Ashoka's founder Bill Drayton believes that everyone can be a change maker. In this talk, he reflects on many of the early influences that helped him understand how to advance true social progress. From these beginnings, he traces his own path in public service, and describes the founding of Ashoka which has grown into a flourishing network of social entrepreneurs who can serve as role models for further progress in promoting social justice around the globe.
Early influences and opportunities at home and at school strengthened Drayton's interests as a young man in history and geography, particularly in Asia. From these roots, he went on to travel and work in the civil rights movement, drawing particular inspiration from time in India where he met many of the leading figures in Ghandi's movement. These experiences reinforced the core belief that love, empathy, and respect for others are the foundations for making good individual judgments and understanding the impact of action for positive change.
Building on these experiences, the key question for Drayton became how to close the North-South gap. He knew that real improvements require a wholesale change of patterns, not just a series of band-aids. Receipt of a MacArthur Fellows grant in 1984 gave Drayton the opportunity to nurture ideas that formed the basis of Ashoka. He saw the power of tapping into the leadership of dynamic social entrepreneurs. To foster this talent he founded the Ashoka fellows program, which support a cadre of bright, social activists whose ideas and methods have become respected and emulated around the world.
Spring boarding from the model of social entrepreneurship, Drayton looks ahead to the next transformation where everyone can be a change maker. While sometimes disruptive to the status quo, spreading creative seeds and creating a community of global connections can accelerate change in positive ways. The key, according to Drayton, lies in empowering people to act for themselves.
Bill Drayton is the CEO, Chairmen of the Board, and Founder of Ashoka, which strives to shape a global, entrepreneurial, competitive citizen sector. Prior to Ashoka, Drayton was a McKinsey and Company consultant and served as Assistant Administrator at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He also served briefly in the White House, and has taught both law and management at Stanford Law School and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.