It’s hard not to think about Ashoka when speaking about social entrepreneurs. The non-profit organization began in 1981 with one simple goal: to identify and invest in these changemakers. Since then, Ashoka has become a global organization, having elected 3,000 Fellows across 70 countries.
Although its core is to help social entrepreneurs succeed, recently, its founder Bill Drayton has been trying to convey another idea that is believed to be far more powerful than the entrepreneur, idea, or community, which he calls collaborative entrepreneurship.
Understood simply, collaborative entrepreneurship is about bringing together the best entrepreneurs in a field from every continent, and having them figure out how to tip the world.
Ashoka has evolved from an organization that supported the individual social entrepreneur (Ashoka 1.0), then the communities (Ashoka 2.0), and now a global team of teams. Ashoka 3.0 will be defined by collaborative entrepreneurship.
But why is this going to be a big shift?
Ashoka reports that half of their Fellows have changed national policy within five years of their launch. There’s no doubting their impact. However, each Fellow has only developed one method of delivery to achieve their mission. Put together, you get a pretty good overview of the world’s best approaches for each problem. And Ashoka believes a good indicator that collaborative entrepreneurship is ripe when a large number of Fellows are bringing major change to an area.
One ripe area is with youth. There are currently 700 Fellows focusing on youth. Among them are Mary Gordon at Roots of Empathy, Eric Dawson at Peace First, Jill Vialet at Playworks, and Molly Barker at Girls on the Run. Each of the four has a different but complementary approach to ensuring children master empathy, a skill seen as critical if they are to participate in a society that is ever-changing and ambiguous.
How collaborative entrepreneurship will play out is by drawing these entrepreneurs together to determine what must happen in their field and then make it work. These ideas will be accessible and user friendly so as to recruit local changemakers to amplify change.
In the case of youth, it could mean developing a new paradigm where empathy is practiced the same way math or a new language is learned. In fact, the “Every Child Must Master Empathy” collaborative entrepreneurship initiative is looking to tip North America and then the world, so that empathy becomes embedded in schools.
Over the last three decades, Ashoka has built an army of social entrepreneurs that have escalated change throughout the world. As they come together and when that multiplying movement takes full force, we will begin to witness what Ashoka means by “Everyone a Changemaker”.
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