A World Defined by Change – It used to be that if you mastered a body of rules, you could apply the rules and be a productive person. But that doesn’t work anymore. Rules work less and less in a world defined by change. Those who do not know how to adapt to change or anticipate it will inevitably be marginalized. How must we reorganize our institutions and what new skills must we master to ensure we are best positioned to innovate solutions in a world where value comes from change?
What does it take to transform a system, to establish a new norm? Let’s hear from entrepreneurs how they create demand for game-changing ideas and deploy strategies that range from geographic expansion to new cities, to grafting principles into existing networks, to creating a mindset shift about the nature of the problem and the role of changemakers in addressing it. We’ll explore how expectations of scaling a program or institution may slow game-changing impact, and brainstorm how we can more efficiently and imaginatively dot-connect to support big impact through a team of teams approach.
What would a world look like without any walls between the business and social sector? How are social entrepreneurs already engaged in building this new world? What are the opportunities and challenges they see? This panel will bring together three social entrepreneurs advancing change beyond the scope of a social enterprise or a citizen sector organization. These Ashoka Fellows are transforming industries by re-envisioning value creation and enabling entire new eco-systems. They are not just building partnerships across society but creating teams of teams committed to a shared vision for advancing change at significant scale. Building from their examples and on-the ground experiences, we will engage the audience in a dialogue about the future of business/social congruence. Is it really possible? Why does it make sense? What do we need to start doing today to build this new future?
When it comes to education in the US, we’re suffering from a crisis of imagination: We’ve gotten so caught up in fights over standards, teacher strikes, and [insert fearsome headline here] that we’ve forgotten to ask the most basic of questions: “what do our kids need to succeed?” Fortunately, hundreds of schools and Fellow organizations across the country are pioneering a different way forward: one that places empathy as a core input and outcome of the learning environment. Together, we’ll take a close look at what true “changemaking education” looks like, and what it takes to advance not a program, but an idea. Finally, we’ll examine what we can do, collectively, to unleash action, ensuring that today’s most innovative learning environments—those that intentionally cultivate empathy, leadership, and teamwork—are made the rule, rather than the exception.
Over the past 20 years, America has seen rapid demographic changes. Although most Americans identify their country as a nation of immigrants, many are anxious about the changes they’re seeing in their communities. But our country has a rich history of communities moving out of poverty using personal initiative, shared capital, and families helping one another. It took a sense of community. Our communities are strongest when everyone in them feels welcome. Today, we must build dialogue and mutual respect among community members in order to foster supportive, welcoming atmospheres for all Americans. Opening Your City will explore experiences and actions that help create this necessary social attachment and openness.
With technology becoming ubiquitous and cheaper, data is increasingly turning into a commodity. The business sector is the furthest along in understanding how to build economies of scale, and sometimes entirely new markets, through the use of both big and small data– i.e. targeted/behavioral advertising, Mint.com, etc. In the citizen sector, we are also seeing an increasing amount of entrepreneurs harnessing the power of data for social impact. This is true as much in the field of education (Beyond12, Peer to Peer University, Knewton), as in urban planning & civic engagement (Code for America, Turbo Vote), scientific research & healthcare (MedicMobile, Patients Like Me), and asset-building (Mission Asset Fund, Puddle.io). While the benefits of aggregating data cheaply and effectively are now becoming obvious, we have a responsibility to ask tough questions about the potential shortcomings of – and remedies against – relying too heavily on data to inform our decisions.
Through a series of quick, TED-style talks, we’ll examine the many ways in which empathy is reshaping society, and what it takes to cultivate it. We’ll learn about the keys to movement-building in the digital age and how to activate kids to become the heroes they read about, and hear from a university President out to change the way business schools and companies see their role. We’ll explore what it takes to change an entire industry, by giving voice and a platform to consumers and building demand for a new kind of market, and examine the implications of one woman’s work to turn one-time drug dealers and gang leaders into entrepreneurs, and to drop society’s most unforgiving labels. And much more.
This session at the Ashoka Future Forum will bring together leading social entrepreneurs and business innovators who are developing new ways to prepare workers for the 21st Century. We will hash through innovative workforce development programs and debate how to scale them and how to ensure they are meeting the needs of employers. Through this process, the social innovators and leading employers will determine where and how to invest resources and time into the most promising opportunities for bringing workers up to the level of professional knowledge and changemaker skills needed for succeeding in a 21st Century economy that is defined by change.
Aesthetics include the design, layout, and description of a city, as well as the overall feel of the place and the way we interact with others. Aesthetics provide the fabric of our cities, making them desirable places to live or not. We seek to create places that are functional and productive along with being attractive, relaxing, and reflective of a city’s history and culture. But we often settle for short-term solutions that don’t improve the beauty and efficiency of a space. We are capable of much more elegant and forward-thinking environmental and design responses than the ones we’ve settled for in our cities in the last half-century. Every element in a design communicates something, and it’s time we made each decision count. Creating Your City will focus on challenges facing urbanization and the value of meaningful aesthetics in our built and natural environments.
There's no doubt that businesses will play a major role in shaping our economic and social futures. The real question is: what role? Are philanthropy and corporate social responsibility enough? Join us for a discussion with a number of Certified B Corporations that are committing to more. B Corps voluntarily meet higher standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability, and together are driving systemic change so business creates value for society, not just shareholders. Help us explore what it means to redefine success in business, as well as the role social entrepreneurs can play in doing so.
We have begun to take control of own narratives, telling our stories using whatever tool and digital means is available to us. We have not only begun to tell our stories, but we’ve connected them to others’ stories being told simultaneously around the world. That act of storytelling interconnects us – creating an imaginary and real social fabric. The storyteller becomes a diplomat, a trickster, an opportunity creator, an entrepreneur, a node for change. How do we tell our stories? How do we help others tell their stories? How do we create opportunities by telling these stories both for ourselves and others? When does our personal story shift from “me” to “us”? How do we make these shifts? How do we inspire action and empower others to tell their story? How does information and technology help us do that? What are the emerging trends in storytelling that can help us become changemakers both online and offline.
When we think about people leading social change, we rarely think about truckers. Yet Kendis Paris sees truckers as powerful change agents to abolish human trafficking. Social change leaders increasingly recognize that supporting others to lead change is not a dimension of their work, but IS the work. All the problems we tackle are so immense, so complex and ever-changing that the only way we can create the impact we want is by enabling others to find the change leader inside themselves. Ashoka senior advisor Jan Visick leads a discussion with Kendis and former 2008 Obama for America COO and Ashoka executive team member Henry De Sio to explore these questions: How do we enable people to give themselves permission to lead change? How do we sit on our own hands enough to allow others to lead? What environments and organizational structures enable people as change leaders?
In a culture that increasingly relies on the digital arena to provide the platform for connections, there remains a persistent public desire to organize, gather, share, and be entertained in the physical realm. People are drawn to social interaction in spaces that promote happiness, health, inspiration, and community. This suggests that the design of public spaces where we gather influences how we relate to one another. Place-based projects are as much about the people involved as the built environment. Engaging Your City will highlight innovative strategies and projects from throughout the country and the unique ways in which they have engaged community members in their solutions.
How do we flip current approaches and usher in new norms of health, vitality, and access to care when care is needed? We’ll hear from social entrepreneurs and corporate and foundation partners about how they are pushing past systemic barriers such as information asymmetry, lack of social contract for access, misaligned incentives, and the mindset of “health care is sick care” that undergirds our current system. Set against overarching trends, solutions are shared in a staccato, round-robin format.
Social entrepreneurs often do not fit neatly within the traditional nonprofit or for-profit legal categories. Instead they primarily focus on mission and may require different forms of capital. This means the law must catch up to reflect this growing trend. In the past few years, we’ve seen various legal innovations such as the creation of alternative for-profit legal structures to distinguish socially-responsible businesses (in addition to B Corp certification for existing businesses). Social entrepreneurs are also increasingly interested in accessing capital through crowdfunding, which soon will include the possibility of receiving equity contributions from the public. Come hear from Ashoka Fellows, Rafael Alvarez who helped others replicate his non-profit “subsidiary” model to scale his organization, and Sasa Vucinic who plans to launch IndieVoices, a crowdfunding platform to direct patient capital to independent media projects around the world. The session panelists will also engage in a provocative discussion regarding the future of social enterprise law, how social entrepreneurs can best utilize their lawyer as a co-creator, and the limits of pro bono legal services.
All too often, we have seen that in the absence of effective assessment tools, we revert to measuring what is easy rather than what is important. Together, weʼll look at how a wide range of social entrepreneurs, educators, and business leaders have chosen to measure key 21st century competencies, and how that data can be used to inform measurable growth plans: for kids, for teachers, for staff, and for ourselves.
Work with the acclaimed not-for-profit The Moth to shape your personal story of what makes you a social entrepreneur. In this workshop we will teach and apply the Seven Principles of Moth Storytelling which have been developed through work with thousands of Moth storytellers from well-known writers, musicians, filmmakers and performers, such as Ethan Hawke, Frank McCourt, Malcolm Gladwell, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, Moby, Anna Deavere Smith, Gabriel Byrne, Mira Nair, Lili Taylor, Kyle MacLachlan and Rev Al Sharpton to a man exonerated after 19 years of imprisonment, a NYC cop, a reformed pickpocket, an astronaut who commanded the first shuttle mission after the loss of Challenger, an umpire, and a voodoo priestess. The workshop will include an opening presentation, small group work and a final presentation of select stories. The Moth comes to the Ashoka Future Forum via Jake Shapiro, Ashoka Fellow and CEO of PRX Public Radio Exchange, who present The Moth’s Peabody Award Winning Moth Radio Hour (http://themoth.org/radio) on over 250 radio stations across the country.
We will use open space as a way to self-organize our own mini-conference tracks. We will rely on participation by people who have a passion for the topics to be discussed. There is no preplanned list of topics, only time slots and a space where interested participants propose topics and pick time slots. If you would like to organize a group during this time, please use the designated area in the Networking Lounge to post your topic and allow people to sign up (source: http://www.mindviewinc.com/Conferences/OpenSpaces).
Archimedes, one of the earliest systems thinkers, famously promised, “give me a lever long enough, and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” In their passion for change, leaders and changemakers are constantly searching for that long lever and leverage point, deeply aware that addressing system complexity often marks the difference between success and failure. We may be searching for creative leverage points that yield new results within existing systems, or we may be engaged in ambitious efforts to re-engineer entire systems. Our work with systems often relies only on our intuition, a capacity that tends to fail more frequently in the face of mounting complexity. The rigorous study of systems promises to bring critical system elements into strategic sharp relief, thereby offering the potential for breakthrough strategies and innovations. This workshop will introduce the theory and practice of Systems Thinking, helping participants explore its relevance to changemaking. Participants will practice using its tools applied to current work settings and ongoing projects. The specific tools and concepts considered will include stocks, flows, links, and balancing and reinforcing dynamics. The long lever and its mysterious fulcrum await you. Take hold and move the world.
As leaders, we are expected to hold the whole: the vision, the strategies, the needs of those we serve, our finances, our Board, our employees. We often feel no one else can share that burden, that if not for our presence, everything would fall apart or even stop altogether. We are indispensable and afraid all at the same time. This view of ourselves is one of the greatest obstacles to the growth of our impact. How do we let go of this fear that if we stop, the work will stop? How do we become a leader that enables other leaders? How do we attract a network of trusted people who can carry our work forward, or even, accelerate it? In this session, we will explore how our own personal space mirrors the structure of our work and the tools available to transform both.
We will celebrate the most recently elected Ashoka Fellows and their outstanding innovations. In addition, we will host the Banking on Youth Pitch Competition. Six young changemaker finalists will pitch their ideas for a social venture. Your vote helps a team win the Audience Choice award of $5,000.
For much of the last century, journalists have uncovered facts and rooted out truth, but they have intentionally distanced themselves from whatever happened as a result. Today, news organizations and journalists are wrestling with the limitations of that historic function — and with the emergence of a new role. Do they meet their obligation to society simply by exposing what’s wrong, or should they also investigate potential solutions? Do publishers create value just by connecting readers to the news, or more by providing pathways to civic engagement? How should the press consider its social impact – to the extent it should at all?
Innovative leaders increasingly see empathy as a critical skill, allowing people and teams to effectively spot and advance ideas that are invisible in traditional hierarchies. From janitor to CEO, empathy enables all to engage with the vision in fundamentally new ways and work across limiting silos to imagine and realize creative solutions. At a time when organizations form and dissolve more rapidly than ever, nimble, trust-enabled cultures - even in large companies and organizations – are critical to problemsolving, idea-generation, and continuous learning. Explore the link between empathy and leadership, innovation, and overall performance, and discover social entrepreneur-led solutions that can help you transform your team.
When a person is kept out of jail, society saves money. Society also benefits from his economic productivity, from his volunteer efforts, from his parenting his children. How do we begin to value these positive externalities and recognize the complex long-term effects of our work? The world is moving from double and triple bottom lines to a single bottom line of human well-being. The past few years have seen tremendous innovation in how social change efforts are financed from crowdfunding to social impact bonds to a growing range of debt and equity structures. Foundations and investors are partnering with social innovators to explore new models of support. In this session, we will wrestle with questions of how to appropriately value the positive externalities, discuss different financial models for different stages of a social venture and explore the range of exciting financial innovations emerging.
Media has broken through its traditional boundaries to occupy nearly every facet of our lives, our communities, and our sense of the world. Social and mobile media are disrupting mass broadcast, forging new networks and narratives with a profound impact on journalism. How do
we reimagine the roles of audience, journalist, and media enterprise in this new reality? What innovations are driving citizen engagement in the networked world? What are the future business models that can sustain media that matters? This will be a participatory discussion that builds on the morning’s plenary session, “Tomorrow’s Media.” First we’ll hear from leading media innovators, then open up a conversation on questions such as: Who decides what’s news, and how? How are citizens best engaged around news? What skills must tomorrow’s journalists master? What media skills must citizens have? Where is the line for media between activation and advocacy?
Many of the systems that Americans utilize every day were designed as long as a century ago. Municipal boundaries, the electrical grid, transportation systems, voting methods, and various other manmade systems have served us well for a time, but not without some degree of obsolescence and manipulation. From education to government, innovative leaders are building new networks that link and reconfigure outmoded systems of thought and organizational structures that accommodate progressive thinking to move our cities forward. Rewiring Your City will focus on projects that prove there are more efficient ways to live, work, and make a difference.
Philanthropy and social innovation are two sides of the same coin. Social innovators cannot achieve significant social impact without the financial capital to support their ideas. Philanthropists cannot achieve significant social impact without the vision and creativity of a social entrepreneur. The most successful social ventures are those where social innovators and philanthropists are true partners united around a common mission and vision. But, how do you create that perfect partnership? This session will be a frank discussion among individual philanthropists, foundation leaders, and social entrepreneurs about the impact they seek, how they measure success, and lessons they have learned from past partnerships.
Tomorrow’s organizations require different talent and a new kind of leadership. What are the essential skills and values for effective leadership? Leaders of diverse institutions (education, business, social) will share their perspectives and innovations in leading organizations that meet tomorrow’s challenges.