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Ashoka Fellows are leading social entrepreneurs who we recognize to have innovative solutions to social problems and the potential to change patterns across society.
Ashoka invests in people. We believe that the growth of a global citizen sector begins with the work of leading social entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs drive the sector forward, responding to new challenges and changing needs.
Anchored by the Selection Criteria and our Selection Process we elect Ashoka Fellows. Ashoka Fellows are leading social entrepreneurs who we recognize to have innovative solutions to social problems and the potential to change patterns across society. They demonstrate unrivaled commitment to bold new ideas and prove that compassion, creativity, and collaboration are tremendous forces of change. Ashoka Fellows work in over 60 countries around the globe in every area of human need.
Ashoka Fellows are practical visionaries who introduce and fully commit themselves to a new idea or implement an existing idea in an innovative and impactful way. They bring in a fresh analysis and insight on how to fix a social problem. They challenge the system and open new opportunities for citizens to be changemakers. With creativity and entrepreneurial skills, they push ahead their idea until it changes a pattern through wide adoption, often over many years.
For Fellows in the launch phase, Ashoka provides a living stipend for an average of three years, allowing them to focus full-time on building their institutions and spreading their ideas. Ashoka also introduces all its Fellows to a global platform of social entrepreneurs that in turn opens doors for opportunities and collaboration. Once elected, Fellows benefit from this community for life. For details on the fellowship, see the Fellowship page.
Ashoka's selection process at every stage is anchored by our five criteria against which all Fellowship candidates are evaluated:
The Venture Team supports Ashoka’s search and selection process for Fellows. The term ‘Venture’ implies risk or a daring undertaking that has no guarantee of success. Much like traditional business ventures, Ashoka’s Venture program does involve the risk inherent in investing in individuals and their ideas at the launch stage. In Ashoka’s case, the investment is often small, and the social change it makes possible is remarkable.
We learn of candidates for the fellowship in two main ways: we actively look for them in fields ripe for change, and our community (including you!) continuously alerts us to social entrepreneurs for whom the Ashoka Fellow route may be appropriate. The Venture Team evaluates each candidate against five Selection Criteria.
The process is long but also fruitful. In fact, many candidates describe the selection procedure as one of the most difficult but enlightening experiences of their careers. Candidates must communicate their ideas, scrutinize their methods, and reflect on themselves as individuals. Even those who do not pass believe they are better equipped to return to their projects afterwards. In this way, more than a means to an end, our selection process generates robust discussion, sharpens ideas, and focuses tremendous energy into the citizen sector and the growing field of social entrepreneurship.
From nomination to election as a Fellow, candidates go through an extensive series of in-depth interviews, a panel, and a final executive board discussion. Read more about the Selection Process.
Maintaining a rigorous selection process and universally-applied standards is very important to Ashoka, as it ensures that only the most innovative social entrepreneurs with the greatest probability of achieving large-scale social impact are elected into the global Fellowship. Upon receiving a nomination or application for the Fellowship, Ashoka understands the candidates’ fit against the selection criteria through the following process:
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