Where does the name Ashoka come from?

  1. Ashoka was an Indian leader in the 3rd century BC who unified the Indian subcontinent in the 3rd century BC, renouncing violence and dedicating his life to social welfare and economic development. For his creativity, global mindedness and tolerance, Ashoka is renowned as the earliest example of a social innovator.
  2. Ashoka means, in Sanskrit, “the active absence of sorrow.”

What does the Ashoka logo stand for?

Ashoka is represented by the oak tree. A strong, sturdy tree, the oak represents the power of Ashoka’s commitment and contributions to building the profession of social entrepreneurship. A broad-spreading tree, it is symbolic of those dimensions of Ashoka’s programs that select, launch and foster collaborations among social entrepreneurs around the world.

When did Ashoka start?

Ashoka was founded in 1980 by Bill Drayton and Ashoka Mexico & Central America was launched in 1987. By now we support more than 200 social entrepreneurs in Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Costa Rica and El Salvador and worldwide we have elected over 3,000 leading social entrepreneurs

What is a Social Entrepreneur?

A social entrepreneur has the same qualities/temperament/spirit as a business entrepreneur: vision, creativity, determination and risk-taking. But a social entrepreneur applies these qualities to solving social problems on a national scale, rather than make a profit.

What do you mean? Give me an example.

For example, Rodrigo Baggio has set up a system of schools and training in computer education for more than 220,000 kids living in urban slums of Brazil. His model is spreading to other countries such as Angola, Colombia, Chile, Guatemala, Honduras, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, and Uruguay. His partners include Star Media, Microsoft, and InterAmerican Development Bank. Rodrigo is solving the social problem of lack of access to skills and opportunities for those kids, thereby bridging the digital divide.

What kind of ideas does Ashoka look for?

Ashoka looks for leading social entrepreneurs with new ideas and innovative solutions that will have high impact and broad, replicable applications. Ashoka recognizes that social problems are not limited to specific communities or cultures. While it is true that some models do not work in every culture, Ashoka looks for innovative solutions that have national, regional or global importance- and that other institutions are likely to replicate. We look for ideas that will create systemic change.

How are Ashoka Fellows elected?

Ashoka has established and refined a rigorous selection process for identifying and electing the most innovative social entrepreneurs, with the greatest probability of achieving large-scale social impact.

Ashoka’s selection process carefully screens nominees for:

  • The New Idea
  • Creativity in Problem Solving
  • Entrepreneurial Quality
  • Social Impact of Ideas
  • Ethical Fiber

Ashoka receives nominations from local groups of Nominators, such as journalists, academics, social entrepreneurs (including Ashoka Fellows), and individuals well–placed in the non-profit and social innovation communities. The Ashoka Country Director and selection team in that country conducts a first interview and site visit. Candidates who “pass” then undergo a second interview by an international senior staff member, who forwards the most promising candidates to the Ashoka Selection Panel. Based on extensive interviews and background checks the local panel selects Ashoka Fellows, who must then be approved by the organization’s international board to become Ashoka Fellows.

I'm a social entrepreneur. Can I become Fellow?

To see if you are a good fit, first read our selection criteria then use this web form to nominate yourself.

I thought you just supported social entrepreneurs, what's with all these other programs?

Our goal is not to just elect social entrepreneurs, but to create a world where everyone has the confidence and ability to change their community - a world where everyone is a changemaker.

When we started 30 years ago we didn’t want to capture a market – we wanted to generate a network effect to tip the world. Ashoka pioneered the field of social entrepreneurship and we generated opportunities for social entrepreneurs around the world to connect, collaborate, and provide value to one another, multiplying the capacity of each social entrepreneur to improve more lives and to change the world. Nowadays we are promoting the transition from a world of elites into one where everyone is a contributing changemaker. As the pace of change accelerates, this is the only way solutions can outrun problems. Join us in creating an everyone a changemaker world.

What is the Youth Venture program about?

Youth Venture enables young people to learn early on in life that they can lead social change. Ashoka developed the concept from understanding a key insight of Ashoka Fellows in the field of youth development: one of the most effective ways to improve the lives of youth is to empower them to realize their own ability to make positive social change. Learn more.

What is the Full Economic Citizenship program about?

To achieve Full Economic Citizenship (FEC), Ashoka is promoting "Hybrid Value Chains". Hybrid Value Chain (HVC) is a new operating framework for transforming markets by leveraging the strengths of business and social actors. HVCs spread across the economic spectrum and represent a systemic change in the way business and CSOs interact. They are collaborations that redefine value in game-changing ways, with each side clearly understanding (and willingly accepting) the risks and rewards. Learn more.

Do you work with Universities?

Absolutely, in fact, we have a program devoted just to fostering, incubating, and accelerating new and effective approaches to high quality social entrepreneurship teaching, research, and action in higher education. Learn more.

Does Ashoka provide grants or academic fellowships?

No. Ashoka is not a foundation or grant-making organization. Ashoka does not fund research, special projects, staff positions, or scholarships. There is some financial support which is available only to Fellows.

What We Are NOT

  • We’re not a foundation, nor a donor agency.
  • Ashoka seeks funding and provides it.
  • We don’t provide project financing.
  • We don’t accept any government funds.

What We ARE

  • We pioneered and adapted the venture capital approach for the social sector.
  • Ashoka is a hybrid that bridges best practices between the business and social sectors.
  • We are developing the profession of social entrepreneurship.

Where does your funding come from?

We don’t accept government funds. Our funding sources are:

  •   We receive about 30% of funding from business entrepreneurs and their family foundations
  •   33% from foundations/corporations and
  •   37% from other individual contributions

How do I help support your work?

Ashoka would not exist without the support of people like you. Each donation to Ashoka is an investment in social change.Your contribution will help us to identify exceptional social entrepreneurs around the world, support them in their work, and expand our programs to truly create an Everyone A Changemaker world. Learn more.