Ashoka is leading a profound transformation in society. In the past three decades, the global citizen sector, led by social entrepreneurs, has grown exponentially. Just as the business sector experienced a tremendous spurt in productivity over the last century, the citizen sector is experiencing a similar revolution, with the number and sophistication of citizen organizations increasing dramatically. Rather than leaving societal needs for the government or business sectors to address, social entrepreneurs are creating innovative solutions, delivering extraordinary results, and improving the lives of millions of people.
It is this insight into the power of social entrepreneurs that led Bill Drayton to found Ashoka in 1980 and that continues to guide Ashoka today. Beginning with the first Ashoka Fellows elected in India in 1981, Ashoka has grown to an association of over 2,000 Fellows in over 60 countries on the world's five main continents. During its first decade in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Central Europe, Ashoka focused exclusively on launching leading social entrepreneurs and helping them succeed. But in the 1990s as the citizen sector evolved and grew, Ashoka responded with a wider range of programs and initiatives to deal with the sector's growing needs. Ashoka grew as well, tripling in size from 1988 to 1990, and again from 1999 to 2002.
Today Ashoka is in its third period of rapid growth, electing record numbers of Fellows in 2006 and expanding its programs in Western Europe, East Asia, and the Middle East. Along with our global network of Fellows, business entrepreneurs, policy makers, investors, academics, and journalists, Ashoka is now working collectively to ensure that social entrepreneurs and their innovations continue to inspire a new generation of local changemakers to create positive social change. As we celebrate our 25th anniversary year, we are constantly innovating new programs that advance our field, using our long history and broad geographic reach to lead the transformation of the citizen sector and shape it over the next 25 years and beyond.