Selecting New Ashoka Fellows
The process of selection is a transformative and enlightening experience. Candidates articulate their innovations, and how they have the potential to change sector-wide systems. They scrutinize their strategies and methods, and reflect on how they engage as individuals and leaders in today’s world. The selection process is not simply a means to an end, but rather generates robust discussion, sharpens ideas, and gives room for a journey of self discovery and growth. We believe that patterns in society change when an innovative idea lands in the hands of a system-changing social entrepreneur.
Ashoka Fellows are creating a new future for the world. Their work goes to the heart of complex social problems and devises system-changing strategies to plug gaps, create new business models and empower those whose voice is heard the least. Fellows bring an acute understanding of development, and combine that with their business and entrepreneurial acumen to engineer innovative solutions. How we select these individuals is through a matrix of five criteria that gives us a glimpse into their potential to change status quo and impact their sector:
A New Idea: Candidates must have a new idea—a new solution or approach to a social problem—that will change the pattern in a field. Candidates must have a truly transformational innovation, not just a tweak to how things are done currently.
Creativity: Successful social entrepreneurs are creative both as goal-setting visionaries and as problem solvers that are capable of engineering their visions into reality.
Entrepreneurial Quality: Successful social entrepreneurs are driven by the vision of solving the problem they are working on. They typically will not rest until their idea is the new pattern for society. At the same time, they are willing to grapple relentlessly with many practical “how to” challenges.
Social Impact of the Idea: The candidate’s new idea has the potential to change the field significantly and will trigger nationwide impact. The idea itself needs to be sufficiently new, practical, and useful for people working in the field to adopt it and turn it into the new norm sector wide.
Ethical Fibre: Social entrepreneurs introducing major structural changes to society will have to inspire that change at a wide scale and across different stakeholder groups. Ashoka believes this is to be a crucial indicator of whether the Fellow will be able to garner support for her work, and be trusted as a leader of her movement.
The Ashoka Fellow selection process follows a multi-layered approach. Through five phases (Nomination, First Opinion, Second Opinion, Panel and Board Review) each of the criteria above are applied to assess whether the candidate is a fit for the Fellowship. Nominations of candidates come through a network of voulnteer nominators (often exisiting Fellows themselves), which are then whetted by the First Opinion team ( based in the country office) fthrough a series of interviews, site visits and research. In the next stage, the candidate meets the Second Opinion reviwer, a senior Ashoka representative with extensive experience in the field of social entrepreneurship, who reviews the work of the candidate with the local Venture team. The second opinion interviewer will always come from a different continent than the candidate so they can bring objectivity to the process and assess the potential of the idea to be applied elsewhere. The second opinion interviewer will have an in-depth conversation about the innovation in the idea, its potential for sparking sector-wide system change, and the candidate’s fit for the Ashoka criteria. At the Panel stage, three to four leading social and business entrepreneurs from the same country/region will interview the candidate. These entrepreneurs are able to assess the innovation and its potential impact in the local context. Finally, the Second Opinion reviwer and the local Panel make a recommendation to the global Ashoka Board, who then make the final decision on the candidate's fit with the criteria.
Here's what Fellows say about our Venture process:
"Ashoka’s objective, strategic, and critical analysis of our work and potential development paths have already fundamentally altered our plans for growth. Indeed, thanks to Ashoka the bar has been significantly raised: our aspirations are now global rather than local, and we’re aiming—and making good progress—towards an impact that is many hundreds of times larger than we dared imagine this time last year."
- Al Harris, Blue Ventures, UK and Madagascar
Ashoka Fellow since 2007