Bill Drayton

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Bill Drayton
Photo of Bill Drayton
Bill Drayton (2012)
William Drayton

1943 (age 80–81)
Alma materHarvard University (BA)
Balliol College, Oxford (MA)
Yale University (JD)
OrganizationAshoka: Innovators for the Public

William Drayton (born 1943) is an American social entrepreneur. Drayton was named by U.S. News & World Report as one of America's 25 Best Leaders in 2005.[1] He is responsible for the rise of the phrase "social entrepreneur",[2] a concept first found in print in 1972.[3]

Drayton is the founder and current chair of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to finding and fostering social entrepreneurs worldwide. Drayton also chairs two other 501(c)(3) organizations, namely Youth Venture and Get America Working!

According to Drayton's philosophy, social entrepreneurs are individuals with innovative solutions to society's most pressing social problems. To quote Drayton, "Social entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry."

He was elected a Member of the American Philosophical Society in 2019.

Early years[edit]

Drayton's mother emigrated to the United States from Australia. His father was an American who became an explorer. His ancestors were some of the earliest anti-slavery abolitionist and women's leaders in the U.S.[4] Drayton was born in 1943 in New York City.

Drayton attended high school at Phillips Academy, where he established the Asia Society, which soon became the school's most popular student organization. He attended Harvard where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1965, where he created the Ashoka Table, bringing in prominent government, union, and church leaders for off-the-record dinners at which students could ask "how things really worked". Drayton entered Balliol College, Oxford and received a Master of Arts degree in 1967. He attended Yale Law School where he received his Juris Doctor in 1970. At Yale Law School, Drayton founded Yale Legislative Services, which, at its peak, involved a third of the law school's student body.[5]


Bill Drayton

Drayton became a manager and management consultant, working for McKinsey & Company as a consultant for almost ten years.[6]

During the administration of President Jimmy Carter (1977–1981), Drayton was an Assistant Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency where he launched emissions trading, among other reforms.[citation needed] He founded the group Save EPA after he left.[7]

Drayton has served as a visiting professor at Harvard University and Stanford University.[8]


Drayton has received many awards and acknowledgments for his achievements. He was elected one of the early MacArthur Fellows for his work, including the founding of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public.[9]

The American Society of Public Administration and the National Academy of Public Administration jointly awarded him their National Public Service Award[10] and he has also been named a Preiskel–Silverman Fellow for Yale Law School[11] and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[12]

On May 25, 2009, Drayton was awarded an honorary degree, Doctorate of Humane Letters, by Yale University at commencement.[13]

David Gergen has called Drayton the "godfather of social entrepreneurship."[14] And in 2008, Drayton was named a "visionary" as one of Utne Reader magazine's "50 Visionaries Who Are Changing the World".[15]

In 2011, Drayton won Spain's prestigious Prince of Asturias Awards for international cooperation for his work promoting entrepreneurs. The prize foundation described him as a "driving force behind the figure of social entrepreneurs, men and women who undertake innovative initiatives for the common good".[16]

Within the next two weeks, Drayton also accepted the John W. Gardner Leadership award, "established in 1985 to honor outstanding Americans who exemplify the leadership and the ideals of John W. Gardner", and the World Entrepreneurship Forum's Social Entrepreneur Award.[17]

In 2012, Drayton was named an inaugural recipient of Middlebury College's Center for Social Entrepreneurship Vision Award, in recognition of the impact of his contributions to the field of social entrepreneurship.[18]


  1. ^ " The social entrepreneur: Bill Drayton". Archived from the original on November 9, 2006.
  2. ^ "Social entrepreneur".
  3. ^ see J Banks, The Sociology of Social Movements, London, MacMillan, 1972.
  4. ^ "GOOD Q&A: Social Entrepreneur Bill Drayton On His White House Years". Huffington Post. 2007-12-03.
  5. ^ Bornstein, David (January 1, 1998). "Changing the World on a Shoestring". The Atlantic.
  6. ^ Bill Drayton Paints a Vision of Changemaking Archived 2006-10-18 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Omang, Joanne (1982-01-19). "Ex-Official Leads Crusade to 'Save' EPA". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2023-10-30.
  8. ^ "Events - Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship(CASE)". Archived from the original on 2007-10-11. Retrieved 2008-02-12.
  9. ^ "MacArthur Fellows, November 1984". The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. September 29, 2007. Archived from the original on September 29, 2007.
  10. ^ "The National Public Service Awards: Past Winners (1983-2007)". The American Society for Public Administration. Archived from the original on October 27, 2007.
  11. ^ "Yale Bulletin and Calendar". Yale University. November–December 1999. Archived from the original on April 18, 2009. Retrieved September 1, 2009.
  12. ^ "Alphabetical Index of Active Members" (PDF). American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 1, 2007. Retrieved February 11, 2008.
  13. ^ "Three Hundred Eighth Commencement: Honorary Degrees" (PDF). Yale University. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 27, 2010. Retrieved June 9, 2009.
  14. ^ Gergen, David (February 12, 2006). "The New Engines of Reform". U.S. News & World Report. Archived from the original on October 12, 2009.
  15. ^ "50 Visionaries who are changing your world". Utne Reader. Ogden Publications, Inc. November 13, 2008.
  16. ^ "New York social activist wins Spanish prize". Forbes. June 8, 2011.[dead link]
  17. ^ "Bill Drayton of Ashoka Accepts Three Awards in Three Weeks from Europe, US, and Asia". Ashoka. November 9, 2011. Archived from the original on May 22, 2012.
  18. ^ "Vision Award". Center for Social Entrepreneurship. Middlebury College. August 13, 2015. Retrieved August 13, 2015.

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