Ashoka Foundation has been at the forefront of social entrepreneurship all over the world. It has helped so many social entrepreneurship startups including Room to Read, which was founded by John Wood.
In “A Leader’s Life” this week, we are featuring the founder of Ashoka, a visionary by the name of Bill Drayton. Here are some lessons that could be learned from his life.
Start at a young age.
Bil Drayton started young in his quest for social entrepreneurship, although he probably didn’t call it that when he was younger. His mother was a cellist who came from Australia to the United States. His father also had a knack to do things even though it is filled with uncertainty—that is why he became an explorer at such a young age.
From his elementary days, Bill enjoyed learning history and geography but did not like math. He started running a newspaper in his school even at such a young age. By the time he went to high school, he founded the Asia Society and made it into the biggest organization in his school!
Do something good while studying!
Bil Drayton went to Harvard and did not just breeze through his way through College. Instead, he got involved with civil rights work. He also founded the Ashoka Table, which became the blueprint of what was to become the Ashoka Foundation. At Yale Law School, he started the Yale Legislative Services. By the time he graduated, one third of the students were already helping law-makers in drafting legislations for their constituents.
Students can easily become too focused on their studies and neglect the more hands-on aspect of their education. But Bill Drayton showed that by sheer discipline and good intentions, you can do well in your studies and at the same time do lots of good for the society.
Use your education and training in helping change the world.
Bil Drayton used every available talent, skill and resource in building up his network and expertise in helping change the world. In addition to being a lawyer, Bill Drayton is a manager and a management consultant. More than that, he knows how to apply and use principles in economics, law and management—three disciplines which could help greatly in any social entrepreneurship endeavor. He has also worked with both public and private institutions throughout his career.
Don’t say it loudly, be quiet and change the world!
Bil Drayton is not a big believer of loudmouthed people promising to change the world. In an article from USNews.com, he said: “I was taught by my parents that people who are loud don’t have anything to say. I’ve found if you’re suggesting quite big changes, a quiet style may be reassuring.” For Drayton, social change is not romantic. It’s not about writing poetry and feeling good about the stuff that you do and plan to do. Rather, it requires organization, careful planning and execution.
Don’t name your foundation after yourself. Name it after somebody great!
Bill Drayton’s foundation is not named after himself. While there is nothing wrong in leaving behind a legacy after your name, Drayton named his foundation after Ashoka, an Indian emperor who waged war to unite India in third century B.C. This same emperor later renounced war and embraced Buddhism after he united India. After that, Ashoka’s empire was dedicated to tolerance, social projects and economic growth.
Launch an organization that will identify, equip and empower local world-changers.
Drayton’s Ashoka foundation started in the 1980s with only $50,000. Now, it is worth $30.5 million and has funded 1,600 fellows all over the world. It is not an understatement to say that Ashoka fellows have challenged the traditional mode of development work and they led significant changes in their respective countries.
Drayton believes that everyone can be a changemaker. If the “citizen sector” could be empowered to help others, it can help change the world in places where government and business could not provide services that people need. By combining business savvy with development work, Drayton has successfully revolutionized the world of nonprofits and the business of changing the world!
Bill Drayton is a great visionary. His Ashoka Foundation recognizes, equips and funds social entrepreneurs around the world. In doing so, Drayton has successfully helped in pushing change in various areas of the world.
Read more about Bill Drayton: