The Past, Present, and Future of Changemaking
The Evolution of Changemaking
“We coined the phrase ‘Changemaker’ in the spring of 1981 in what was then called Bombay. It only made it into the dictionary seven or eight years ago but is now common in conversation in most of the world."
— Bill Drayton, CEO and Founder of Ashoka
From Social Entrepreneur to Changemaker
Bill Drayton founded Ashoka based on the idea that a social entrepreneur (a concept he had previously coined in the ‘70s) is the most powerful force for good in the world. This was because they have the unique ability to help correct globally entrenched problems at scale and produce system-changing solutions. The term social entrepreneur became instantly recognizable, but by the ‘80s, the organization realized that it lacked the inclusivity needed to fully address the exponential problems affecting our world. And thus, the term Changemaker was born.
An Elite Fellowship Committed to World Change
For more than 35 years, Ashoka has built and nurtured the world’s largest network of leading social entrepreneurs. Ashoka Fellows are the stewards of this network who define the new roadmaps of global systemic change.
Ashoka Fellows are a rare breed — They live modest lifestyles who have found their life’s purpose, not through material desires but true happiness in serving others.
Every year Ashoka selects several leading social entrepreneurs to act as Fellows.Approximately 90 percent of the Fellows’ initiatives have been replicated by governments and other NGOs and continue to grow.
Founder of Ashoka Japan, Nana Watanabe, remembers fondly what Ashoka Fellows David Green and Bart Weetjens once told her. David Green is finding innovative and practical ways to produce affordable healthcare devices,
“When I first met David, he shared his view on his life, its meaning, and significance:‘When I was in college, I asked myself how I want to live `life' that is a given time (physical time). We have choices between focusing on the benefit of oneself (a great job, a nice family, a beautiful house as its `purpose') or the benefit of other people on earth. I chose the latter.’”
Bart co-founded the organization APOPO, which uses African pouch rats' unique scent detection ability to sniff out landmines - he is also a Buddhist monk.
“When I first met Bart in 2006 at the World Economic Forum Social Entrepreneurship Retreat, he was not a monk yet but practicing meditation regularly and steadily. He told me later that confronting his inner soul (conscience) makes him balanced. His work, I understand, equals to meditation; confronting his conscience, bringing him inner-peace.”
Building Empathy and Empowering Future Generations
Despite building an impressive roster of 3,800 Ashoka Fellows with 31% having changed standards globally, there are more problems than there are Changemakers. Ashoka envisions a world in which everyone is a Changemaker: a world where everyone can exercise their power and contribute to change for the good of all. They believe the key to realizing this vision is young people and are making valiant efforts to cultivate these much-needed skills and mindsets into future generations.
Ashoka is spearheading initiatives to make changemaking a recognizable and indispensable skill and a part of international education systems around the world. As proof of concept, Ashoka has succeeded in getting changemaking added as a criterion of the International Baccalaureate: impacting 4,600 schools across 45 countries from this year.
The catalyst of this movement is “Empathy Education.” Across the world, Ashoka works outside education systems in collaboration with parents to teach children to empathize, to notice that problems exist.
Their Youth Venture initiative takes promising Japanese kids to America to take part in discussions with Ashoka Fellows. Their Ashoka U movement joins forces with universities to create a Changemaker recruitment pool for leaders to select from. There are 60 plus universities in the network. The University of San Diego even requires students to take a pledge to make the world a better place”.
The Power to Change in the Hands of Ordinary People
ANA realized it could leverage its core competency of air travel to help Ashoka Japan and joined forces to empower ordinary people to change the world. As well as working with Ashoka Japan to support Changemakers like Bart and David individually, the program supports Ashoka Japan directly by reducing the cost to fly staff around the world and focus their resources on their various initiatives.
Readers, you can help Ashoka Japan by donating miles, flying BLUE CLASS, or sharing this article. Why not become a part of the changemaking movement.