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These might help anyone who's having trouble understanding Ashoka... I got them from their home office.

- What is Ashoka?
Ashoka…is an international (nonprofit) organization that identifies and invests in social entrepreneurs.

- What does Ashoka do?
Ashoka invests in social entrepreneurs because we believe that is the most (effective) way to promote positive social change.

- What is a social entrepreneur?
A social entrepreneur has the same qualities/temperament/spirit as a business entrepreneur: vision, creativity, and drive (determination). But a social entrepreneur applies these qualities to solving social problems rather than make a profit. Ashoka looks in particular for leading social entrepreneurs. Just as there are all kinds of business entrepreneurs from a person who owns the local store/restaurant to a Steve Jobs, who created the PC industry, there are many calibers of social entrepreneurs. We are looking for the Steve Jobs caliber, the ones who truly change social systems (on a large scale).

- What do you mean?
For example, Rodrigo Baggio has set up a system of schools and training in computer education to over 75,000 kids living in urban slums of Brazil. His model is spreading to other countries such as Japan, Colombia, and the U.S. He's solving the social problem of lack of opportunity/choices (or of the digital divide) for those kids.

- Are you a foundation or government agency?
No, we're not a foundation, nor a donor agency. No, we don't accept any government funds. We're a social venture capital firm and we invest in social entrepreneurs. We are developing the profession of social entrepreneurship. We don't accept government funds. Our funding comes from foundations and individuals, primarily business entrepreneurs.

- How does Ashoka work?
Basically, we are like a social venture capital group. We invest in social entrepreneurs in two ways: financially and professionally (in their professional development). First, we make a financial investment by providing them a living stipend (or salary) for about three years so that they can focus exclusively on their vision and implementing their plan. Second, we invest in them professionally by electing them into our Global Fellowship. This is a network of 1,100 social entrepreneurs around the world who can collaborate on similar social problems. Also, the Global Fellowship provides a range of professional services that gives them skills, information, and contacts.

- Why haven't I heard of Ashoka?
Well, we have not had a program in the U.S. until this year. We have just begun a major marketing and communications campaign. Since 1982, Ashoka has elected nearly 1,100 Fellows in 38 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Central Europe. Fellows work in six broad fields: environment, learning and education, health, human rights, economic development, and civic participation.

- Why is it called Ashoka? What does Ashoka mean?
Ashoka was an Emperor in the third century BC who unified India and is considered one of the earliest social innovators. For example, Ashoka launched the first medical services and network of roads. Ashoka was known for his creativity, tolerance, and global mindedness. Ashoka means, in Sanskrit, "the active absence of sorrow." Ashoka was someone who had a lot of opportunity and power and chose to dedicate himself to positive social change… which is how our Fellows are. Many of us have this talent and opportunity and could choose to apply that to the profession of social entrepreneurship.

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