Every Volcanic Cloud Has a Silver Lining

One of the event's that was not postponed under this volcanic ash ceiling still hovering over Europe was the one Million Euro Essl Social Prize presented to Ashoka Founder and CEO Bill Drayton.  Ashoka will use this award to assist their fellows scale their proven social inventions globally.  This is the latest in a long list of awards Bill has received since he started Ashoka over 30 years ago.  These awards present one side of Bill's brilliance, restlessness, tenacity, and compassion.

However to get a true measure of the man, who history will place in the same company as Muhammad Yunus, Maria Montessori and Florence Nightingale, you have to meet him.  He is a throw back to an earlier age – attentive, complimentary, gracious and polite.  Relationships matter to Bill – as does the personal touch. For example, every correspondence I have ever received from him is personally
signed. Every year Ashoka fellows receive a personally designed card resplendent with Bill's photography, a handwritten note and a gift wrapped calendar.  I'm not sure but I suspect Bil gift wraps thousands of them! 

He is well loved as the patriarch of the Ashoka family.  My nicest moment during the Skoll Forum in Oxford last
week was seeing Bill basking in the company of Ashoka fellows during a rather boisterous, exhilarating dinner. He was beaming!

Bill built Ashoka around one simple assumption.  People are capable of solving their own problems and addressing the mysteries of their own life.  They don't need 'outsiders' to tell them what to do or to take charge of the problem solving. However, they often lack the resources (money, connections, distribution channels) to implement their insights and solutions.  That is where outsiders can help.  Wait until asked and then place those resources in the hands of local social entrepreneurs. That's what Ashoka does.  Today there are over 2500 Ashoka fellows in 70 countries world wide.  I am proud to be one of them. 

The impact of Ashoka fellows is profound:

  • 52% of Ashoka fellows have changed national policy within 5 years of being elected as a fellow
  • 76% have changed the pattern in their field nationally within the same 5 years
  • 80% of Ashoka fellows have changed the rules that govern our societies and market systems.

Bill's vision has led Ashoka to not only, become a confident, successful organization but also, unselfishly to think and act like a movement – helping to build the infrastructure for social entrepreneurs all over the world to flourish.

There were references during Skoll to the 'rock stars' of the social enterprise world.  These include Jeff Skoll the Canadian co – founder of e-Bay and of course Bill.  Unlike U-2,  Bill's  brand is you too!  You see that's another one of Bill's talents – pattern recognition.  Recognizing that social entrepreneurs inspire more social entrepreneurs his goal and Ashoka's goal is now, Everyone a Changemaker.  That dear reader means Bill Drayton and his team have a job for, you too!

For further reading have a look at Bill's most recent essay: Tipping the World:The Power of Collaborative Entrepreneurship.

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