Ashoka focuses a great deal on the empowerment and equality of women, an area I am very interested in investigating.

It is my belief that if we were to eliminate the rigid bureaucracies of many aid and development organizations such as the UN and if we would instead employ the revolutionary ideas of social entrepreneurs and if governments shifted the focus from the intervention of military armies fighting people to the intervention of armies of social entrepreneurs fighting problems, we would trigger a new and far more effective wave of development.

I’m hoping that the next six weeks I spend at Ashoka Arab World will provide me deeper insight in what it means to create change. And I hope that by talking with existing changemakers connected with Ashoka, and by working within the domain of social entrepreneurship, I will learn and understand more concretely what I will have to do to become a changemaker myself.

Ashoka Arab World Social Innovation Forum

Ashoka Arab World is looking for social innovators from the UAE, who address problems of energy efficiency & environment protection, health, and women’s empowerment for participation in the Arab World Social Innovation Forum –  Scaling Program.

Social innovators are men and women who are aware of what is not working in their societies and develop new, successful ideas and approaches to address these challenges on a large scale.

AWSIF Scaling Program is a proven methodology to scale local social innovations to the global level and to bring global successful innovations to the local arena. The AWSIF Scaling Program will select top-notch Arab social innovators, who are ready to go global, provide them with tailored support and link them with their global peers.

To nominate please follow the link: Nomination Survey

Nomination Letter 2

By Administrator Posted in AWSIF

Arab World Social Innovation Forum

In the previous post we have covered an initiative which will focus on shedding a light on Arab social innovators and support them in scaling their models of change to the global level. More information about the program you can find HERE.

In short the Arab World Social Innovation Forum (AWSIF) – which will be held in Autumn 2013 in Dubai,  capitalizes on a proven methodology to scale social innovation – the Ashoka Globalizer Program – and the 10 years of Ashoka’s field experience in supporting social entrepreneurs in the Arab region.

AWSIF will link home-grown social innovators with leading business entrepreneurs, consultants, field experts and global counter-parts to design strategies and facilitate key connections for scaling best Arab social innovations. It will also bring high-caliber professionals and practitioners engaged in positive changemaking to further foster innovative thinking in addressing  key challenges facing the Arab world.

The 2013 edition of Arab World Social Innovation Forum will focus on 3 key issues, relevant to the region, which are:

3 pics3– Health

– Energy efficiency and environment protection

– Women Empowerment

The focus on the 3 particular issues means that in 2013, AWSIF will involve and support scaling of innovators who work on addressing challenges connected with one of these problems. In the health area, it might be an innovative way to address growing rates of diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disorders or other health disorders. In the energy efficiency and environment protection area, it might include innovations to protect marine life, protect further desertification, reduce carbon footprint, address gas shortages, growing energy consumption and other. In women  empowerment area, the initiative will seek for new solutions for greater gender equality, supporting women entrepreneurship and women in labor market, enhancing women legal status, etc.

Ashoka has already started its search for top-notch social innovators, who work on addressing challenges in one of the 3 selected areas to join AWSIF. A call for nominations of such social innovators will be published soon.

Arab World Social Innovation Forum

The Arab region is a fertile land of social innovation. Throughout the region, Arabs have identified key challenges facing their societies and successfully developed innovative ideas and solutions to address them. The growing number of Arab innovators who have succeeded in implementing their models of change and have scaled them across their countries and sub-regions is sound proof that there is tremendous entrepreneurial potential among people of the Arab World.

Further many of these innovations are ready and can be applicable and relevant not only in their home region, but also beyond it and globally. The task of scaling social innovation and replicating it to other countries and regions is a sound, yet challenging idea. It occupies global agendas of leading organizations and top minds working on supporting social innovation.

Globalizer2Capitalizing on its 30 years of expertise in supporting social innovation and building infrastructure for social entrepreneurship globally,  Ashoka has developed a Globalizer Program which is a proven methodology to scale social innovation. The Ashoka Globalizer program has been successfully implemented in Europe – its 6th edition just took place in Austria. Since 2010, there has been already 6 Globalizer Program editions in Vienna, Stockholm, Munich and Geneva. The program engaged over 70 leading social entrepreneurs and innovators ready to go global, more than  80 world class, internationally-scaled business and social entrepreneurs, over 100 business executives, top-notch global consultants and experts and leading media outlets, such as Forbes, The Sunday Times, The Huffington Post, The Guardian and other.


Nihar Kothari, Managing Editor of an Indian media group, brainstorms and strategizes to solve growth problems with Ashoka Fellow and Nobel Prize Laureate Jerry White, SurvivorCorps.

Based on the success of the Globalizer Program and  taking advantage of Ashoka’s strong presence in the Arab region, in 2013 Ashoka aims at launching a regional program that will shed a light on Arab social innovators and support them in expanding their work beyond their current reach. Tailored to the Arab region initiative – Arab World Social Innovation Forum (AWSIF) will further establish social entrepreneurship in the Gulf, mainly, but not exclusively by introducing proven local solutions to the global scene, and bringing global successful innovations to the local arena.

AWSIF, which will be held in Autumn 2013 in Dubai, will link home-grown social innovators with leading business entrepreneurs, consultants, field experts and global counter-parts to design strategies and facilitate key connections for scaling. It will also bring high-caliber professionals and practitioners engaged in positive changemaking to further foster innovative thinking in addressing  key challenges facing the Arab world.

This is first in a series of posts related to Arab World Social Innovation. Following posts will provide more information on the initiative and engagement opportunities that it creates.

By Administrator Posted in AWSIF