The first Ashoka East Africa Fellow was elected in 2001; in 2011 we elected our 50th. Over the last ten years, Ashoka Fellows have made – and continue to make – a significant contribution to the development of the citizen sector across East Africa.
The innovative solutions championed by Ashoka’s 50 Fellows are challenging conventional thinking and changing society for the better. But there are still persistent challenges that need to be addressed in our region. Because we understand that the only way to address the growing number of problems is to ensure that there are more problem-solvers, we are committed to electing and supporting another 50 Ashoka Fellows (and even more!). Additionally, Ashoka has launched the Youth Venture program to extend its impact by mobilizing young people, business entrepreneurs, and the general public to build an “Everyone a Changemaker” world. Though we can name 50 Fellows, we are indebted to countless other changemakers we have met and worked with in East Africa over the last decade.
Thanks to our global network and partners, Ashoka has uncovered various insights about social change and impact. For example, in learning how Ashoka Fellows have changed national policies or industry norms or a widely-held misconceptions (about people living with disabilities, for example), we now understand that the most profound change occurs when an entrepreneur pursues a system-changing idea. A further insight is that the scaling and replication of these models requires a particularly enabling environment. Ashoka calls this enabling environment the “Everyone a Changemaker” world. This is a world that responds quickly and effectively to social challenges and where every individual is equally empowered to affect social change. Ashoka Fellow Adrian Mukhebi, elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2005, touched on these points during a thoughtful speech on his experience as a Fellow. He closed by saying, ‘Ashoka provided me with an enabling environment that permitted me to scale up internationally and opportunity to win awards.” To this we would add, “…and change the world!”