kevin keepper

Ashoka Globalizer: Building a Pool of World Class Social Entrepreneurs

Ashoka publically launched the Globalizer website today, part of an exciting new initiative that will enable the world’s leading social entrepreneurs to scale their businesses and reach new markets. In the first year of the Globilizer initiative, Ashoka will work with 25 selected social entrepreneurs to build their capacity and concertedly address the challenges of “going global.” The website will become a dynamic platform for collaboration, knowledge dissemination, and key findings coming out of the program.

This initiative is made possible by the Essl Foundation, an Austrian family foundation. Bill Drayton, C.E.O. and Founder of Ashoka, is the 2010 winner of the Essl Social Prize which is the biggest prize for Social Entrepreneurs in the world at 1 million Euro (this prize currently represents the sole funding of the program). The Essls gave Ashoka the freedom (or mandate through another lens) to launch a crazy, ambitious new project that they have been dreaming of for years. Naturally, Bill wanted to build upon their successful business model and introduce a new program that would help their most promising fellows reach their potential, and pave the way for others while doing so.

The initiative has three immediate goals: 1) create a platform (website) for fellows to share their learnings; 2) build a tight community of social entrepreneurs; and 3) move the community of scalable social entrepreneurs forward by developing a deep pool of publically available knowledge. This is a significant investment in action-research that will help the development community understand how to enable social enterprises to go global. The contributions to the knowledge base and applicability to BoP entrepreneurs will be closely watched by NextBillion.

During a conference yesterday I heard from three of the 25 Ashoka Fellows chosen to take part in the Globalizer. My immediate impressions were that the individual projects were boldly innovative and unique. Caroline Casey of Ireland, for example, is changing the way businesses look at and deal with people with disabilities by building a network of “ability confident” companies and spurring the market to recognize the significant contributions this segment of the population makes (3.3 billion euro of spending power, for example). Gary Slutkin of the United States, on the other hand, is funneling his decades of knowledge around battling infectious diseases into an effort to eradicate urban violence by training former perpetrators to disrupt armed conflicts and educate communities.

During the first year (which began in October 2009), Ashoka will be working closely with these twenty-five Fellows to prepare their scaling strategies and pushing them to go global. Ashoka will also be mobilizing a network of supporters and partners to provide resources to help these Fellows grow their plans to fruition. In April, the 25 Fellows will convene in Vienna to meet with a panel of top-tier consultants, advisors and international partners. They will present their strategies, get personal feedback, and then emerge with a robust international scaling strategy that bears the seal of approval and support of leading global entrepreneurs.

We’ll pay close attention to how this platform develops and report on NextBillion.