Ashoka (non-profit organization)

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Named afterEmperor Ashoka
FormationJune 3, 1980; 42 years ago (1980-06-03)[1][2]
FounderBill Drayton[3]
Legal status501(c)(3) nonprofit organization
PurposeThe creation of an association of the world's leading social entrepreneurs—men and women with system-changing solutions for the world's most urgent social problems—and fostering a global culture of everyone being a changemaker for the good of all.[4]
HeadquartersRosslyn, Virginia, United States[4]
Coordinates38°53′44″N 77°04′19″W / 38.8956482°N 77.0718925°W / 38.8956482; -77.0718925Coordinates: 38°53′44″N 77°04′19″W / 38.8956482°N 77.0718925°W / 38.8956482; -77.0718925
Bill Drayton[5]
Leadership Group Member
Anamaria Schindler[5]
Leadership and Impact Co-Lead
Diana Wells[5]
Bill Drayton, Sushmita Ghosh, Mary Gordon, Roger Harrison, Fred Hehuwat, Sara Horowitz, Felipe Vergara, Kyle Zimmer[5]
List of subsidiaries
Ashoka LLC (U.S.),
Ashoka Canada Toronto,
Ashoka Chile Santiago,
Ashoka Conosur Este (Buenos Aires),
Ashoka East Africa (Nairobi),
Ashoka Deutschland Munich,
Ashoka India (Bangalore),
Ashoka Indonesia Bandung,
Ashoka Italia Roma,
Ashoka Japan (Tokyo), Ashoka Korea (Seoul) Ashoka Emprendedores Sociales Asociacion Civil (Mexico City),
Ashoka Netherlands (The Hague),
Ashoka Philippines (Pasig City),
Ashoka Poland (Warsaw),
Ashoka Singapore and Malaysia (Singapore),
Fundacion Ashoka Emprendedores Sociales (Madrid),
Ashoka Scandinavia (Stockholm),
Fondation Ashoka Suisse (Geneva),
Ashoka Southern Africa (Johannesburg),
Ashoka Thailand (Bangkok),
Ashoka Turkiye (Istanbul),
Ashoka UK & Ireland (London),
Ashoka Venezuela (Caracas),
Asociacion Ashoka Colombia (Bogota),
Fundatia Ashoka (Bucharest),
Ashoka Israel (Tel Aviv),
Ashoka Arab World (Cairo),
Revenue (2021)
Expenses (2021)$40,874,251[4]
Endowment$36,437,514 (2021)[4]
Employees (2021)
111 (in U.S.)[4]
Volunteers (2021)

Ashoka (formerly branded Ashoka: Innovators for the Public) is an American-based nonprofit organization that promotes social entrepreneurship by connecting and supporting individual social entrepreneurs. Their stated mission is "the creation of an association of the world's leading social entrepreneurs—men and women with system-changing solutions for the world's most urgent social problems—and fostering a global culture of everyone being a changemaker for the good of all".[4]


Growing up, Bill Drayton was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and the Civil Rights Movement.[6] Drayton wanted to mitigate income inequality through social entrepreneurship.[6] Drayton founded Ashoka in 1980.[1][2]

The organization was named after the Emperor Ashoka The Great, the ruler of the Maurya Empire during the 3rd century BC.[7] Emperor Ashoka recognized the suffering that he had caused by unifying his empire, and he promoted religious and philosophical tolerance and the paramount importance of morality when working for the public.[8][attribution needed]


Ashoka identifies social entrepreneurs with solutions to social problems who seek to make large-scale changes to society. Ashoka searches for individuals who have vision, creativity, and determination and are motivated by public gain rather than personal gain.[9]

Social entrepreneurs who pass the selection process are called Ashoka fellows.[10] Each Ashoka fellow receives a financial stipend that they can use to pay for their personal expenses so that they can fully devote their time to the pursuit of their innovative social ideas. The size of the stipend is decided on a case-by-case basis, according to the cost of living in the entrepreneur's local area. The stipend is available for up to three years. The organization is very clear that the stipend is only for living expenses and not for funding the social entrepreneur's initiative or organization.[11]

Ashoka fellows are connected with successful entrepreneurs in order to help the fellows succeed in implementing their social ideas.[12] Ashoka fellows are expected to regularly participate in meetings with other Ashoka fellows. Ultimately, the Ashoka fellow is expected to convert an innovative solution into a self-sustaining institution.[13]

Ashoka funds the stipends by raising funds from donors, which it uses as venture capital.[14]

Of Ashoka fellows with ventures that are more than five years old, Ashoka says that more than 80 percent have had their solution implemented by others; 59 percent have directly affected national policy; and each Ashoka fellow is helping an average of 174,000 people.[15]

Organizational policies[edit]

According to the organization, it does not accept funding from any government,[16] although it has partnered with governments on projects[17] and it received a $1,585,600 Paycheck Protection Program loan in 2020.[18]

While Ashoka says it does not petition governments for social change, it provides advice to organizations such as the World Bank when requested.[16]

Citizen-sector organization[edit]

While the United States Internal Revenue Service has approved Ashoka's headquarters as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and some countries consider Ashoka to be a non-governmental organization, Ashoka itself prefers the term citizen-sector organization in order to emphasize what it is, rather than what it is not.[19] According to Ashoka, citizen-sector organizations are groups of citizens who care and act to serve others and cause needed change.[20]


  1. ^ a b "ASHOKA - Initial File Number: 802351". District of Columbia Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. Government of the District of Columbia. Accessed on April 6, 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Ashoka Financial Statements, August 31, 2014, and Independent Auditor's Report, April 30, 2015". Ashoka. April 30, 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Annual Report". Ashoka: Innovators for the Public. 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Form 990: Return of Organization Exempt from Tax". Ashoka. August 31, 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d "Our Leadership". Ashoka. Retrieved November 27, 2022.
  6. ^ a b Barnes, Denise. "Ashoka's entrepreneurial vision fosters social change". The Washington Times. August 12, 2002. p. B08.
  7. ^ Karkabi, Barbara. "Tomorrow, the world: Interest in foreign affairs leads young Houstonian down an international career path". The Houston Chronicle. September 24, 1996. p. 1.
  8. ^ Geracimos, Ann. "William Drayton". The Washington Times. March 23, 1994. p. C14.
  9. ^ Meadows, Donella. "Entrepreneurs planning a better future". Charleston Gazette (Charleston, West Virginia). December 22, 1997. p. P4A.
  10. ^ Veigle, Anne. "Va. group helps out creative talents". The Washington Times. April 20, 1992. p. B4.
  11. ^ Springer, Richard. "Ashoka Fellows Include Street Beautification Project". India - West (San Leandro, California). January 17, 1992. p. 31.
  12. ^ Saddler, Jeanne. "Entrepreneurs link Up with innovative Third World social activists.". The Wall Street Journal. December 11, 1990. p. B2.
  13. ^ Harley, Richard M. "Entrepreneurs show India that philanthropy pays". The Christian Science Monitor. March 15, 1985. p. 23.
  14. ^ Wertheimer, Linda; Adams, Noah; Arnold, Chris. "Ashoka Fellows". All Things Considered. National Public Radio. November 16, 1998.
  15. ^ "Social Entrepreneurs: Who Are They?". Daytona Beach News-Journal (Daytona Beach, Florida). May 20, 2007. p. 1B.
  16. ^ a b Boris, Joseph. "Bridging Brazil's digital divide". UPI NewsTrack. February 22, 2001.
  17. ^ "Ashoka Innovators for the Public and Nagaland State Government join hands to build a changemaking ecosystem". ANI. March 14, 2022.
  18. '^ "Ashoka". Retrieved November 27, 2022.
  19. ^ Chatterjee, Chirantan. "I believe I can fly: David Bornstein". The Economic Times (Mumbai, India). May 21, 2004.
  20. ^ "Why Citizen Sector? Archived April 17, 2016, at the Wayback Machine". Ashoka: Innovators for the Public. Accessed on April 12, 2016.

External links[edit]