The Ashoka Changemakers Story: Innovating for 21 Years

The Ashoka Changemakers Story: 

. . . innovating for 21 years

ChangeSpotting: 1993 - 2002

Changemakers was launched by Ashoka as a quarterly print magazine to tell stories that introduce how social entrepreneurs are tackling the world's most critical problems with innovative, system-changing ideas.


Ashoka Changemakers® is re-launched as a website with support from the Rockefeller Foundation and Ashoka. The website’s monthly Journal section describes powerful working principles that are detected in the work of clusters of social entrepreneurs (a process we call building a “mosaic”), and illustrates them with colorful articles about how these changemakers put the principles into action on the ground.

Other sections of the website include the Studio (multimedia presentations of images and audio), Creative Resourcing (tools, techniques, and examples that help social entrepreneurs make their organizations sustainable by developing a citizen base of support), and the Library (a collection of links to the best online resources for and about social entrepreneurs). In 1999, Ashoka Changemakers is recognized as a “Hot Site” by the USA Today newspaper. Changemakers begins publishing a print magazine that includes selected highlights from the website for those without a good Internet connection.

Sourcing Innovation: 2002-2011

Ashoka Changemakers provides its growing community with its first email newsletter, and publishes its first "Mosaic" (a tool that maps the key challenges and innovations in a field, later called a Discovery Framework) on water issues. It launches its first online collaborative competition, which attracts almost 100 entries competing for a very modest $50 prize. Ashoka Changemakers ceases publication of its print magazine as Internet connections become more widespread.


Ashoka Changemakers adds the tag line “open sourcing social solutions,” as Changemakers becomes a more interactive online platform. It launches its first competition (“How to Build a Citizen Base that Supports an Organization”) where entries are published on the Changemakers site, attracting a total of 99 entries from 39 countries.


Ashoka Changemakers had hosted 22 competitions by the end of 2008, working with partners including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, Nike, Staples, National Geographic, Humanity United, and Citi. First Changemakers “Change Summit” convenes a live, global video conference hosted by the World Bank for the “How to Improve Health” competition.

Changemakers sources first multi-year growth capital to expand its technology, scale-up the size of its team, and further evolve its business plan/model to include white label competitions and knowledge products. The Changemakers team grows from 5 to 17 members, operating from offices around the world including the United States, Canada, Argentina, India, and Brazil.


Ashoka Changemakers relaunches its website on an open-source platform that allows it to handle the millions of annual unique visitors now visiting using the site. The Changemakers team doubles in size. Partners in 2009 include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, GAIN, and the Maternal Health Task Force.

Changemakers pioneers a new model of partnering with the public sector and multilateral organizations to run high-impact competitions such as the G20 SME Challenge, and a housing competition with HUD, the State Department, and the IDB. Other partners in 2010 include the Rockefeller Foundation, Green Mountain Coffee, Exxon, Artemisia Foundation, Orton Family Foundation, and Amgen. The first public white label competition is launched with the Minnesota ( and Bush ( Foundations.

Moving from Open Sourcing to Open Growth: 2012

Ashoka Changemakers demonstrates leadership by moving from open sourcing innovation—after hosting more than 50 online collaborative competitions that have attracted 10,000+ entries from social innovators in 125 countries, and directed more than US $600 million to support social innovators—to supporting Open Growth through a network that directs resources to the most promising solutions so that they can scale-up their impact.


Accelerating Social Change: Frame - Convene - Ignite

Changemakers uses the power of open challenges and social innovation knowledge coupled with Ashoka’s network of social entrepreneurs and impact partners to connect high-potential changemakers in order to accelerate the rate of change around critical social issues. The core design principles of what we offer are to frame the the foundational understanding, approach, desired outcomes, and potential to collaborate, convene a powerful network, both online and in person, and ignite the work to accelerate the rate of change around critical social issues.