Special Features


Foolanthropy 2003
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What do these people have in common?

  • Zackie Achmat is spearheading a grassroots social initiative to provide affordable HIV/AIDS medication to the public in a way that will stop the pandemic's growth and transform South Africa's public healthcare system.
  • J.B. Schramm is bringing new educational opportunities to mid-performing, but high-potential, students from economically disadvantaged areas by helping them enter into higher education and further careers.
  • Fabio Rosa is using his innovative ideas to bring electricity and therefore light, water, telecommunications and Internet, to tens of millions in rural Brazil for a fraction of what the government thought it would cost. His idea has spread to Argentina, Paraguay, South Africa, and Uruguay.

They've all been sponsored by Ashoka.

Ashoka's RodrigoAshoka finds practical visionaries around the world with powerful, pattern-changing ideas and provides them with a living stipend for a few years. It invests in them early -- when it matters most -- freeing them to work on developing and spreading their ideas and solutions. Ashoka "Fellows" typically receive modest financial backing for three years, the exact amount depending on local salary levels. (In some regions, it's as little as $3,000 per year.) Ashoka also offers Fellows access to the world's first -- and only -- professional network of other leading social entrepreneurs, enabling them to support each other and share knowledge, contacts, and best practices.

Perhaps most attractive to us Fools is Ashoka's return on investment. Check out the compelling numbers in the following examples (more examples are on our discussion board):

  • Investing a total of approximately $11,000 over three years, Ashoka enabled Jeroo Billimoria to launch Childline, India's first 24-hour emergency telephone hotline for street children. They also receive follow-up support services such as police assistance and health care. Launched in Mumbai (Bombay), Childline has answered more than 2 million calls and directly provided assistance to more than 26,000 street children in the city over the past four years. Ashoka's investment amounts to a mere $0.42 per child. The model has spread to 38 cities nationally and to Thailand. Within 10 years, Jeroo plans to replicate it in 158 cities in India and Asia.
  • For about $50,000, Ashoka helped Rodrigo Baggio accelerate the growth of his Committee to Democratize Information Technology (CDI), a network of 480 self-managed computer schools in the urban slums of 19 states throughout Brazil. He has trained more than 220,000 students (who might have otherwise turned to drug trafficking and violence). CDI has opened 39 computer training schools in Angola, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, and Uruguay with partners such as Microsoft, Starmedia, the InterAmerican Development Bank, UNESCO, and UNICEF. Ashoka's investment amounts to $0.55 per student!
  • Investing about $30,000, Ashoka helped Mary Allegretti save more than 9 million acres of the Amazon Rain Forest in Brazil -- that's less than a penny per acre. She developed the first system of extractive reserves by setting aside areas for jungle dwellers whose livelihood depends on the forest. By encouraging sustainable use of the tropical forest, the plan has also benefited more than 70,000 rubber tappers and 200,000 native inhabitants in the rain forest.

In the last 21 years, Ashoka has invested in more than 1,200 leading social entrepreneurs in 43 countries around the globe (including the U.S.), working on issues such as education, healthcare, the environment, human/gender rights, economic development, and poverty alleviation. Ashoka is unique in that it searches the world for local visionaries with local solutions to local problems, whose models can be replicated nationally and globally. To be elected to the fellowship, candidates undergo a rigorous selection process.

Read more about the work of these and other Fellows in a fascinating article in The Atlantic. Just $100,000 can help launch up to 30 leading social entrepreneurs around the world, each of whom can substantially improve the lives of millions of people around the globe. Please join other Fools in offering Ashoka as much as we can.

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