Ashoka's selection process is anchored by our five criteria against which all Fellow candidates are evaluated:
The Knockout Test: A New Idea
Ashoka is looking for individuals with a clear pattern-changing idea – a fresh new proposition for how society can address a certain social problem. We are looking to support social innovators who see the big picture and are developing a long-term systematic approach to addressing the root causes of a problem. We are looking for innovations in any field of social change, from health and education to human rights and the environment.
Although the idea is new, Ashoka expects the social entrepreneur to have already spent a significant period of time developing extensive knowledge and experience in the system that he or she is trying to change. Ashoka seeks to support social innovators who have tested their new idea and are poised to move to the next level of social impact.
Social Impact of the Idea
Beyond one-off initiatives, the social entrepreneur seeks to change the system as a whole. Ashoka evaluates the innovation based on its potential to eventually have nationwide impact. Ashoka Fellows are not obsessed with a particular solution. Instead, they are obsessed with improving the lives of their communities and solving specific social problems.
If a social entrepreneur is building a truly innovative solution, each day will bring a new set of challenges and opportunities. Ashoka is looking for highly creative individuals. They have a history of approaching problems and defining goals with ingenuity and imagination.
Ashoka is not looking for entrepreneurs in the commercial sense. Rather, we are looking for individuals who are fully committed to realizing a new vision and have the practical ability to build and implement this new idea. They are practical visionaries willing to work full-time towards building solutions that will bring about systemic, structural changes in society. Undaunted by unforeseen challenges, they adapt quickly to change.
Ashoka Fellows must have unquestionable ethical fiber. Social entrepreneurs introducing major structural changes to society must ask a lot of people to change how they do things. If the entrepreneur is not trusted, the likelihood of success is significantly reduced. The quality of Ashoka’s global lifelong fellowship depends highly on the members’ ability to trust one another. Ashoka dedicates a significant amount of time and resources in the selection process towards evaluating candidates for this quality.