63 Leading Social Entrepreneurs From Across Asia Inducted As Ashoka Fellows

January 20, 2007 (PRLEAP.COM) Business News
Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, the global organization that pioneered the concept of social entrepreneurship 25 years ago, today formally inducted 63 leading social entrepreneurs from across Asia as its fellows. Senior fellows - Dr.Sudarshan and Ashok Rau among other senior fellows inducted the new fellows in a function that had Ashoka Founder Bill Drayton, Sushmita Ghosh, President Emeritus of Ashoka, N R Narayana Murthy, the country’s leading entrepreneur and leading NRI business leader Gururaj Deshpande in attendance. This is the first time that India’s leading business entrepreneurs have gathered to recognize the role that Ashoka Fellows play in improving all fields of social service. Magsaysay Awardee Arvind Kejriwal was felicitated by Narayana Murthy on the occasion for his relentless campaign against corruption using the Right to Information Act.

In his address, Narayana Murthy, said,” While the progress made by the economy and the business over the past decade is outstanding, we have taken our eyes off the critical agriculture sector which is the only source of income for over 65% of Indians. The fact that since 1995 agricultural production actually declined poses a big concern which needs to be immediately addressed. He said India already has low per capita income and with agricultural income declining, it leaves close to 650 million people in India with less than a dollar a day to live their lives. Even in the area of fertilizers which the government subsidizes to the extent of US$8 billion a year, there needs to be a balance between right kind and mixture of nutrients and soil conservation.” On Ashoka Fellows, he said, they are people who need to be saluted for what they are doing and both the business and political leadership are mere bystanders who can offer them encouragement and support. He acknowledged that their role is indeed crucial and admitted that having them over at the campus gives him great pleasure and happiness.

Bill Drayton, global Founder of Ashoka in his address spoke of how there is going to be no distinction between social and business entrepreneurs in the future and how the real change or paradigm shift can only be made possible when everyone is a change maker. He called social entrepreneurs mass recruiters of change makers and said each Ashoka fellow is a true model who will inspire thousands more. He highlighted the role of India in his life and how it has changed him and led to the birth of Ashoka. He said Ashoka is currently working on 21 business-social bridge programs in India which will catalyze change. He also observed that if Nehru would have been alive today, he would have called the Infosys campus a modern temple.

In her address, Sushmita Ghosh, President Emeritus of Ashoka, recalled the tremendous change that has occurred over the last sixteen years and recalled how from holding the Asia meet under a tree in Kolkata to celebrating its 25th year celebrations at the Infosys Campus, Ashoka has come a long way. She also said that Ashoka will be partnering the Infosys Foundation and details of which will be shared later.

In his brief remarks after accepting the felicitation, Arvind Kejriwal of Parivartan said all the wards and accolades he has won so far belongs to many ordinary Indian citizens who were part of the RTI campaign, few of whom even risked their lives to make the revolutionary RTI act, a possibility. He said without Ashoka he could not have continued the campaign as he had no support system and that he truly found the Ashoka global network, a source of ideas, information, love, affection and encouragement.”
In his brief address, Gururaj Deshpande spoke of the Sandbox experiment carried out by his foundation in Hubli in Karnataka and highlighted how they are bringing numerous social innovations into a single framework and applying it in a defined area to see what change is possible.
On the 17th evening, Ashoka held its Asia Entreprenuer-Entreprenuer meet at the MindTree campus which was led by Subroto Bagchi, Co-founder & COO of MindTree Consulting. In his remarks, Subroto Bagchi highlighted how entrepreneurs are entrepreneurs irrespective of whether social or business. He said MindTree was happy to host the interaction.”
Since 1981, Ashoka has elected and supported over 1,800 leading social innovators as Ashoka Fellows, providing them with over $40 million in stipends and professional support, as well as access to a global network of peers. Working with this Fellowship, as well as working with entrepreneurs such as Murthy and Deshpande, are aspects of Ashoka’s vision for a new global “citizen sector” that enables all people to become meaningfully involved in improving society.

“Ashoka is a great global organization built on a brilliant idea.” Muhammad Yunus – 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Social Entrepreneur and Ashoka Global Academy Member