Ashoka Stories of Social Change: Inspiring New Realities

Ashoka Stories of Social Change: Inspiring New Realities

How The Act of Sharing Catalyzes Changemaking

Every year the Canadian Ashoka community gathers together to shine a spotlight on a wide array of change-makers designated as Ashoka Fellows. This year’s Stories of Social Change event was held in Glen Gould Studio at CBC’s national headquarters in Toronto. The change-seekers in the crowd were exhilarating. The change-makers on the stage were inspiring.

So here is the thing about me: I tend to be a contrarian of sorts. A skeptic. A “realist”. I rarely get swept up in the “feel-good” passions of the moment, leaving me pretty even-keel most of the time. Generally, this makes me a pretty bad attendee for awards galas.

But Ashoka puts together a very different sort of evening.

The first thing that one notices is the caliber of talent amassed on the spectator’s side of the stage. In milling about before the official programming began, I found myself chatting with a fascinating cast of characters. A documentary filmmaker currently in the editing-phase for her latest project dealing with climate-change. A sustainability consultant working on the front lines of corporate environmental impact. An executive with a global urban-entrepreneurship program whose roots are really starting to take hold here in Canada. Believe me when I say, the list goes on. But beyond my own chit-chatting, there was an actual event of curated Stories of Social Impact.

Each challenge identified was being addressed from a unique angle. Each angle was being acknowledged by Ashoka for bringing about some level of significant, measurable change. The meta-narrative that emerges from a night like this is – I believe – the vision that Ashoka has been working towards for the past 30 years. Ashoka talks about:

“Envision[ing] a world where everyone can be a changemaker: a world that responds quickly and effectively to social challenges, and where each individual has the freedom, confidence and societal support to address any social problem and drive change.”

This is important context to place Ashoka within. They are enabling the enablers. By contributing to the conditions that allow for freedom, confidence, and societal support they are playing the long game of real systems change. While they will certainly have feel-good stories along the way and there will be those individual fellows that truly do rewrite the rules, I believe we will ultimately judge their success on a much longer timeline.

I’d encourage you to take a quick look into the stories profiled below, which are themselves just a few of the many stories that shared the spotlight at the Ashoka Stories of Social Change event. If each of us takes the time to truly listen to a story and then pass along the impact it had on us, we will slowly-but-surely build the sort of world where we’ll have the freedom, confidence, and societal support that will bring about “a world where everyone can be a changemaker”.

Steve Leafloor — Blueprint for Life

Fiona Sampson — Equality Effect


George Roter — Engineers Without Borders


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