In 2020, Ashoka and Societal Platform joined forces to launch ASPIRe — a joint initiative that seeks to explore and learn how platforms can be leveraged by social entrepreneurs to support their system-change work and scale up impact.
Platforms have irreversibly changed the way industries operate. A worldwide trend towards universal access to smartphones and mobile internet is enabling more and more people to participate in the digital revolution. With a focus on offering the means of connecting networks and facilitating value exchange between them, platforms have opened up novel models for organizing that are both efficient as well as dramatically scalable.
This makes platform models an attractive strategy for social entrepreneurs who want to spread the ability to solve a problem among many stakeholders by activating their agency, providing them with useful insights, and enabling large numbers of people to get better at solving major societal problems in their local contexts.
From the experience of Ashoka’s partner Societal Platform and by studying the work of Ashoka Fellows who have built platforms for impact, we have learned that the inherent feature of platforms is the capability for large-scale impact. This is achieved through connecting exponentially large numbers of stakeholders in networks that interact openly, exchange value, and evolve while activating agency and catalyzing participation. All these merits make platforms a useful strategy and tool in advancing an ‘Everyone a Changemaker’ world.
There are several examples of Ashoka Fellows using platforms to scale up impact and advance system change. Through this report, we aim to learn from and share their experiences, extrapolate trends, and design principles that can be useful for other social entrepreneurs. We showcase nine key design principles that should be taken into account and applied when developing platforms for the good of all. These include:
Align Towards Better Outcomes through System Leadership — Aligning stakeholders around the values, beliefs, and goals of the system, even while they continue to play their intended roles, nurtures distributed leadership.
Distribute the Ability to Solve — Engaging stakeholders in solving problems requires co-creation, which is a continuous, creative, and interactive process that challenges the views of participants and combines the expertise of the actors in novel ways.
Empower with Data and Knowledge — The ability to explore, analyze, predict, and act on data and insights helps to identify future needs and problems and continues to seed new solutions.
Cultivate Change Offline — Platforms for the ‘good of all’ must intervene offline in order to leverage the power of the platform for everyone.