As 2021 unfolds, we are faced with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shift systems — in health care, in education, in our economy and more — that are failing the majority of Americans, and especially communities of color. Our 11 newest Ashoka social entrepreneurs are leading the way, drawing on their lived experience to build a future of possibilities and opportunity for all.

We invite you to explore their ideas and insights below, and with Ashoka, to help them go further, faster.

Why we’re excited about Jelani: Using community-oriented technology, Jelani is designing a new system of early legal intervention for Black and Brown communities in NYC and beyond to counter existing inequities to legal access at the time of arrest. Jelani and his team are building trust in a system that has failed so many and is making it work better, and for all.

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Why we’re excited about DeVone: Many U.S. cities are seeing the biggest spike in urban gun violence in decades, making community-led prevention especially urgent. DeVone engages those most affected by gun violence, including those responsible, to help their communities heal and leave violence behind.

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Why we’re excited about Albert: In an era of increasing surveillance, with outsized effects on communities of color, Albert is working to defend privacy, end discriminatory surveillance, and update the social contract for the digital age.

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Why we’re excited about Charles: Dr. Charles C. Daniels Jr. launched the nation’s first mental health treatment facility for fathers and their families. In doing so, he’s proving that while providing material support to single moms and kids is important, addressing the root causes and generational impacts of fatherlessness is transformational.

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Why we’re excited about Jill: There’s an opportunity right now to strengthen democracy from the ground up, and align values (as expressed in our laws) with what people, all people, actually experience. Jill is supporting state and local prosecutors to proactively protect the core rights and freedoms of workers, tenants, and residents.

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Why we’re excited about Darryl: Too often, there’s a mismatch between the way communities are reported on in mainstream media and the way these communities see themselves. Darryl recruits, trains, and pays community members to document public meetings, share local perspectives, and produce media that is more reflective of their realities, as well as more practical and useful.

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Why we’re excited about Tim: To address the racial wealth gap, Tim is removing barriers to start-up capital, reimagining collateral, and resourcing a vibrant network of Black entrepreneurs, artists, and farmers across the Mississippi Delta who are, together, creating community wealth. 

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Why we’re excited about Melissa: Because 95% of Deaf children are born to hearing parents, many do not learn sign language early in life when it matters most for cognitive and emotional development. Melissa and scores of Deaf artists, technologists, and storytellers are bridging this culture and language gap with pioneering tech, digital apps, and engaging content.

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Why we’re excited about Chloe: Designing a new financial education model, Chloe and her team develop customized school and social interventions focused on wealth justice for Black girls and girls of color that will close the extreme systemic inequities and wealth gaps that Black women and women of color face in the United States.

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Why we’re excited about Sean: Our food system is unsustainable on many levels, and much of what we eat makes us less nourished, not more. This wasn’t always the case. Sean, a chef for 30 years, is reviving and sharing healthy, indigenous North American food traditions through Indigenous food labs and a growing network of chefs, farmers, and home cooks.

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Why we’re excited about Astra: Americans are deeply in debt, as many people have turned to loans to cover medical expenses and college tuition. Astra is reframing debt from something personal and shameful, to systemic and to be scrutinized. Her membership organization supports debtors to push back against exploitative debt practices.

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Join us every Wednesday for timely conversations with these and other Ashoka Fellows on what works, and what’s next. Check conversations with DeVone Boggan here, Albert Fox Cahn here, Tim Lampkin here, Melissa Malzkuhn here, and Sean Sherman here. Explore other episodes in the weekly series here.