Weekly Highlights from our ChangemakeHERS Campaign

Weekly Highlights from our ChangemakeHERS Campaign

Changemakers Blogger's picture

WEEK FOUR Highlights:

  • Sara Diestro, founder, Sport and Life
    Diestro is a Peruvian social entrepreneur, a specialist in football strategies for social development, and a founding partner of Street Football's South American network. She uses soccer as a tool to improve the lives of at-risk youth so they can create a better future for themselves. She also gives a voice to women and encourages them to fight for their rights.
  • Diana Wells, president, Ashoka
    Wells has supported and witnessed the work of nearly 3,000 social entrepreneurs around the world in every sector and at every level of changemaking. She shared some of her insights, from generating a spark of inspiration to creating global impact.
  • Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
    Lavizzo-Mourey spoke about transformative social change and her journey and commitment to improving health.
  • Cheryl Dorsey, president, Echoing Green
    Dorsey shared her insights about the unique challenges women face in the field of social entrepreneurship.
  • Sikha Roy, founder, SRREOSHI
    Roy discussed facing on-the-ground realities while working with rural communities and shared advice for budding social entrepreneurs.
  • Becky Buell and Sophia Tickell, co-founders and co-directors of Meteos
    Meteos is a globally networked non-profit company that works with institutional investors, governments, global companies, NGOs, labour unions and entrepreneurs. Buell and Tickell talked about their theory of change and the importance of networks and collaborative relationships.
  • Gloria de Souza, Ashoka fellow and founder
    De Souza was the very first Ashoka fellow ever. She pioneered experiential education in her native India and serves as a shining example of the role women social entrepreneurs have played in leading the transformation of entire systems.
  • Karen Dillon, editor, Harvard Business Review
    During Dillon’s tenure as the editor of the Harvard Business Review, the magazine has been honored twice as a finalist in the category of General Excellence at the National Magazine Awards. She shared her strategies for success and her thoughts about the invaluable mentors that helped her along the way.
  • Albina Ruiz, founder, Ciudadsaludable.org
    Ruiz has helped dignify the job of garbage collectors in Peru through a system of micro businesses that are dedicated to collecting and processing urban waste as a way to promote cleaner and healthier cities. She discussed her entrepreneurial experience and how she has succeeded in improving the living standards for many people.
  • Bea Pellizzari, founder and strategic director, La Usina
    Pellizzari has dedicated 18 years of her life to transforming the public image of people with disabilities. She founded La Usina in 2002 on the principle that diversity yields collective enrichment.



If you are not having unintended consequences, you are doing something wrong.

It’s the last week of the March campaign. We’ve heard from some incredible women. Women that have offered their guidance to help us navigate our own changemaking. But globalizing is a topic that hasn’t received much attention here yet. Beyond the spark of an idea, and the sustainability of the model, comes a far greater challenge: How do you globalize?  

Social entrepreneurs start out with a focus on local needs. Often, they develop a solution that is deeply context-dependent. As a result, the challenge of growing to a global scale is one of understanding how to leverage your core innovation for a larger unit of scale. Quite simply, that means having a vision for how to address global needs, and working backwards to develop pathways outward from your model that can help you reach that vision. 

This process might surprise you. Some elements of your organization may no longer be necessary. Recognizing this, and having the ability to let go, is critical. Don’t be afraid to liberate your core. What aspects of your organization need to be leveraged? Which ones need to be culled? Ultimately, what is your absolutely core hypothesis – and how can you grow this?

As one of our Ashoka Globalizer Fellows remarked, “It’s important to destroy some of the idols of your organization.”

The challenge for the social entrepreneur is one of creative destruction. In the commercial realm, the goal is growth by replication, but in the citizen sector, it’s a more subtle strategy. It’s not just about pushing out a model. It’s about becoming a magnet. That requires a great transformation in the mindset of many social entrepreneurs. You are no longer championing your model, but enabling its pollination.

So what allows for successful pollination? A lot of it comes down to framing. You need your model to be adapted. So that means creating an opportunity for other people. Whether you are creating space in your organization for other entrepreneurs, or enabling people in other countries to adopt your model – carving out that opportunity space begins as a simple framing exercise. 

Framing is an invitation to others. So let’s learn from those who are successful at it. Take the organization Meetup, a group with more than 7.2 million members that mobilizes local communities to “meet up.” Their success at mobilizing people has to do with a simple invitation. The word most repeated on their website, “let’s…”

So what is your “let’s?” What opportunities do you have for others? What are you inviting people to participate in? Global opportunities come from global invitations – so how are you working to get people to RSVP?


WEEK THREE Highlights:

  • Heather E. Cameron, founder of Boxgirls International, Professor of Education at Freie Universität Berlin, Germany, and University of the Western Cape, South Africa
    Cameron spoke about how boxing training teaches girls skills that translate into powerful tools for success in the real world and for enacting social change.
  • Teresa Clarke, chairman and CEO of Africa.com 
    Clarke revealed how the lessons she learned as a managing director in investment banking at Goldman Sachs prepared her for success in launching a social enterprise.
  • Astrid Aafjes, founder and executive director, Women Win
    Aafjes discussed how she successfully designed an effective girls sport program that addresses economic empowerment and gender-based violence.
  • Lauri Elliott, CEO, conceptualee, Inc., USA
    Elliott is a business strategist focusing on global business, innovation, technology, new ventures/start-ups, emerging markets, and SMMEs. She revealed the strategies that were key to her successful launch of a startup for social change.
  • Sara Ost, publisher and editor-in-chief, EcoSalon.com
    Ost shared her journey as a changemaker and the inspiration that empowers her work.
  • Carie Lemack, co-founder of the Global Survivors Network, and executive producer of Killing in the Name
    Lemack co-founded Families of September 11 and the Global Survivors Network (GSN). Since its founding in 2009, the network has generated global attention, coordinated and inspired events around the world, and created an Oscar-nominated documentary that tackles the taboo subject of terrorism.
  • Katherine Lucey, founder and CEO, Solar Sister
    Lucey profiled Eva Walusimbi, one of the first entrepreneurs of Solar Sister.  As a team leader for entrepreneurs in her community, Walusimbi's work with Solar Sister helps to provide economic opportunities to many women and provides light and resources to the 1,600 orphans and other vulnerable children at Uganda’s Maranatha schools, which she established with her husband in 1989.
  • Raquel Barros, Founder, Lua Nova
    Barros spoke about Lua Nova's work transforming the lives of young, at-risk mothers. Lua Nova allows young mothers and their children to rediscover citizenship and self-esteem so they no longer are excluded from society, through innovative career and construction training, income generation workshops, health care, psychotherapy, and remedial classes.



Ashoka’s commitment to Everyone A Changemaker™ means we can leave no person behind. We hope to awaken all individuals to their inner power and potential to create enduring change. That’s why the ChangemakeHERS campaign is offering words of advice and encouragement for innovators at all stages of their efforts.

To complement the outstanding voices of the women who have shared their insights so far, here is some of our own guidance to social entrepreneurs and the institutions that support them. Below we’ve outlined four key principles that we believe are critical to the evolution of the social entrepreneurship sector as it stands today.

  • Principle 1 – Offer a competitive theory of change

To reduce redundancy and identify the most compelling innovations that should be scaled up, social entrepreneurs must define a competitive market niche and distinguish their impact through a strong theory of change. Fundamentally, this means assessing one’s unique place in the market and benchmarking one’s products and services against potential competitors or partners.

The social-enterprise sector benefits when emulating competitive market dynamics so that organizations’ core competencies, relative strengths, and unique offerings are more clearly identified.

Ultimately, without a competitive sense of the landscape, the question of what and whom to scale-up remains deeply ambiguous. Once an organization has established a competitive theory of change, it becomes better positioned to compete for scale and determine the best scaling model and strategy. 

Last week, HERS contributor Lauri Elliott, CEO of Conceptualee, discussed the dangers of vagueness in business plans: “Vagueness makes it difficult to develop strategy, make key decisions, apply resources, capital, and assets correctly, and attract contributors, sponsors, and partners.”


  • Principle 2 – Look for opportunities to free-ride

In economics, free-riding is traditionally perceived as a problem that arises when someone exploits a resource or common asset. However, within the social entrepreneurship sector, free-riding should be viewed as a strategy for using (often limited) resources more efficiently.

As applied to this sector, free-riding may come in the form of tapping existing distribution and communication channels, sharing common operational services, and borrowing legitimacy from trusted local institutions and leaders, among others. In many instances, social entrepreneurs may lack the networks and capacity that would enable their organizations to achieve greater scale and impact. Therefore, instead of expending limited resources on building networks from scratch, social entrepreneurs should utilize existing social and physical infrastructure.

This type of “piggy-backing,” where a social entrepreneur leverages another institution’s infrastructure, might come in the form of a multinational or microfinance institution offering up their distribution network, or a local NGO or religious organization facilitating the dissemination of a social-marketing message.

HERS Contributor Astrid Aafjes, founder and executive director of Women Win, revealed how a critical network of grassroots partners, women’s rights entities, and development organizations has magnified the impact of her organization.


  • Principle 3 – Ensure open innovation

The typical technological adoption life cycle takes an average of 40 years—from the invention of a technology to its diffusion. A life cycle this long means that by the time a technological innovation is deployed and adopted, it may be outdated or it may no longer meet the needs or address the challenges of the target community. Now the life cycle becomes even longer when you factor in the additional time and sunk costs associated with the R&D process itself. So how do we reduce the time and costs associated with both R&D input, and the pace of adoption? The answer lies in open innovation.   
Open innovation effectively allows for the development of solutions to occur “openly”—outside the boundaries of any one institution. So, for example, finding ways of opening up R&D efforts to increase the number of external participating actors (e.g., researchers, engineers, and product designers) is one intervention. Another example is the use of customers to co-create products and services. This is a particularly effective way of ensuring that customers are included early in the innovation lifecycle to ensure appropriate product/service design, as well as to generate early-stage buy-in from customers around the product or service concept.

Talia Leman, Youth Entrepreneur and founder of RandomKid built an open platform for youth to engage in developing new solutions to entrenched global problems.


  • Principle 4 – Develop flexible financing solutions

Finally, funding continues to be a key component that is critical to the success of social change ventures. Social entrepreneurs have unique financing challenges that funders can address more pro-actively to ensure innovators have the capital they need to achieve their scaling ambitions. Investments customized for the needs of social innovators are emerging, but have yet to be fully embraced by traditional funders.

For example, offering innovators long-term convertible debt can provide a continual funding source during start-up and growth phases. This type of investment is part of a growing movement of “patient capital” investments being pioneered by groups like Acumen Fund.Patient capital is characterized by longer time horizons, a desire to maximize social impact over financial returns, greater risk tolerance, and additional capacity-building and support services. Another form of patient capital results when governments act as guarantors on investments, thereby reducing the risk an investment might pose, and in some cases providing private sector investors with a secure minimum rate of return.    

We’re not done here at ChangemakeHERS! Come back for new posts daily from the foremost women leaders in social change. And following the campaign, we will be compiling all the words of wisdom from HERS honorees to produce a powerful report aimed at accelerating the progress of changemakers at every stage of their journey – from budding innovators to social entrepreneurs who are interested in scaling up. We’ll share this report back to the ChangemakeHERS community, and we hope it will be a useful touchstone for your work as you move forward.




WEEK TWO Highlights:

In honor of International Women’s Day, during the month of March the Changemakers Idea ExChange blog is delivering a daily dose of wisdom from some of the world’s most accomplished women innovators and activists.
Here are the highlights from last week’s ChangemakeHERS:

  • Iman Bibars, Vice President and Regional Director, Ashoka
    Iman Bibars is a globally recognized veteran social entrepreneur, women’s rights activist, and an Ashoka vice president and regional director for the Middle East and North Africa. Her passionate mentorship of fellow social innovators ranges from one-on-one guidance for young activists to the spearheading of widespread collaboration across entire sectors. Here, she shares her insights about how to initiate and nurture powerful, systems-changing collaborations.
  • Judith Rodin, President, Rockefeller Foundation
    Dr. Judith Rodin has been president of the Rockefeller Foundation since 2005. She was previously president of the University of Pennsylvania, the first woman to lead an Ivy League institution, and provost of Yale University. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Philosophical Society, and Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. She participates in the annual World Economic Forum and serves on several boards, including those of the Brookings Institution, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, Global Humanitarian Forum (founded by Kofi Annan), and Clinton Global Initiative’s poverty alleviation track. Rodin is also a director of AMR Corporation, Citigroup Inc., and Comcast.
  • Leila Chirayath Janah, Founder and CEO, Samasource
    Leila Chirayath Janah is the founder of Samasource, an award-winning social business that connects people who are living in poverty to microwork — small, computer-based tasks that build skills and generate life-changing income. Janah is a frequent speaker about social entrepreneurship and technology, and her work has been profiled by CBS, CNN, NPR, the BBC, The New York Times, and The New Scientist. She serves on the board of TechSoup Global. She received a BA from Harvard in 2005.
  • Melinda Gates, Co-chair and Trustee, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
    Melinda Gates is a co-founder and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. Gates is a former member of the board of trustees of Duke University and a former co-chair of the Washington State Governor’s Commission on Early Learning.
  • Talia Leman, Founder and CEO, RandomKid
    Talia Leman, age 16, unifies and leverages the efforts of millions of global youth to solve problems in the world through her organization, RandomKid. She was appointed UNICEF's first National Youth Ambassador and is the winner of numerous international and national awards for her philanthropic work.
  • Carolina Nieto, Founder and President, Saber para la Vida Association
    Carolina Nieto’s organization, Saber para la Vida, works with women who make handmade products to integrate them into the world economy, and to allow them to fulfill their dream of making a dignified living from their work.



WEEK ONE Highlights:

The past week brought some incredible blog-posts from influential women across the globe who are working to promote social change:

  • Ziba Cranmer called attention to a serious issue that impacts sport’s fans: the widespread problem of human sex trafficking during international sporting events.
  • Lana Hijazi described how her own struggle with unemployment after graduating from university led her to develop an incredible match-making service that connects women to labor markets in Palestine.
  • Ewa Wojkowska explored some of the challenges involved in starting a new venture. She emphasized the importance of ensuring that your idea matches up with a clear market need. Her organization – Kopernik – provides people with access to emergent technologies in BOP markets.
  • Christine Grumm explored the role of the ordinary person in the philanthropy movement. She dared to ask the question, “how can YOU be more like Bill Gates?”
  • Jess Weiner made room in our contemporary world for a new type of activism, the Actionist –who is committed to taking action in their everyday life to help others.
  • Emily May discussed the persistence and determination required to launch Hollaback, an organization dedicated to transforming street harassment. As she recalls, “For the first six months, I shot up out of bed at 6 a.m. and worked straight until midnight. To save money, I ate mostly dried beans. I gained ten pounds. I barely saw my friends – or the light of day. At my worst moments, it was an obsession. At my best, it was a calling.” 
  • Fran Drescher reminded us that she’s not just a woman with big hair from Queens. She is also working to transform how women manage their health through her organization Cancer Schmancer. According to Drescher, “Every single one of us needs to transform from passive patients into informed medical consumers.”