This October, Ashoka elected a new class of 26 European social entrepreneurs as Fellows. Seventeen of them are from four Western European countries where Ashoka has recently launched: France, Germany, Spain and Ireland. This class of Fellows marks an important step forward for Ashoka, which now has offices in Paris, Frankfurt, Madrid, London and Dublin. With an already vibrant presence in Central Europe – in Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia and Lithuania – Ashoka has truly become Europe-wide.
At a time when citizens across Europe have grown sceptical about the capacity of government to tackle social problems, these ‘Ashoka Fellows’ offer welcome new approaches. All are visionaries, not hesitating to rethink how European societies might handle education, economic subsidies, drug addiction, disabilities, the integration of immigrants and other areas of public need. But they are also realists, concerned above all else with the practical implementation of their ideas.
One new Fellow, Jean-Michel Ricard, has designed a preventative healthcare model to help the growing population of elderly people in France maintain their autonomy and quality of life. A Spanish Fellow, Jean-Claude Rodriguez-Ferrara, is organizing self-sustaining groups for the growing immigrant population to address their basic financial and networking needs – a critical early step for integrating immigrants as full social and economic citizens.
Over 25 years, Ashoka has supported nearly 2,000 leading social entrepreneurs like these in 60 countries, providing them with small investments, a global peer network, and professional consulting.
The majority of Ashoka’s support in Europe has come from individual business entrepreneurs, many of whom have joined the Ashoka Support Network, a global network of business entrepreneurs and professionals contributing a minimum of $10,000 per year over three years for Ashoka and its Fellows. Ashoka has also received contributions from foundations and companies interested in building the field of social entrepreneurship in Europe.
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