Ashoka Fellows Bring Social Change With Citizen Organization

Ashoka is a global network of high impact social entrepreneurs who have the vision and skill to introduce their transformative ideas at a national or global scale. Ashoka is a citizen sector organization that focuses on  tackling some of the world’s most pressing challenges through social innovators, while paving the way for future change-makers.

Why Ashoka is a “Citizen Sector” organization?

When the Europeans saw a new type of organization stirring, they perceived them to be “nongovernmental organizations” (NGOs). The Americans were struck that they were not businesses and called them “non–profits.”

Words matter—and being defined by what we are not certainly does not help. That is why Ashoka and a growing number of sister organizations have sworn off the “non-” words. Instead we use “citizen sector” and “citizen organization.” Why? Because citizens—people who care and take action to serve others and cause needed change—are the essence of the sector. We believe that when one or several people get together to cause positive social change, they instantly become citizens in the fullest sense of the word.

All Ashoka Fellows must undergo a rigorous search and selection process in which they demonstrate that they fully meet Ashoka’s selection criteria. 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.

Meet eight new Ashoka Fellows whose change-making ideas in education, the environment, health, immigration, and refugee resettlement will ripple throughout the United States and the world.

They are social innovators in education like Louise Davis Langheier the co-founder of Peer Health Exchange who is working to incorporate comprehensive health education back into public schools in the United States, and Alexandra Bernadotte who started Beyond 12 to improve college retention for at-risk students by tracking them from their senior year in high school through their second year of college – the years students are most likely to drop out.

With chronic diet-related illnesses on the rise and healthcare costs out of control Zoe Finch Totten, and The Full Yield, is changing the cycle of bad decisions around the food we eat by getting employers and the food and healthcare industries together around a shared goal to promote better health.

Welcoming America founder David Lubell is unlocking the full potential of communities by addressing the fears of U.S. born residents regarding the country’s fastest immigration growth rates since the early 1900s and helping them find pride in upholding traditions of welcoming newcomers.

Wars and the daily struggle to survive in Africa and the Middle East are calling for a whole new role for citizen organizations in the refugee resettlement process. Through collaboration, Sasha Chanoff the founder of RefugePoint, is influencing the priorities of the United Nations to find permanent homes for the most vulnerable refugees in ways previously unimaginable.

Mitch Hedlund and Recycle Across America are getting all sectors involved in recycling and waste-handling to adjust practices and acknowledge and adhere by standardized labels for recycling bins, a simple solution that is increasing our recycling rates dramatically and decreasing the cost.

Will Byrne and Groundswell are leveraging the collective purchasing power of communities across several US cities to shift dynamics in clean energy markets. Through a model he calls “civic consumption,” Will helps community networks jointly invest in clean energy and efficiency upgrades, making them affordable to neighborhoods, while ensuring projects create new local economic opportunity.

Jason McLennan created the Living Building Institute to change the way we think about and create our entire built environment and improve our way of life by instituting the world’s most stringent green building standard. With three certified “living” buildings, and over 100 projects in progress in 5 countries, Jason is leading the way to building beautiful, net zero efficient, green buildings.

Paula Recart, Ashoka’s U.S. Director said,

“These entrepreneurs are active at a moment in the U.S. when their smart, cost-saving solutions are urgently needed. They don’t come with band-aids but with transformative ideas and the vision and skill to introduce new norms at a national scale.”

About the Author

Hi there! I am Priti and I specialize in strategy and communications for impact organizations that aim to create social, environmental and economic wealth for all stakeholders. Working from the ground up, I help these do-gooders craft effective programs for community engagement, outreach and profitability. Follow my work covering do-gooders, cleanweb, start-ups and Web 2.0 businesses on Ecopreneurist and at Crowdsourcing Week. I enjoy traveling with my boys, cooking up a gourmet meal from scratch and entertaining! Join my community for Social Entrepreneurs on G+ Follow me on Twitter, on LinkedIn and Google+