Ashoka Global Survey: Changemaker Identity Helps Support Lifelong Work | The social enterprise magazine
Changing systems is an “ongoing creative process” – but one that can be supported by internalizing one’s identity as a changemaker, according to leading social entrepreneurs interviewed by Ashoka.
In a major study released Wednesday, The Unlonely Planet: How Ashoka Fellows Are Accelerating a World Every ChangemakerThe Global Network of Social Entrepreneurs describes how changemaker identity benefits community, work and quality of life.
“Having the opportunity to contribute is the greatest gift; it gives meaning to life. By wanting this for those around them, Fellows help others develop identities as changemakers,” the report authors write.
Encouraging others to develop this identity is just one of the many ways social entrepreneurs inspire others, change minds and help change policies, says Ashoka.
Eleven ways to activate change
Founded in 1980 and now operating in more than 90 countries, Ashoka surveys its alumni – called scholars – every three years. Currently numbering more than 3,500, they form a “critical mass of leading social entrepreneurs” and possibly the “best discussion group in the world,” according to Ashoka Chair Emeritus Diana Wells.
The report details 11 ways Ashoka entrepreneurs are activating the people around them as “contributors and solution providers”.
Comrade Ali Raza Khan established the National Youth Service in Pakistan to combat the disengagement of young people from their community. He describes how he conveys the identity of a changemaker: “I think the biggest challenge for me in working with young people is to generate this conviction that they are precious for themselves, for their families, for communities. And I think wherever you go, get young people interested. Every word counts a lot.
Fellow strategies also include creating employment and volunteer opportunities, encouraging problem solving, even on a small scale, and creating space for others to develop solutions. As Mukteshwari Bosco in India, also quoted in the report, says: “We don’t believe that we are creators, we are only facilitators, we show the way. They are the ones who walk the path, it is not up to us to guide them.
The biggest challenge in working with young people is to generate this belief that they are valuable to themselves, to their families, to communities
Fellows are also forming “multiplier partnerships” – with more respondents partnering now than in 2018 – according to the report. They “frequently give up control and ownership of their ideas to see them spread as far as possible”, and may seek out “unlikely allies” to secure change.
To change systems, fellows attempt to change mindsets and cultural norms, and work to influence policy, although activity on the latter has declined slightly since the 2018 survey.
Over 800 fellows responded to the survey and 32 participated in in-depth interviews.
To change the mentalities
Originally founded to support individual social entrepreneurs, Ashoka expanded its focus to a vision of “everyone a changemaker” in 2005. This means everyone can create positive change, everyone must become a changemaker. change to thrive, and everyone should be equipped with the qualities that most define a social entrepreneur.
Some 87% of fellows said Ashoka helped them see the importance of changing collective mindsets about the social issue they’re working on, according to Wednesday’s report, and 89% of those fellows changed their strategy as a result. .
More than 80% said Ashoka helped them understand how their work can help systems evolve.
First line, second line, ecosystem
Speaking at the report’s launch event on Wednesday, Ashoka colleague Vishal Talreja (pictured) gave an example of how his work has evolved from solving a specific problem to a wider system change.
Talreja is the co-founder of Dream a Dream, a charity that focuses on empowering children and young people from vulnerable backgrounds to overcome adversity and thrive in a rapidly changing world. The organization helps children develop life skills through play, art and activity-based learning, and has now reached over 100,000 children in India since its inception 21 years ago.
The more layers you peel off, the more layers you find. And that’s how our work evolved
Dream a Dream began helping children from vulnerable backgrounds, but found a central part of its impact was its ability to unleash creativity and empathy in adults working with young people growing up in adversity. . Without these adults, vulnerable children could not thrive, Talreja said.
So, over the past 10 years, Dream a Dream has worked with 35,000 teachers and facilitators, changing their own internal belief systems, practices and approaches in formal and non-formal learning environments.
But those were just the “front line players”, Talreja explained. The whole education system needed to change, so his organization began to involve the “second line actors” – the managers, policy makers and civil servants who make decisions that affect children without always understanding their problems, and Dream a Dream now working with the government. It doesn’t stop there, according to Talreja: the whole ecosystem – the media, ministers, parents and young people themselves – must change to redefine the purpose of education.
“It’s like an onion,” he says. “The more layers you peel off, the more you find. And that’s how our work has evolved.
Header image: Katie Plohocky, Ashoka Fellow in the United States. Photo courtesy of Healthy Community Store Initiative
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