18 minute read

What follows are my speaking notes from my talk with on the role of open source models in scaling social change. You can see this, plus Ashoka Fellow Gregor Hackmack’s presentation onhis own amazing scale, at https://live.campus-party.org/player/load/id/27aba4389df7558611f3f6d5967b5c7f .


[Slide 1: Title Slide]

Hello! I’m Jon Camfield, from Ashoka. We’ve spent the last 30 years finding and supporting entrepreneurs tackling social change, from human rights to environmental protection. We traditionally do this through a highly competitive fellowship selection process.

I am with our Changemakers program, which acts as a kind of online lab, experimenting with new ways to source and accelerate early stage entrepreneurs.

[Slide 2 : Photos of Ashoka Fellow projects]

The revolutionary projects we see come through our changemakers platform and elected to the Ashoka fellowship are mind-bending in how they take difficult problems and find the key leverage points to create sustained change.

This social innovation is inherently fascinating by itself, but today I want to talk about the importance of scale; How successful entrepreneurs expand their project beyond its original bounds to achieve national and even global change.

[Slide 3: Nut-Sapling-Tree-jungle]

I believe that Social Innovations that scale using open source strategies create a platform for further innovation – just as it has in software and hardware, and that the time is ripe now for these methodologies to become the norm in the “real world.”

I will dig in to a few stories of scale from the field of social entrepreneurship, including Ashoka’s own scaling.

Today we also have with us Ashoka Fellow Gregor Hackmack, co-founder of ParliamentWatch, who will share his specific story of going global with his platform.


[Slide 4: Housing structure being built]

First, I want to quickly touch on some frameworks.

Scale can be achieved in many forms; we’ve seen traditional, industrial vertical scaling - it’s efficient, but costly and slow to build and change. Its strength is in maintaining a tightly integrated whole, and is built around creating physical items.

A franchise model provides a faster way to achieve a type of horizontal scale - a viral model that supports replication, but still manages some central core, and is focused on spreading a service model.

The digital revolution has enabled new forms, where ownership and be shared and is decoupled from control.

If you look back on the open source/free software movement, you see it going from a community standard to being the wild-eyed group of outsiders, and then to being the backbone our modern digital society - your iPhone is built on top of free software, your android on open software.

You see this struggle as old creators of physical items (like records) are struggling with the digitization of the content that used to be trapped on a record. New business, new innovations are not tied down to these old models.

Further combining these with the citizen sector is amazingly powerful. What, at the end of the day, is our goal? It’s change, it’s the success and spread of an idea. This lets social entrepreneurs share their business model openly.

[Slide 5: Open Source ALL THE THINGS]

Openness creates, not destroys, business models. This same ethos has moved into our broader view of society.

Wikipedia is an obvious example, but also twitter, blogging, facebook, and yelp/qype/tripadvisor are examples of freely shared information and systems changing how we interact. More impactful, you see things like P2PU and Khan Academy changing educations, Kiva and Kickstarter changing finance and venture capital, co-working spaces sharing business resources, and crisismapping radically changing humanitarian response.

The open nature of technology, and the non-rivalrous, unlimited supply of information is creating a new type of market and support structure for entrepreneurship, but more importantly, for mission-driven change. This means social entrepreneurs can share their projects, and help them replicate, spread, and grow. Much like in open source, a reputation-driven system maintains who has contributed to the idea and how, protecting their rights and providing them, most likely, with funding and visibility to continue their work.


[Slide 6, Video preview]

One story that is simply amazing is that of Sanjeev Arora and his Project ECHO: Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CfqRwNd0Nao&feature=player_embedded#!

In 2007, Sanjeev’s project won a Changemakers competition for disruptive innovations in healthcare. The competition funder, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, went on to fund him in multiple rounds, far beyond the prize he originally won. RWJF remains a core partner for Project Echo. In parallel, Ashoka elected Sanjeev as a fellow in 2009, connecting him with our broad collection of resources and other fellows.

Thanks primarily to the clear and powerful model, but with help from winning the competition, the fellowship, and the connection with RWJF, ECHO is scaling through what Sanjeev calls a “forced replication” model, where other doctors use his training methodology in their own areas of expertise. ECHO expanded to 16 different clinics in New Mexico after the original prize, and is now replicating independent instances across the US, as well on similar programs for India and Egypt.

[Slide 7, Nut-Sapling-Ashoka Logo-jungle] Now let me talk about our scale at Ashoka. 10 years ago we worked with McKinsey to do some soul searching. We've been around now for over 30 years, and have elected 3000 amazing, systems-changing Fellows working across the world, but we will never reach true scale with only that. So we began looking - how can we make everyone identify as a changemaker? We're engaging now not only on the fellowship level, but with youth directly in and outside of schools with YouthVenture programs, at the University level with AshokaU, with diverse city, regional, and country levels, and with early stage social entrepreneurs, helping them hone their work. This builds a larger pipeline for our search for new fellows today and forever into the future, but we still must continue scaling. The program I work with, the Changemakers.com platform, is going through its own evolution right now. We've been in the business of running competitions.

[Slide 8: Changemakers]

The Changemakers project runs global competitions that explore specific topics, from ecotourism to maternal health to financing small and medium enterprise. Our model focuses on finding innovative,impactful, and self-sustaining approaches to longstanding problems, and to source these openly, allowing for anyone with a good idea to contribute. We've enjoyed great success with these in identifying powerful innovations; but the model itself has an Achilles Heel - competitions end. We're now looking at ways to further support not only the winners, but the entire community of entrants, who often have ideas that didn't quite fit the criteria or just need additional mentoring. Let me begin with our roots. When Changemakers began exploring new ways to build engagement around social entrepreneurship in 2003, we only uncovered one other model that was taking a traditionally walled-garden field, opening it up, and involving large crowds in creating success though a voting system. As is often the case in these things, it was a model in America that had been adopted from an earlier European system.

[Slide 9: American Idol]

Yeah... And so our use of the competition was born.

[Slide 10: competition info]

Competitions change two fundamental aspects for the citizen sector. First, Instead of shipping off grant applications one ream of paper at a time, to only hear back a yes or no; open competitions help both the entrants and funders understand what is disruptive in the landscape, where there are gaps, and how each idea fits in. We actually start each competition with an exploration to help map this out, and then evolve that understanding as new ideas join in.

[Slide 11:quotebank]

Second, the transparency of the selection process creates a feedback loop between sponsors and entrants. The prize itself is valuable, but funders and entrants both benefit more from the process. As one example, Rumah Cemara, an Indonesian grand prize winner of a recent sports for social change competition with Nike was able to overcome a national stigma against discussing HIV thanks to being recognized by Nike and Ashoka, accelerating their work much more than the funding itself possibly could.

[Slide 12: Busy market]

So competitions turn the inefficient process of grant-making into an open bazaar of ideas, accelerating the funding cycle and improving the calibre of the winners. Somewhat surprisingly, they also create community. They are all driven by a passion to solve a problem, and surprising collaborations emerge. We've seen competitors share networks and resources, and even join forces to put forward a single stronger idea.

[Slide 13: Empty Bangkok Market]

This is driving us to change ourselves. This emergent collaboration is exciting,but it evaporates when the competition closes, just like a bustling marketplace empties at the end of the day. This time-limited aspect of a challenge is both its greatest strength and it's deepest failing.

[Slide 14: green fields]

So what does the future hold? First, competitions should become the default practice for finding new projects to fund. No one should be sourcing ideas in a closed grant system. Obviously there are procedural and regulatory issues for government agencies and large organizations, but even these are getting resolved. No one should have to go this alone. There are a number of platforms for challenges, ours included,and it becomes our task to also collaborate in our own competitive space tobuild bridges between our systems and expand the field. Most importantly, we have to not only expand the scope of the competition model, but also reward collaboration and community as much as competition, and create the pathways and incentives for that.

[Slide 15:cityscape /open growth ]

We have to take the amazing engines of ideas and excitement that competitions are and attach them to a system that doesn't just celebrate the winners, but also nurtures and grows the runners-up and the untested ideas. At Changemakers, we call this Open Growth, and this is where we're heading.

[Slide 16: Quotes]

Where Changemakers is sourcing and scaling early stage innovators, Ashoka has other programs to scale our fellows further. 93% of Ashoka's fellows see their ideas replicated - by themselves or others - within 10 years. Globalizer and Localizer are two programs we run to accelerate that.

[Slide 17: Globalizer]

Globalizer takes successful entrepreneurs who have a solid model and a plan to scale, and connects them with resources - strategists, talent, partners, networks and funding - to scale globally. Globalizer brings select participants together for an intense series of in-person workshops, organized twice annually here in Europe since 2010. The globalizer program is building a resource bank of successful scaling models at https://www.ashokaglobalizer.org/scaling-resources

[Slide 18: Localizer / ChangeNation]

Localizers use similar selection criteria for the participants, but are hosted in a specific country to bring in social entrepreneurs from both the host country and across the world and match them with partners and funders to replicate or scale their success in the local context. So far, Ireland has run the only Localizer and is the driving force and expertise behind the program, which our other country offices are working to replicate themselves. Ireland's ChangeNation event brought 50 hand picked innovators to Dublin to spend three packed days with local partners, foundations and investors to tackle specific targeted sectors of education, economic development, civic participation, inclusion, health, and the environment.

[Slide 19: ChangeNation Video]

Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Q7VmkS3TZU&feature=player_embedded

[Slide 20: Gregor's Introduction]

[Slide 21/22: Q&A, Thanks]