Ashoka Office - 16th Floor


Ashoka United States was launched in 2001 when we began supporting social entrepreneurs in the U.S. as Ashoka Fellows. To date we have supported more than 230 men and women with creative new approaches for solving social problems and connected them into a dynamic peer network to help them grow their ideas and impact.

Social entrepreneurs play a central part in Ashoka’s mission to build an ‘Everyone A Changemaker’ world, in part because they create roles for so many others to be problem solvers for the good of all. But they can’t do so alone. Over the last decade, our work has expanded in new directions with a particular focus on changing how young people grow up so they gain the skills and practice they need to step into the world as changemakers themselves.

Today we work to ensure that every child masters empathy through our Start Empathy initiative, which includes a growing network of Changemaker Schools. Via Youth Venture we reach teens and the organizations that serve them to encourage young changemaking. Ashoka U, meanwhile, has set the standard at the university level for what it means to incorporate social innovation into the culture and curriculum of higher education. And continues to be a platform for changemakers of all kinds to come together in service of social progress, most notably via its online competitions.

All of this work supports our central aim: to shape a country where problems no longer outrun solutions, and where each one of us feels empowered to drive positive change in ways big and small. 


We think of our Fellows as practical visionaries—practical in that they are highly attentive to the nuts and bolts of making things work, and visionary in that they often reframe the problem in the first place and cast a long-term view for change. They apply creativity and empathy in solving social problems, and they highlight the importance of systems thinking to get at the root of those problems.

The Ashoka Fellows in the United States work at the leading edge of the most significant social and economic problems of our time—increasing access to quality education and healthcare, introducing solutions to mass incarceration, facilitating economic development on American Indian land, improving mental health resources for returning veterans, and even designing new methods of carbon-trapping ocean farming that nourish us while restoring our waters and combatting climate change. To learn more about these entrepreneurs in the U.S. and around the globe, check out our searchable network map.

Unfortunately, too much of this map is polarized in a handful of coastal U.S. cities—a problem that afflicts not just Ashoka but the entire field of social entrepreneurship, which risks becoming insular and disconnected from the majority of Americans.

To address this problem we launched the All America initiative in 2016, a public commitment to redrawing the map of social entrepreneurship in the United States so that it will better reflect the rich ethnic, racial, gender and geographic diversity of the country. 

All America logo II


We want to find and supporting leading changemakers across the entire country—form Detroit to Dallas, from the ranches in the Mountain West to the Deep South, from within and across all ethnic groups—and with them shape more innovative, resilient communities everywhere. Our goal is to ensure that a culture of changemaking takes root far and wide—across all America. 

Our "All America" Manifesto

  • We believe changemakers are everywhere, representing all races, classes, religions, and geographical areas.
  • We believe that all of us will someday be called upon to be changemakers to make positive change for our families, for our communities, and for the good of all.
  • We believe that social entrepreneurs are champions of new ways of tackling societal challenges and transforming whole systems.
  • We believe they are powerful forces for good and their presence makes us all more effective agents of change.
  • We believe that social entrepreneurs are everywhere, but that the social entrepreneurship sector has gravitated around a few coastal cities which limits its relevance and impact.
  • We believe this clustering is at least in part a result of internalized biases by networks like Ashoka.
  • We believe a more diverse sector will be better equipped to spot and uncover solutions to problems that are too often overlooked.
  • We believe it is our responsibility to reach out so that the best ideas can flow in and out of all of America.
  • We believe that together we can shape a more dynamic, resilient country where problems no longer outrun solutions.
Nick Tilsen photo
Ashoka Fellow Nick Tilsen of the Thunder Valley Community Development Center on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota 

Connect with Ashoka United States

Telephone - 703-527-8300
1700 North Moore St
Suite 2000 (20th Floor)
Arlington, VA 22209
United States

Our Programs

Fellow Organisations

Since Ashoka’s founding in 1981, Venture & Fellowship has been the core of our work, developed and refined to identify leading social entrepreneurs with transformative ideas and provide them with the support and community they need to thrive. Ashoka’s role is to bet on these entrepreneurs at a key time in their trajectory when minimal resources have maximal leverage. In this way, year after year, we seed ideas that represent potentially groundbreaking paths forward for society. In the process we collect insights and spot patterns that guide the rest of our work and that enable our partners—and society at large—see with more clarity the direction the world is moving.

Many of the 230 U.S. Ashoka Fellows who have come through this process have gone on to get to get second and third-tier growth investments from major foundations and philanthropists as they scale nationally. 

Our Fellows are: 

  • Building entirely new fields­—like Participatory Defense—to give communities most affected by mass incarceration the avenues to influence the court process and case outcomes;
  • Leveling the educational playing field via organizations like Donors ChooseBeyond 12 and the New Teacher Centre
  • Drafting legislation and changing policy at the state level—like the groundbreaking Domestic Worker’s Bill of Rights in New York and California—and at the federal level too, as Paul Reickhoff and his Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America were instrumental in the US Senate’s unanimous passing of the Clay Hunt Bill in 2015 to provide better help for veterans with serious mental health issues;
  • Enabling millions to access critical benefits: Jennifer Pahlka’s Code for America used mobile technology to reduce the application time for California’s CalFresh nutrition program from 45 to 8 minutes;
  • Shaping a more welcoming country via David Lubell’s Welcoming America, which reduces the barriers that immigrants face to fully participating and builds bridges between newcomers and long-time residents;
  • ... and much more!

I have been constantly blown away by the generosity and vision of Ashoka. They have been unmatched as a thought partner, helping me and my organization to see connections in our work that transcend geographic boundaries and the usual discipline silos. And they have been unparalleled as a connector. My own experience as an Ashoka Fellow has been nothing short of transformational.

- Jill Vialet, Ashoka Fellow and founder of Playworks
Jill Vialet


Empathy Banner

The Changemakers Schools Program is called Start Empathy in the US.

Start Empathy is an initiative of Ashoka U.S. that launched in 2012 as a community of individuals and institutions dedicated to building a future in which every child masters empathy.

Despite how fast the world is changing, most of our educational priorities have remained the same. Only a handful of children are consistently provided with the learning environments and opportunities to develop into empathetic changemakers. We must shift this pattern. Ashoka’s Start Empathy Initiative expands and leverages Ashoka’s network of social entrepreneurs to drive a movement that makes empathy a priority skill for all children. We seek to accelerate society to a tipping point where this idea becomes inevitable because a new framework has taken hold.

A key strategy for doing so is working with our growing network of Changemaker Schools across the country. These schools are living models of transformative approaches to education and showcase an incredible range of how-tos that any educator can learn from in her efforts to bring empathy and changemaking more fully inside school walls. With them we are moving closer to a world where all young people have the skills and confidence to change the world for the good of all.

CM School Momentus
Youth Venture Logo

Over the last 20 years, Ashoka’s Youth Venture (YV) Initiative has supported more than 18,000 teams to practice changemaking through its “Dream it, Do It Challenge” methodology, which takes a young person through the process of dreaming, developing, launching and sharing a youth-led social venture. Worldwide, YV has impacted 360,000 young people in more than 50 countries. 

In the United States, YV has worked with about 4,000 teams of young changemakers  to launch ventures in all 50 states, with major hubs in  St. Louis, Seattle, Washington D.C., New York City, Boston, Silicon Valley, Concord (N.H.), North Central Massachusetts, San Francisco, Miami, and Minneapolis. 

Our mission is to cultivate an ecosystem that values and supports young people to be changemakers by:

  • Investing in young people to have the transformative experience of launching and leading their own lasting ventures.
  • Creating a critical mass of young people who collectively redefine the youth years as a time of positive contribution.
  • Spreading our message that investing in young people to become changemakers is the key factor for success in every part of society; and
  • Connecting our Venturers to a global network of changemakers.


Ashoka U

Ashoka U collaborates with colleges and universities to break down barriers to institutional change and foster a campus-wide culture of social innovation. Ashoka U empowers emerging leaders with the freedom, confidence, and support to address social problems and drive change. The initiative connects these Changemakers with other students, faculty, administrators, and community leaders to share inspiration, ideas, and resources.

Presently, we have 27 Changemaker Campuses in the United States.

Ashoka U also produces The Commons a virtual, semester-long accelerator for cohorts of institutions that are working on specific building blocks of social innovation education. Participants draw on Ashoka U’s experience working with more than 250 higher education institutions globally.

Ashoka U Exchange, a three-day annual event in the United States with hundreds of higher education innovators who are reimagining how to utilize colleges and universities as platforms to catalyze long-term change and social impact. Here, inspiration is sparked and deep connections are formed with peers who share a passion for higher education and who are devoted to advancing key conversations in the field.


ASN photo from website


The Ashoka Support Network (ASN) is a community of successful leaders in their own fields based in the US helping Ashoka US build to an everyone a changemaker world. The ASN the US supports our 200+ Fellows working across the country, as well as our work with changemaker schools and universities.

Once I began to meet with Fellows and experience their passion and dedication, it became an easy task for me to get more involved and contribute in any way that I could to help their work. What I tell to other ASN members that I’ve recruited is that there are so many opportunities to make a contribution to people who are on the cutting edge of social entrepreneurship. That is what drives me, and I invite them to join me in that pursuit."



- Jose de la Torre, US ASN member


“If you only have a few hours to provide to philanthropic endeavors, this is going to be the highest return you will ever get on those few hours”

 - Olivier Kayser, founder of Ashoka Support Network and Hystra



Changemakers builds the foundation for Ashoka's vision of an Everyone a Changemaker world by activating a global network of social entrepreneurs, innovators, business leaders, policy-makers, and activists in more than 100 countries.

Using a three-step process—frame, convene and ignite—Changemakers works with other Ashoka teams and its global network and partners to build open competitions that celebrate the best ideas and exponentially accelerate social change. Changemakers also delivers ground-breaking analysis in the form of social innovation mapping reports and creates long-term partnerships with corporations and organizations to drive the movement forward. 

In the US, Changemakers has produced about 100 successful challenges with companies like GE, Google, Rockefeller Foundation, Intel, Unilever and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 


Konstanze Frischen
Diamond Leader and LGM, North America
Konstanze leads Ashoka in North America and is a member ...more
Maria Paula Recart
Leadership Group Member, North America
Paula Recart is part of the Leadership Group at Ashoka, ...more
Simon Stumpf
Change Leader, US Venture/Fellowship and Integration
Simon is the Director of Venture and Fellowship for Ashoka ...more
Lorena Garcia Duran
Director, Ashoka Support Network (ASN)
Lorena is the Director for the Ashoka Support Network in ...more
Michael D Zakaras
Director, Strategy & Partnerships, Ashoka US
Michael Zakaras is Director of Strategy & Partnerships at Ashoka ...more
Brittany Koteles
Fellowship Manager, Ashoka US
Brittany is the U.S. Fellowship manager. She designs tools, experiences, ...more
Maria Laura Acebal
Leader, US Youth Years
Maria Laura Acebal is part of the Leadership Group at ...more
Annie Plotkin
Community Engagement Manager
Annie joined Ashoka U.S. right after graduating from the University ...more
Timothy S Scheu
Director of Engagement Management, Changemakers
Tim is a Tampa, FL-based Director for Ashoka Changemakers. During ...more
Alexandra Vesey
US Venture Associate
Alex Vesey is the Venture Associate for Ashoka US. She ...more
Tuyet Adamovich
Finance Manager, Ashoka United States
Tuyet is the Finance Associate for Ashoka in the United ...more