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History and Background

About Ashoka

Ashoka is the global association of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs—men and women with system changing solutions for the world’s most urgent social problems. Social entrepreneurs are individuals with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems. Like business entrepreneurs, they are ambitious and persistent, but unlike business entrepreneurs, they tackle major social issues and offer new ideas for wide-scale change. Rather than leaving societal needs to the government or business sectors, social entrepreneurs find what is not working and solve the problem by changing the system.

We believe that the most effective way to promote positive social change is by investing in these social entrepreneurs; to seek them out, support them, and help them spread their idea. Since 1981, Ashoka has elected over 2600 leading social entrepreneurs as Ashoka Fellows, providing them with living stipends, professional support, and access to a global network of peers in more than 60 countries.

Ashoka Fellows inspire others to adopt and spread their innovations—demonstrating to all citizens that they too have the potential to be powerful changemakers and make a positive difference in their communities.


Ashoka in the Arab World

When Ashoka established its Arab World Regional Office in 2003, it intended to promote innovative solutions to address significant, complex challenges. The program was called the Arab Region Initiative for Social Entrepreneurship (ARISE) because it would be a social entrepreneurship effort conducted by Arabs for Arabs.

Egypt was selected as a strategic location for the new full-time Ashoka Arab World regional office due to its high population and its geographic and political centrality.  Since the establishment of the Arab World Regional Office, 41 Fellows, representing Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco, Palestine, and Saudi Arabia have been elected.

Ashoka Arab World is actively engaging the leading social entrepreneurs of the region in all major fields of social concern - education, health, women''s empowerment, human rights, peace and conflict resolution, democracy, environment, economic development, agriculture, water, disability, early child development and children''s rights.

The objectives of Ashoka in the Arab world go beyond seeking and investing in entrepreneurs. Ashoka also strives to create and sustain a channel of communication between the business community and civil society, as well as improving the way CSOs work in the Arab world with regard to their sustainability, output, and ethical responsibility.

Ashoka effectively bridges the gap between the citizen and social sectors by providing innovative Fellows with business training and networking opportunities. By encouraging the creativity and self-sufficiency of its Fellows, Ashoka also emphasizes the significant role these values can play in shaping the future of the entire region.

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