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Ashoka Fellows And The Ashoka Support Network

Raj Melville

Writing a column on Social Entrepreneurship would be incomplete without writing about Ashoka – a Washington based non profit started by Bill Drayton in 1980 that virtually coined the term ‘Social Entrepreneur”.

As a youth Bill was fascinated by India and profoundly influenced by the ideas of Mahatma Gandhi and the life and works of Emperor Ashoka, who used his power for social purposes. After a ten year career as a consultant at McKinsey & Company and a stint as Assistant Administrator with the Carter administration EPA, where he was instrumental in introducing emissions trading as part of US policy, Bill Drayton founded “Ashoka: Innovators for the Public” with the ambitious objective of identifying and nurturing emerging social entrepreneurs around the world. With an initial pool of $50,000, scraped together from friends, Ashoka nominated its first Ashoka Fellow - Gloria de Souza in India. Since then Ashoka has grown a worldwide network that has identified and supported over 1900 social entrepreneurs in 60 plus countries.

Ashoka undertakes a rigorous nomination and review process to identify leading social entrepreneurs around the world.  Ashoka looks for candidates with innovative new ideas, reviews their professional and ethical backgrounds, conducts in-depth interviews and determines the potential country impact of the innovator’s ideas. Once selected, an Ashoka Fellow is provided a living stipend for two to four years, thereby allowing them the flexibility to focus their energies on growing and managing their organization.

With a rich international network of Ashoka Fellows, Ashoka encourages cross-organizational learning by bringing together Fellows and providing necessary tools and support to help scale. In addition, realizing that social entrepreneurs, like business entrepreneurs, require an entrepreneurial ecosystem to succeed, Ashoka is helping to build a support system that includes financing, access to capital and introductions to networks of business professionals.

Ashoka has recently launched the Ashoka Support Network (ASN) in the United States. The Ashoka Support Network is a network of socially-minded business and philanthropic leaders who are dedicated to supporting Ashoka and its Ashoka Fellows by providing resources, mentoring, and sharing experience, expertise and contacts. ASN members have an opportunity to
•    Get personally engaged by partnering with social entrepreneurs,
•    Visit Ashoka Fellows in their native countries as part of small group trips
•    Meet other like minded individuals and Ashoka Fellows at sponsored dinners
•    Line up internships for children with Ashoka Fellow organizations
•    Provide seed financing for Ashoka Fellows

Ashoka held its first US ASN dinner in Cambridge last week where guests had an opportunity to hear visiting Ashoka Fellow Muthu Velayutham and locally-based Ashoka Fellow Willy Foote. (You can read Lokvani’s interview with Muthu elsewhere in this issue). To learn more about Ashoka and its programs click on:
Ashoka: http://www.ashoka.org/
Ashoka Support Network: http://www.ashoka.org/e2e

You can contact me with ideas, suggestions or for more information at: SELokvani@gmail.com

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1.killing of Indian students February 8, 2008 

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