The Ashoka organization introduced its activities and the people it works with at the May 9th press conference organized in conjunction with the European Workshop on Social Entrepreneurship.
The Ashoka Innovator for Social Entrepreneurship is an international organization which searches for people with new, unconventional solutions to social problems. Ashoka’s theory is based in the idea that effective work in the social sector is reliant on dedicated and passionate individuals.
Ashoka has been in operation since 1980, established by William Dryton. Dryton, the current president, dreamed of supporting socially-just activities. To this day, Ashoka has reached 1,122 people in 42 countries around the world, mostly individuals who bring together a passion to help others with professionalism characteristic of business people. Ashoka grants them the opportunity to work outside the boundaries of their nation, culture and sometimes even the field of work they are involved in.
Here in Poland
Ashoka has been in Poland since 1994. It is comprised of Ewa Konczal, Ashoka Poland Representative, Ryszard Praszkier, International Coordinator of the Ashoka Bridge for Universities & Society Program and Trainings Coordinator. There are also 42 members in Poland involved in all branches of the social sector and many of their projects incorporate an international perspective.
How do they help
Ashoka fulfills it’s mission by investing in these ambitious and unique people. Financially, they provide a living stipend typically for three years. These stipends enable Ashoka Fellows to focus full-time on implementing their vision and new ideas. Ashoka also assists them in making contact with others and gaining more knowledge and skills.
Joining Ashoka is not so easy
It must be said that joining Ashoka is not so easy. They must trust you before becoming a member therefore they have their own system of admissions. Candidates contact Ashoka representatives who are members of granting organizations, public institutions and other organizations and who are well oriented in the problems of their community. The most important criteria is an innovate idea that will change the ineffective solutions to problems of environmental protection, human rights and health care. Those who would become a member must be creative and focused in their vision, goals and strategy for solving problems. Considering that the organization is international, the projects should have an wide range as well, even crossing national borders.
Who has been successful?
Anna Machalica-Półtorak from the Open Door Association. Thanks to Ashoka, she established a system to fight unemployment among youth “coming out of hopeless situations”. Her association concentrates on unemployed youth in the most troubled areas of Warsaw, mostly Prague. Ashoka granted the opportunity to cooperate with city officials, business owners and local people and allowed for a gradual shift of youth from desperate situations to a secure future.
Tomek Sadowski of the Barka Mutual Help Fund, fights homelessness daily by educating the homeless, unemployed and those who are in difficult living situations. His cooperation with Ashoka helped him develop his activities which reach man ever increasing amount of people.
Elżbieta Pomanska-Skrzypczak from the Fund for Children with Cancer. Thanks to her own awareness, came to realize that “one’s own drive to do something is not only needed but gives one a sense of fulfillment”. Today with the help of Ashoka she helps children suffering from cancer realize their possibilities and limitations. She also attempts to improve the system of care for those who suffer.
Piotr Pawłowski founder of the Integration of Friends Association, for years has dreamed of breaking down the barriers that divide the handicapped from those who are “healthy”. His work links educating the public on handicapped issues, changing the public’s mentality and laws regarding the handicapped. Ashoka helped him achieve his goals of informing the public on how to get along with people who have disabilities.
Jacek Bożek is the founder of the Klub Gaja Ecological-Cultural Association. For years he has directed the environmental movement which among other things protects the natural environment in Poland and Central Europe, leads campaigns for animal rights and human rights. As he admits that he came into contact with many people thanks to Ashoka.