Social Entrepreneurs - 26 Aug 08

Social Entrepreneurs - 26 Aug 08

Peter Day hears from one of the original social entrepreneurs.

Bill Drayton started Ashoka in 1980, an organisation he describes as an association of the world's best social entrepreneurs with business entrepreneur allies.

It's aim is to ensure that the leading ideas for social change are fully developed and sustained and does so by identifying and investing in leading social entrepreneurs and helping them achieve maximum social impact.

Ashoka supports the work of over two thousand ‘fellows' around the world using money raised using the venture capital model.

About this programme by Peter Day

We keep coming back to social entrepreneurship on Global Business ... the art of applying business acumen to sticky social problems, all over the world.

It's breeding a new cadre of people who want to make changes without necessarily getting involved in the political process. Or who think that a business approach is a better way of getting something done.

This week's programme hears from the founder of one of the longest established of the new social enterprise organisations.

Inspired by the social activism of 1960s America, Bill Drayton founded Ashoka in 1980, and it has now picked more than 2,000 social entrepreneurs to encourage and back with money and support, from all over the world.

Bill Drayton thinks that the world is in the middle of a fundamental change in society, with civic and citizens groups being inspired to utilise the energy and entrepreneurial efficiency that has mostly been the preserve of business for the past 300 years.

The organisation is named after Ashoka, the 3rd century BC Indian leader who unified the Indian subcontinent, renouncing violence and dedicating his life to social welfare and economic development. (It is the Sanskrit for the "active overcoming of sorrows").

Ashoka was perhaps the world's first social entrepreneur, but the organisation says that there have been many more that we might not think of as such.

Here (from the Ashoka website) is a shortlist:
• Susan B. Anthony (U.S.): Fought for Women's Rights in the United States, including the right to control property and helped spearhead adoption of the 19th amendment.
• Vinoba Bhave (India): Founder and leader of the Land Gift Movement, he caused the redistribution of more than 7,000,000 acres of land to aid India's untouchables and landless.
• Dr. Maria Montessori (Italy): Developed the Montessori approach to early childhood education.
• Florence Nightingale (U.K.): Founder of modern nursing, she established the first school for nurses and fought to improve hospital conditions.
• Margaret Sanger (U.S.): Founder of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, she led the movement for family planning efforts around the world.
• John Muir (U.S.): Naturalist and conservationist, he established the National Park System and helped found The Sierra Club.
• Jean Monnet (France): Responsible for the reconstruction of the French economy following World War II, including the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). The ECSC and the European Common Market were direct precursors of the European Union.
So the current explosion of social entrepreneurship is part of a strong tradition. As the pioneering Bill Drayton explains.

Contributors to the programme:

Bill Drayton, CEO, Ashoka

Macarena Currin, Director, Rodelillo Foundation
Gloria Rosales, Social Assistant, Rodelillo Foundation