Ashoka is an organization dedicated to finding social entrepreneurs creating positive scalable change in their communities and countries and making sure they have the backing, support and tools they need to create revolutions in the "citizen sector."
The idea of social entrepreneurs and the "citizen sector" are not really new, but it is true that it is only now that society as a whole is beginning to realize the sector's value and that it needs non-traditional support and individuals. That is where Ashoka comes in. They act as venture capitalist for social entrepreneurs. They travel the world identifying individuals that act like entrepreneurs in the social context, name them Fellows and help fund them to free them from the financial burdens inherent in being this sort of entrepreneur and stand back and watch them create change. They have some notable people in their portfolio and have helped support some incredibly valuable and important work.
I also like the fact, that unlike larger more traditional fundraising organizations they go right into the places where help is needed the most and where good ideas that work can have the most impact. There are 3 things I really like about this. The first is that they do not pursue a paternalistic attitude that they know best which has been disastrous in major IMF projects. Second, local people are often the best ones to know what works in their communities. The one thing I've realized travelling is that people everywhere are pretty smart, just many lack access to the opportunities and resources we take for granted. Third, money used in this organization has direct impact at the grassroots level which is where it can do the most good.
Ashoka finds people that are looking at simple, inexpensive and effective entrepreneurial solutions to persistent problems in their communities and makes sure they have the tools and support to succeed. Besides the financial stipends, Ashoka also provides organizations with much needed credibility, management expertise, and contacts in making their venture successful. They are in some ways, like one of those dot com incubators, except being Innovators for the public cause.
I have to admit I find the premise sound, concepts incredibly compelling and was really inspired by the ideas I read about in the book. Another thing is that it has helped me articulate something about myself, as I've always had trouble explaining what exactly it is that I am trying to do in my career and the eloquent expression of concepts in this book helped enormously. Really looking forward to the interviews now. Would really love to work for them. Perfect fit with what i want to be doing and where I want to make an impact.
How to Change the World which is subtitled, Social Entrepreneurs and the power of New Ideas in some ways it feels like a ghost written homage of the organization's founder Drayton and at other times more advertising for the actual association but when you cut through this, the author, who also wrote on another assumption destroying institution, the Grameen Bank (which pioneered the concept of microcredit) does a good job of explaining why Ashoka is unique and exceptional and outlining some of its very numerous and visible successes.