Ashoka Canada

Ashoka finds and fosters the most powerful emergent ideas led by the most effective social entrepreneurs. We provide a pathway for all Canadians to be changemakers.

Our Impact Why We Exist

We build networks of pattern-changing social innovators and select high-impact entrepreneurs, who creatively solve some of Toronto, Canada and the world's biggest social challenges, to become Ashoka Fellows. Ashoka believes that there is nothing more powerful than a new idea in the hands of a social entrepreneur. Social entrepreneurs are relentless team-builders and problem-solvers who set new norms in their fields of work. They are practical visionaries – practical in that they are highly attentive to the nuts and bolts of making things work, and visionary in that they often reframe the problem, build roles for others to participate, and cast a long term view for change at least at the national level.

Within 10 years of election, 83% of Ashoka Fellows have changed a system in at least one way (76% change a system within five years of election). After 10 years, 93% of Fellows continue to pursue their original objective and more than 90% of Fellows’ ideas are replicated by other groups.

Our Story What We Do

History of Organization

Since its inception, Ashoka has been the leading global association of social entrepreneurs - individuals with systems changing solutions for the world’s most urgent social problems. In 1981, Bill Drayton founded Ashoka, and selected our first Ashoka Fellow. Through a robust selection process, Ashoka has elected more than 3,000 leading social entrepreneurs as Fellows in 73 countries over five continents.

In 2002, Ashoka launched in Canada. Ashoka is building a Canada in which everyone has the freedom, resources and societal support to be Changemakers. To date, 55 Canadian Fellows are changing systems and spreading their impact nationally and globally.

In the fall of 2011, Ashoka Canada launched the Changemakers Initiative Inspiring Approaches to First Nations, Métis and Inuit Learning, in partnership with RBC Foundation, McConnell Foundation, Counselling Foundation of Canada, The Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative (MAEI) and several other partners.

Accolades and Accomplishments

Since 2002, Ashoka Canada has elected 55 Fellows across the country. Fellows have mobilized hundreds of thousands of people around them to address issues in education, human rights, environment, health, economic development and civic participation.

In October 2011, Ashoka founder, Bill Drayton, received the Prince of Asturias Prize in International Cooperation. He joined the ranks of past recipients including Nelson Mandela, Bill and Melinda Gates, and Al Gore. A week later, he received the John W. Gardner Leadership Award in Chicago. The Award honours outstanding Americans whose leadership in the non-profit community has been transformative and who have mobilized and unified people, institutions, or causes that improve people’s lives. Bill was also honoured in Singapore by the World Entrepreneurship Forum as the winner of the annual Social Entrepreneur Award. In 2010, he won the Essl Social Prize:

Many Ashoka Fellows have been recognized globally for their accomplishments. Most recently, in October 2014 Ashoka India Fellow, Kailash Satyarthi, jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize with Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai. The Norwegian committee cited the two “for their struggle against the suppression of young people and for the right of all children to an education.” Kailash has been an Ashoka Fellow for 20 years and Malala was educated at the school of another Ashoka Fellow in Pakistan.

Our Programs How We Do It

Ashoka Canada builds empowered changemaker communities across Canada by spreading the skills of entrepreneurship, empathy, and collaboration across sectors and institutions through the following programs:

Ashoka’s Venture & Fellowship program identifies and elects leading social entrepreneurs to the global Ashoka Fellowship. Ashoka Fellows work in fields including health, education, environment, economic development and human rights. Ashoka provides strategic support, collaboration opportunities, a community of like-minded individuals, recognition, and possible financial support.

The Venture Program includes a robust selection process where each entrepreneur’s idea is tested in a series of interviews by local and global Ashoka staff, business and social entrepreneurs. Those who are successful through this process receive Fellowship status, which includes life-long strategic and network support provided by Ashoka.

Fellows who qualify receive financial support for the first three years of election, to enable them to focus full-time on refining and scaling their social innovations. This enables them to fully grasp the transformative potential of their new idea and seek to change norms in their fields at a national and international level.  

The Learning Networks Program helps educators transform higher education in Canada. We plan to engage 30 colleges and universities in co-creating vibrant ecosystems that support changemaking and changemakers within higher education. In 2013, we selected the first Changemaker Campus in Canada: Ryerson University. Ryerson joins more than 30 other campuses around the world transforming their university culture and experience to focus on changemaking.

The Ashoka Support Network (ASN) is a global community of successful business leaders and philanthropists who engage with Ashoka, committing time and resources to support the work of Ashoka Fellows.

Changemakers® is a community of action where we all have the opportunity to collaborate on solutions. Changemakers® competitions bring people together from across the globe to address issues and turn our old systems upside down. Participants submit ideas, collectively identify the best social solutions, and then collaborate to refine, enrich, and implement those solutions.

Funding and Program Partners

Global Strategic Partners:

  • Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP
  • The Boehringer Ingelheim Group
  • Egon Zehnder International
  • Hill+Knowlton Strategies
  • McKinsey & Company

Program Partners:

  • The J. Armand Bombardier Foundation
  • The J.W McConnell Family Foundation
  • RBC Foundation
  • Hamilton Community Foundation

Ashoka Support Network (ASN):

  • Sue & Harvey Griggs (The Griggs Family Foundation)
  • Bill Young (Bealight Foundation)
  • Cathy Phillips (The Northpine Foundation)
  • Joan Vanduzer (The Harbinger Foundation)
  • John Nicola (Nicola Wealth Management)
  • Nancy Mortifee (The Somerset Foundation)
  • Peter Mortifee (The Somerset Foundation)

What You Can Do

Activities a donation will support

With your donation, we will be able to elect the next generation of outstanding social entrepreneurs to the Ashoka Fellowship. Your donation will allow us to provide these Fellows with financial support over the next three years in order to allow them to focus on their ventures full-time, and will allow Ashoka to provide strategic support.

Support allows these social entrepreneurs to reframe and tackle some of the most complex social issues facing our communities today, in ways that governments and traditional businesses are unable.

Donation impact

Our impact is measured as the combined impact of all our Ashoka Fellows since their incorporation into the Fellowship. Their ability to fully focus on their systems changing projects from their initial election, and the additional strategic support we provide, amplifies the social benefits they give to their communities. For instance, seventy-six percent of Fellows have accomplished at least one type of systems change -here defined as change that completely rewrites the way society views and addresses problems - within five years of election. 

With Ashoka’s support, each of these Fellows have been able to make an impact in their communities and beyond, to a systems change level of impact:

  • 93% of Ashoka Fellows continue to build on their original objective after 10 years
  • Over 90% of Ashoka Fellows’ ideas have been replicated by other organizations
  • 89% of Fellows say their involvement with Ashoka helped them strengthen and develop their idea
  • 89% of Fellows say their involvement with Ashoka helped them gain greater support and recognition


Elisha Muskat
Executive Director
Charitable Number: 861938736RR0001

Finance & Governance

Annual Operating Budget: 
$ 750,000


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