If your destination is changing the world then the Ashoka Changemaker community may be right up your street. This global organization supports the endeavors of global social entrepreneurs with big yet realistic ideas on how to make this world a better place.

Wikipedia defines a social entrepreneur as someone who “recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to organize, create and manage a venture to achieve social change (a social venture). While a business entrepreneur typically measures performance in profit and return, a social entrepreneur focuses on creating social capital. Thus, the main aim of social entrepreneurship is to further social and environmental goals.”

The Ashoka community promise: “Charting your best route, learning detours to roadblocks, getting the fuel you need, and meeting fellow travelers who can help you. No matter where you are starting, where you are going, or how impatient you are to get there, this community of problem solvers, disruptors, and innovators has built a fast track for action that will support and guide you, every step of the way.”

SAABC had the honor of sponsoring Ashoka’s South African based Youth Venture Program through our fundraising at the SAABC “SAA Golf Classic” 2009 in San Francisco. This support benefitted several Ashoka Youth Fellow (between 12 and 24) in executing community projects in their local townships—teaching them leadership, project management and change-maker skills.

Ashoka’s Africa lead Bill Carter joined us on the day to share how we can all help drive social change through Ashoka’s efforts—even in our local communities around the world! Below is an outline of the organizations and how you might become involved.

What is your mission?  Ashoka is the global association of social entrepreneurs—men and women with solutions for the world’s most urgent social problems. Ashoka’s vision is a globally integrated society in which “Everyone is a Changemaker,” where every member of society has the freedom, confidence, and societal support to address any social need.

Who benefits?  At a direct level, Ashoka supports social entrepreneurs who are role models and driving social change. Ashoka provides these Fellows a living stipend for an average of three years, which allows them to focus full-time on building their innovations and spreading their ideas. Once elected to Ashoka, Fellows benefit from being a part of the Ashoka global Fellowship for life.

Ultimately, society as a whole benefits from the social change our Ashoka Fellows are working towards.

What is the challenge for the Fellows in Africa?  Ashoka has a unique approach in Africa—our Fellows shatter the conventional perspective of Africa as a continent bereft of leadership and entrepreneurial know-how for solving its problems without substantial, ever-increasing interventions by aid agencies outside Africa.

We implement a rigorous search and selection process, drawing on local and international experts, to find the most innovative ideas and the social entrepreneurs behind them.

Ashoka identifies and cultivates changemakers at a critical point —the fragile start-up phase—and provides them with the necessary financial resources and services to develop professionally as leading social entrepreneurs and help grow their projects into sustainable, impactful organizations.

Our Fellows live in the communities in which they work which means they have an indigenous perspective on the challenges they face and have devised home grown solutions to their problems. This model is distinctly different to the approach typically taken by international NGOs, which tend to apply externally-generated ideas to local problems.

We share best practices with grassroots organizations, local businesses, government and academic institutions to help the ideas of our Fellows take root and become widely recognized models of innovation.

Briefly describe a current project?  Ashoka’s Youth Venture (YV) Program has been investing in South African youth (ages 12-24) to help them learn how to start and lead their own socially minded enterprises. YV provides teams of young people with seed funding, training, mentoring and support, ongoing tools (e.g. workshops, online forums, and how-to booklets).

The result of YV’s efforts is a growing global network of young changemakers who are redefining the youth years as a time of initiative, empathetic leadership and positive social change. We have seen how Youth Venture empowers young South Africans to develop a set of business, leadership, and life skills that combine to break negative cycles of unemployment and poverty and better prepares them for successful lives.

Their experience of successfully launching and leading their own enterprises instills in them the recognition of their power to lead positive social change which leads to a virtuous cycle of youth-initiated, youth-led entrepreneurship, resulting in success at all levels from the individual, to his/her community, to all of society.

How can people support your organization?  Friends of Ashoka can:

  • Donate finanicially through our website
  • Volunteer with our offices around the world or with our Fellows
  • Nominate Fellows
  • Become strategic partners.
  • Please contact Neema Mgana at nmgana@ashoka.org for more details.

Where do people go to get financial information on your organization?  www.ashoka.org

How long have you been running?
Since 1981, we have elected over 2,000 leading social entrepreneurs as Ashoka Fellows, providing them with living stipends, professional support, and access to a global network of peers in 70 countries.


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