Youth engagement to change the world
Ashoka is a global non-profit organization that first coined the term "social entrepreneurship" and is a network of 3,500+ social entrepreneurs from across 90 countries, now launching the first cohort of young changemakers in partnership with BRAC in the memory of late Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, who has been instrumental in Ashoka's journey in Bangladesh, on January 24th - 25th 2020 at the BRAC Centre. Bill Drayton, founder of ASHOKA shared his experienced and thoughts to The Daily Observer recently.
● What was the inspiration behind establishing the Ashoka Foundation and its vision?
Drayton: In 1962, when I visited India, I saw the differences of the average per capita income between America and India. I realized that the most powerful force in the world is a big idea and especially if it is in the hands of a great entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs almost always need to step out of their comfort zone to build their vision. They need space to show and refine their ideas, create an organization, and figure out how to convey what they are doing in a way that will make others follow them. Ashoka started its journey with this concept and has evolved into a community of the world's leading social entrepreneurs, providing mutual help and support to one another.
● Tell a success story of social entrepreneurs worked with Ashoka?
Drayton: Ibrahim Sobhan, the first Ashoka Fellow in Bangladesh, realized that only 15 percent of rural Bangladeshi children make it into Grade 5. So, with the help of the UN, Ibrahim Sobhan was able to change the education system for rural children. Now, the classes are held for 60 minutes (before 30 minutes), and the teachers get 20-25 minutes (before 7-8 minutes) to teach the students. The students then work in groups to help each other. This initiative has increased enrolment rates by 44 percent and cut the drop rate in half. His ideas are not only making a change in Bangladesh but have spread around other countries through Ashoka network like Brazil.
● What impact does Ashoka have on Bangladesh?
Drayton: Since 1987, Ashoka Bangladesh has been supporting the system change of social entrepreneurs in the country, as Ashoka Fellows. To date, we have helped more than 90 Fellows with creative system-changing new approaches for solving social problems in wide-ranging fields such as farming, education, human rights, finance, local media, women, and youth empowerment. Impacting millions of people and communities across Bangladesh, our Fellows include the persons like Shykh Seraj, Agricultural Development Activist, Shahidul Islam Chowdhury (Uttaran), Human Rights Defender, Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus (Grameen Bank), World Food Prize Awardee Late Sir Fazle Hasan Abed (BRAC) and many more.
● Please state the importance of 'Everyone A Changemaker' in Bangladesh. What are the critical skills of a Changemaker?
Drayton: The new world requires a different type of person - a Changemaker. Changemakers are people who can see the patterns around them, identify the problems in any situation, figure out ways to solve the problem, organize fluid teams, lead collective action and then continually adapt as situations change.
In this ever-changing world, everyone needs to be a skilled Changemaker. It is not possible for a community to succeed if they do not make sure that every young person masters the four abilities of a Changemaker - cognitive, empathy, the ability to work in a world of millions of constantly morphing, and interconnected teams. Anyone without these abilities will not be able to contribute to this radically different world.
● What are the current programmes of Ashoka in Bangladesh?
Drayton: The social entrepreneurs of Bangladesh have been working towards solving different kinds of problems by working directly with the communities through the Ashoka Fellowship programme. Moreover, currently, Ashoka has 90 fellows in Bangladesh and with an insight that many of these fellows started to be Changemakers at a young age. Ashoka is now bringing the next phase of our work in Bangladesh by launching an 'Everyone A Changemaker' framework through Ashoka Young Changemakers community. Bangladesh will become the fifth country to launch this amongst Ashoka's network of 92 countries, after countries like US, Brazil, Indonesia, and India.
We believe that by identifying and selecting inspiring teenagers as Ashoka Young Changemakers, we will be creating a new type of role model for Bangladesh's children and youth who have the potential to impact an entire generation. Ashoka will support this community of Ashoka Young Changemakers in influencing other stakeholders of society such as schools, parents, educational system so that every child in Bangladesh could become a Changemaker. It is very important for the future of these youth and also of Bangladesh as a whole.
● Do you think 'Everyone A Changemaker' can transform the people of Bangladesh, especially the youth?
Drayton: Social transformation flows from personal transformation. You change the world when you offer and show a new and more attractive way to live. And we want to make universal a quality that many people often don't even see: agency. Many people don't feel that they can take control of their own lives. If we could give everyone the chance to experience an agency moment, to express love and respect in action, the outcomes really would change the world. The entire essence of building an 'Everyone a Changemaker' culture is to empower everybody.
Thank you so much.