The world today needs younger change-makers: Bill Drayton, founder – Ashoka

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July 13, 2020 6:30 AM

Ashoka Young Changemakers are young people who have had the “your dream, your team, your changed world” experience.

Bill DraytonBill Drayton, Founder, Ashoka: Innovators for the Public

Ashoka: Innovators of the Public is a global organisation that promotes social entrepreneurship. Founded in 1980 by Bill Drayton, it aims to enable citizens to think and act as change-makers. Excerpts of an email interview with FE’s Vikram Chaudhary:

Why does the world need younger change-makers?

People increasingly understand that we live in a world where both change and human interconnection are accelerating exponentially. One must be a change-maker in an everything-changing world.

It has always been the case that a teenager who has had a dream, built a team, and changed her world is almost certain to have an extraordinarily successful and happy life. Those on LinkedIn who started something in their teens are four times as likely to be a C-level leader and five times as likely to be a founder as others in the relatively elite, highly educated LinkedIn universe.

Just ask the great entrepreneurs you know when they started something. Almost always you’ll see their eyes light up when they think about that turning point in their lives. Ashoka Young Changemakers are young people (teens) who have had the “your dream, your team, your changed world” experience. Now they want to grow that superpower—and they want to help everyone else have this marvellous, life-giving power.

How young people and their skillsets need to change after the pandemic?

This pandemic is a giant opportunity for entrepreneurs; it has also accelerated the death of old patterns and institutions. At the same time, it has shown that anyone who has not mastered change-making is going to be hopelessly left behind and cut out.

What is the relevance of social entrepreneurs in today’s times?

Social entrepreneurs are the leading edge of the social sector. The social sector is by far the fastest growing source of jobs. It is growing employment at 4.4% a year, compared to the 2.2% of the business sector’s fastest growing element, services. Our citizen sector is already 30-35% bigger than all of government. These figures are before you take into account the 25-40% additional (and rapidly growing) number of citizen sector volunteers.

When an Ashoka fellow from Gujarat develops a low-cost, simple way of capturing the rain underground and then watering the fields later in the year, he has reversed not only the salinisation of the soils but the forced migration of the population away. Dying fields become fertile. This is a model that has spread across India, Bangladesh, and is now well into Africa.

Social entrepreneurs identify a major pattern change that will serve the good of all and then make it happen and spread. Three-quarters of the Ashoka fellows have changed the pattern in their field (environment, health, etc) at the national and/or international level within five years of launch. They are role models for other change-makers.

Why is it important to introduce the concept of empathy to kids?

This is the first generation that does not have the option of being a good person accepted in society by diligently following the rules. The rate of change is such that there are fewer and fewer cases covered by the rules. Anyone who cannot consciously understand the fast-moving kaleidoscope of contexts and guide their behaviour to be contributive and not harmful will hurt others and disrupt groups—and be instantly marginalised.

Conscious empathy is now essential for anyone to be a welcome part of society. It is also critical for the more advanced abilities that underlie change-making. Mastering conscious empathy needs to begin very, very young. It is also a life challenge for everyone. Every year the rate of change and the degree of interconnection goes up faster and faster—requiring us to understand an ever more rapidly-morphing and mutually-jostling world.

What are the core change-maker abilities required to be a Young Changemaker?

Conscious empathy is the foundational first.
Second, everyone must be able to live in and contribute effectively in the context of participating in many and constantly changing teams of teams. They need to be the leader now and a technical player 10 minutes later. They need to help all the other players become better players.

The third ability is the new leadership. A leader must understand the kaleidoscope of millions of teams of teams interconnecting and changing and spot areas of need and develop a solution that will serve the good of all. Once the new leader has found a purpose, she must carefully invite the right core team, and then the second and third levels of teams. While doing so, she must design the synaptic architecture that will allow these individuals and groups to work together well.

The final ability is change-making itself. How can one understand all the moving pieces? And see and work with past and present and future simultaneously? One must also have a very sophisticated understanding of how to build a team of teams of teams and how to build larger architectures made up of such teams of teams. One must truly know oneself and one’s world.

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