Are you obsessed, really obsessed by an idea?

Bill Drayton was aware at a young age that some people are capable of changing the world. He founded Ashoka, an international organisation that empowers and financially supports social entrepreneurs.

Tijn Touber | June 2004 issue
As is often the case, it started with his parents. His father, an American who came from a family of English aristocrats, was the odd man out, dropping out of Harvard to become an explorer. His mother left Australia for New York to become a famous cellist but instead dedicated herself to the development of young musicians.
And the son? Ever since college he dreamed about setting up an organisation that would search for people with a compelling vision, creativity, common sense and the determination to carry out their innovative ideas on a large scale. This, he thought, would truly contribute to social change – worldwide, of course.
Now, nearly 25 years after it was founded, this dream of an organisation is active in 46 countries on every continent. It supports some 1,400 social entrepreneurs with funding – a total of 40 million dollars – and ‘professional services’. Of the growing number of organisations that identify and support social entrepreneurs, this is the only one that has been active for so long, on a global scale.
The organisation? Ashoka. The founder? Bill Drayton.
Drayton studied economics and history at Oxford and law at Yale. He worked for the consulting bureau McKinsey and was then granted a senior position at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. But his idea of supporting a global network of social entrepreneurs proved too compelling. In 1980 he founded Ashoka, named after the progressive Indian emperor who worked to stimulate social and economic development in 300 B.C.
His good manners betray an aristocratic background and his eyes shine with curiosity. Drayton must have held thousands of elaborate discussions with people all over the world, whose only common trait was a desire for systematic social change. Drayton met with us during a short visit to Amsterdam, and as we talk he writes intermittently in a small notebook he always carries. That notebook is where he diligently documents how problems are solved and which solutions worked for what reasons.
You seem to travel a lot. What keeps you going?
“Can you imagine a more remarkable group of people to have as colleagues than the world’s best social entrepreneurs? These are people who are driven by values, who are not cynical because they are creating major change. Of all people they are the most disciplined. They have to listen to every nuance constantly to evolve their idea, so it will really work. They just know how things work better than anyone else. I am sure everyone in this citizen sector is serving the most powerful and positive historical force in the world. The newspapers are now filled with ministers doing things and making decisions, but no-one is going to remember that three centuries from now. No-one is going to remember Charles de Gaulle, but they will remember Jean Monnet – or at least what he did: unifying Europe.”
How do you select a brilliant social entrepreneur?
“The procedure at Ashoka begins with the ‘knockout test’: Does the candidate have a new and potentially pattern-setting idea? If yes, and if the candidate meets the criteria, there will be a ‘second opinion reviewer’ from another geographical region. Then, the candidate goes to the ‘selection panel’, a jury of two to five social entrepreneurs from the candidate’s home country, plus an Ashoka board member or senior staff member from a different continent, where individual interviews will take place. The decision by the jury has to be unanimous. If one person says no, it is no.”
What are the qualities you’re looking for?
“The first criterion is creativity, meaning both the problem-solving, and the visionary seeing over the horizon to a different pattern in the field. Social entrepreneurs are on top of how-to questions. How am I going to do this? How will I involve other parties? How will I promote it? They love these kind of questions. That’s what they spend their time thinking about in the shower in the morning. Another criterion is the ethical fiber. Members of the jury have to ask themselves: Do I deeply trust this person? If I am in a dangerous situation, would I be totally at ease if this person was with me? Trust is essential to gain support and success for your idea.”
Sounds like a difficult test.
“It is. And the toughest test is their entrepreneurial quality, which is a hard-to-grasp mix of creativity, energy and altruism. For some reason deep in their personality, entrepreneurs know from the time they were little, that they are on this world to change it in a fundamental way. They will not be satisfied expressing an idea. Artists are. Scholars are. Entrepreneurs aren’t. They have in their heads the vision of how society will be different when their idea is at work, and they can’t stop until that idea is not only at work in one place, but is at work across the whole society. From that need flows a number of characteristics that you can see very early in people’s lives. Are they possessed by an idea, that they ‘re going to devote ten or twenty years to it if necessary and it doesn’t cross their minds not to do that? The idea – and making it happen across the society – is something they are married to in the full sense of the word.”
What’s Ashoka’s ultimate goal?
“Everyone a changemaker. This transformation of the citizen sector – in which competitiveness comes to the citizen half of the world – is a big step in the direction of everyone being a changemaker. When you see people who are actually doing it, it’s so empowering. The idea that anyone can do it, is just a wonderful change. The spirit in the citizen sector will grow, and so will our self-confidence.”
For more information: Ashoka, 1700 North Moore Street, Suite 2000, Arlington, VA 22209-1939, United States, telephone +1 703 527 8300, e-mail
info@ashoka.org, www.ashoka.org.

See also: www.changemakers.net.

Are you a social entrepreneur?
Ashoka is always looking for social entrepreneurs and to expand its network. Are you a leader with an innovative idea that could change an entire field of human endeavor? Are you go-getter who puts everything on hold to realise your ideal? Here are a few selection criteria for social entrepreneurs:

1. New idea
You need to be obsessed by a new solution or approach to a social problem that can change the pattern in a particular field worldwide. For instance, Ashoka wouldn’t likely invest in a new school or health clinic, but would consider ideas that could change the education or healthcare systems.
2. Creativity
You should be creative both in your visions for the future and in the ability to solve problems.
3. Entrepreneurial qualities
You’re persistent in working out, testing and refining your vision, and will continue to shout about it from the rooftops until the idea has become a new pattern in society.
Do you feel like this is you?
Write to Ashoka. Consult
www.ashoka.org/contactus/ offices.cfm and find a representative of Ashoka in your country or region.

 

Solution News Source

Are you obsessed, really obsessed by an idea?

Bill Drayton was aware at a young age that some people are capable of changing the world. He founded Ashoka, an international organisation that empowers and financially supports social entrepreneurs.

Tijn Touber | June 2004 issue
As is often the case, it started with his parents. His father, an American who came from a family of English aristocrats, was the odd man out, dropping out of Harvard to become an explorer. His mother left Australia for New York to become a famous cellist but instead dedicated herself to the development of young musicians.
And the son? Ever since college he dreamed about setting up an organisation that would search for people with a compelling vision, creativity, common sense and the determination to carry out their innovative ideas on a large scale. This, he thought, would truly contribute to social change – worldwide, of course.
Now, nearly 25 years after it was founded, this dream of an organisation is active in 46 countries on every continent. It supports some 1,400 social entrepreneurs with funding – a total of 40 million dollars – and ‘professional services’. Of the growing number of organisations that identify and support social entrepreneurs, this is the only one that has been active for so long, on a global scale.
The organisation? Ashoka. The founder? Bill Drayton.
Drayton studied economics and history at Oxford and law at Yale. He worked for the consulting bureau McKinsey and was then granted a senior position at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. But his idea of supporting a global network of social entrepreneurs proved too compelling. In 1980 he founded Ashoka, named after the progressive Indian emperor who worked to stimulate social and economic development in 300 B.C.
His good manners betray an aristocratic background and his eyes shine with curiosity. Drayton must have held thousands of elaborate discussions with people all over the world, whose only common trait was a desire for systematic social change. Drayton met with us during a short visit to Amsterdam, and as we talk he writes intermittently in a small notebook he always carries. That notebook is where he diligently documents how problems are solved and which solutions worked for what reasons.
You seem to travel a lot. What keeps you going?
“Can you imagine a more remarkable group of people to have as colleagues than the world’s best social entrepreneurs? These are people who are driven by values, who are not cynical because they are creating major change. Of all people they are the most disciplined. They have to listen to every nuance constantly to evolve their idea, so it will really work. They just know how things work better than anyone else. I am sure everyone in this citizen sector is serving the most powerful and positive historical force in the world. The newspapers are now filled with ministers doing things and making decisions, but no-one is going to remember that three centuries from now. No-one is going to remember Charles de Gaulle, but they will remember Jean Monnet – or at least what he did: unifying Europe.”
How do you select a brilliant social entrepreneur?
“The procedure at Ashoka begins with the ‘knockout test’: Does the candidate have a new and potentially pattern-setting idea? If yes, and if the candidate meets the criteria, there will be a ‘second opinion reviewer’ from another geographical region. Then, the candidate goes to the ‘selection panel’, a jury of two to five social entrepreneurs from the candidate’s home country, plus an Ashoka board member or senior staff member from a different continent, where individual interviews will take place. The decision by the jury has to be unanimous. If one person says no, it is no.”
What are the qualities you’re looking for?
“The first criterion is creativity, meaning both the problem-solving, and the visionary seeing over the horizon to a different pattern in the field. Social entrepreneurs are on top of how-to questions. How am I going to do this? How will I involve other parties? How will I promote it? They love these kind of questions. That’s what they spend their time thinking about in the shower in the morning. Another criterion is the ethical fiber. Members of the jury have to ask themselves: Do I deeply trust this person? If I am in a dangerous situation, would I be totally at ease if this person was with me? Trust is essential to gain support and success for your idea.”
Sounds like a difficult test.
“It is. And the toughest test is their entrepreneurial quality, which is a hard-to-grasp mix of creativity, energy and altruism. For some reason deep in their personality, entrepreneurs know from the time they were little, that they are on this world to change it in a fundamental way. They will not be satisfied expressing an idea. Artists are. Scholars are. Entrepreneurs aren’t. They have in their heads the vision of how society will be different when their idea is at work, and they can’t stop until that idea is not only at work in one place, but is at work across the whole society. From that need flows a number of characteristics that you can see very early in people’s lives. Are they possessed by an idea, that they ‘re going to devote ten or twenty years to it if necessary and it doesn’t cross their minds not to do that? The idea – and making it happen across the society – is something they are married to in the full sense of the word.”
What’s Ashoka’s ultimate goal?
“Everyone a changemaker. This transformation of the citizen sector – in which competitiveness comes to the citizen half of the world – is a big step in the direction of everyone being a changemaker. When you see people who are actually doing it, it’s so empowering. The idea that anyone can do it, is just a wonderful change. The spirit in the citizen sector will grow, and so will our self-confidence.”
For more information: Ashoka, 1700 North Moore Street, Suite 2000, Arlington, VA 22209-1939, United States, telephone +1 703 527 8300, e-mail
info@ashoka.org, www.ashoka.org.

See also: www.changemakers.net.

Are you a social entrepreneur?
Ashoka is always looking for social entrepreneurs and to expand its network. Are you a leader with an innovative idea that could change an entire field of human endeavor? Are you go-getter who puts everything on hold to realise your ideal? Here are a few selection criteria for social entrepreneurs:

1. New idea
You need to be obsessed by a new solution or approach to a social problem that can change the pattern in a particular field worldwide. For instance, Ashoka wouldn’t likely invest in a new school or health clinic, but would consider ideas that could change the education or healthcare systems.
2. Creativity
You should be creative both in your visions for the future and in the ability to solve problems.
3. Entrepreneurial qualities
You’re persistent in working out, testing and refining your vision, and will continue to shout about it from the rooftops until the idea has become a new pattern in society.
Do you feel like this is you?
Write to Ashoka. Consult
www.ashoka.org/contactus/ offices.cfm and find a representative of Ashoka in your country or region.

 

Solution News Source

SIGN UP

TO GET A Free DAILY DOSE OF OPTIMISM

Optimist Subscriber
Delivery Frequency *
reCAPTCHA

We respect your privacy and take protecting it seriously. Privacy Policy