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Creating pathways for exponential change – Ashoka and Societal Thinking’s ASPIRe

Maria Zapata and Sanjay Purohit

Creating pathways for exponential change – Ashoka and Societal Thinking’s ASPIRe

ASPIRe was launched in April 2020 as a joint initiative between Ashoka and Societal Platform (now Societal Thinking). The impetus for this collaboration came from two organisations with complementary goals, priorities and ambitions and a catalyst that jump started the co-creation. Reflecting on ASPIRe’s first 3 years has been a valuable exercise in understanding not just our own journey but also the evolution of our partners, funders, and Ashoka Fellows.

Ashoka, with over 40 years of experience supporting social entrepreneurs, in scaling systemic social change, was seeking pathways for Fellows to leverage technology for impact. The question was who in the social sector had leveraged technology in a way that worked for all citizens.

Societal Thinking, an initiative of EkStep Foundation since 2016, aimed to help change leaders achieve impact at population scale leveraging network effects and co-creation ecosystems enabled by digital infrastructure. The Societal Thinking team recognised that such ambitious endeavours would only succeed if led by exceptional and audacious leaders. 

As the pathways of both the organisations converged, ASPIRe’s mission was set to discover how to help Ashoka social entrepreneurs reimagine their approach, induce exponential change and aim for impact@scale leveraging Ashoka’s knowledge in scaling system change and the insights from Societal Thinking. The goal of the partnership was to develop a body of knowledge combining these two practices based on the hands-on experiences of the Ashoka Fellows.

Over the last three years, we have gone through an intense Learn > Reimagine > Design > Prototype cycle with the first cohort. Through studying several Ashoka fellows around the world, we learned how platforms for the ‘good of all’ look like; with the Fellows, we reimagined how their audacious dreams could be supported by the use of technology and this thinking; with some we traversed the journey of designing such a mission and finally with a few we went all the way to prototyping, initiating a pathway to exponential change.

ASPIRe’s journey has been a testament to the power of co-creation, collaboration, vision, and audacity. Dive deep into the ASPIRe journey here.