|Kila Englebrook, Ashoka Support Network|
Ashoka is looking forward to continue bringing together the same people with an event of some kind in NYC every month. Similar initiatives are under way in Miami and San Francisco.
Ashoka, of course, was created by Bill Drayton more than 30 years ago to enable "social entrepreneurs", a term he coined. It has invested in an average of 100 of these entrepreneurs every year, giving them the name of "fellows".
They work on projects like road safety in Venezuela, prison reform in Turkey, nutrition in Thailand, housing in Kenya, and gender equality in Egypt. Most of them are working in Asia or Latin America. Ashoka itself is located in the Washington, D.C. area.
The organization spent more than $6 million in its latest year on stipends for fellows to work full-time on a new idea, in economic development, human rights, civic participation, health and education.
Now it wants to bring together its thousands of alumni in certain target communities to make them available to incoming social-entrepreneurship sympathies and interests. It is also adding to the mix business leaders who have signed up with the new Ashoka Support Network.
While Ashoka itself has been operating in 70 countries, the ASN program is so far in only 22 countries. The 350 business leaders who have signed up for ASN are mostly concentrated in Europe so far. Only 10 percent are in the United States. Kila wants to change that! She sees "huge potential" in this country.
I was at the meeting because Alice Tepper Marlin is a Global Fellow at Ashoka - someone who has created a social enterprise that is replicable in other countries.
Kila Englebrook sees a great opportunity for networking - providing a channel for the social aspirations of businesses that are interested in contributing to change in the world as part of running a successful business, and making accessible to social entrepreneurs the wisdom and skills of people who have been making and selling products.
Kila herself earned a BA in African Studies from Boston University, and joined Ashoka in 2007. Since 2009, she has been working on partnership and resource development, as well as operations, spending much of her time in Nashville, Tenn. before she started her current work on ASN.
At the meeting yesterday, a few people wondered if there were some way to speed up the rate at which Ashoka was contributing to change, because of the great needs in the world for social entrepreneurs to get busy. Ashoka's $40 million budget was not viewed as being enough.
The response from other participants was that change-making is risky and that Ashoka has survived and grown by being cautious, working toward change by evolution rather than revolution.
This is a healthy debate and I think the experiment is proving its worth. Kila has a tiger by the tail.