Ashoka is leading a profound transformation in society.
In the past three decades, the global citizen sector, led by social entrepreneurs, has grown exponentially. Just as the business sector experienced a tremendous spurt in productivity over the last century, the citizen sector is experiencing a similar revolution, with the number and sophistication of citizen organizations increasing dramatically.
Rather than leaving societal needs for the government or business sectors to address, social entrepreneurs are creating innovative solutions, delivering extraordinary results, and improving the lives of millions of people.
It is this insight into the power of social entrepreneurs that led Bill Drayton to found Ashoka in 1980 and that continues to guide Ashoka today.
Beginning with the first Ashoka Fellows elected in India in 1981, Ashoka has grown to an association of over 2,000 Fellows in over 60 countries on the world's five main continents.
During its first decade in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Central Europe, Ashoka focused exclusively on launching leading social entrepreneurs and helping them succeed. But in the 1990s as the citizen sector evolved and grew, Ashoka responded with a wider range of programs and initiatives to deal with the sector's growing needs. Ashoka grew as well, tripling in size from 1988 to 1990, and again from 1999 to 2002.
Today Ashoka is in its third period of rapid growth, electing record numbers of Fellows in 2006 and expanding its programs in Western Europe, East Asia, and the Middle East.
Along with our global network of Fellows, business entrepreneurs, policy makers, investors, academics, and journalists, Ashoka is now working collectively to ensure that social entrepreneurs and their innovations continue to inspire a new generation of local changemakers to create positive social change.
As we celebrate our 30th anniversary year, we are constantly innovating new programs that advance our field, using our long history and broad geographic reach to lead the transformation of the citizen sector and shape it over the next 30 years and beyond.
- Founded in 1980 by Bill Drayton in Washington, DC
- Named, created and pioneered the global field of social entrepreneurship
- Elected the first Ashoka Fellows in India in 1981
- Started with an annual budget of $50,000, grown to nearly $40 million in 2009
- Founded on the premise that the most effective way to promote positive social change is to invest in social entrepreneurs with innovative solutions that are sustainable and replicable, both nationally and globally.
- Ashoka is represented by the oak tree. A strong, sturdy tree, the oak represents the power of Ashoka's commitment and contributions to building the profession of social entrepreneurship. A broad-spreading tree, it is symbolic of those dimensions of Ashoka's programs that select, launch and foster collaborations among social entrepreneurs around the world.
Origin of the Name
- Named to honor Ashoka, the Indian leader who unified the Indian subcontinent in the 3rd century BC, renouncing violence and dedicating his life to social welfare and economic development. For his creativity, global mindedness and tolerance, Ashoka is renowned as the earliest example of a social innovator.
Around the World
- Established programs in over 60 countries and supports the work of over 1800 Fellows
- Employs 160 staff in 25 regional offices throughout Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa
Legal and Financial Status
- Registered 501c3 not-for-profit organization in the United States
- Financed by individuals, foundations and business entrepreneurs from around the world. Ashoka does not accept funding from government entities. Individual and institutional endowment funds provide for Ashoka's long-term stability.
Ashoka envisions an Everyone A Changemaker™ world. A world that responds quickly and effectively to social challenges, and where each individual has the freedom, confidence and societal support to address any social problem and drive change.
Ashoka strives to shape a global, entrepreneurial, competitive citizen sector: one that allows social entrepreneurs to thrive and enables the world’s citizens to think and act as changemakers.