Curious about becoming an Ashoka fellow?

what fellows say about Ashoka

What is the Ashoka Fellowship

For more than 40 years, Ashoka has built and nurtured the largest network of leading social entrepreneurs in the world. The Ashoka Fellowship is designed to be a practical and personal community for social entrepreneurs at the stage where their tried-and-true innovations are ready to take off nationally.  During these “take-off years” and well beyond, every Ashoka Fellow commits fully to championing new patterns for the common good: new norms for society. For that reason, the Ashoka Fellowship is not time-bound but lifelong. 

What is included in the Ashoka Fellowship?

Ashoka Fellows in our global network benefit from community engagement and peer expertise, strategic support, catalytic connections, and increased visibility. In addition, most new Ashoka Fellows receive a 3-year stipend at the beginning of their lifelong, non-residential Fellowship. 

Ashoka teams spanning 90+ countries ensure that our social entrepreneurs are woven into a network of peer support, which includes almost 4,000 social entrepreneurs. Of these, 300 Ashoka Fellows live and work in the United States. For these Fellows, the Ashoka U.S. Fellowship team is committed to designing and delivering strategic programming that cultivates cross-sector learning, connects Fellows to one another, and allows Ashoka Fellows to problem-solve with each other alongside prominent thought leaders in the Ashoka network.  

What are the requirements to apply?

Throughout our candidate engagement process we evaluate potential Fellows on five criteria. The first and most important is that the candidate has a new idea that, when adopted at a national scale, will effectively represent a new pattern for their field. Additionally, we look for creativity, entrepreneurship, social impact, and ethical fiber. 

 In addition, successful Fellowship candidates tend to have these attributes: 

1. At the time of election, Ashoka Fellows’ organizations have generally been up and running for 2+ years and have begun showcasing evidence of impact. At this time, we review candidates whose organizations are registered as 501c3s, either independently or via fiscal sponsorship.

2. They display the potential to change an entire field or sector that will benefit people across our whole country.   

3. The typical Ashoka Fellow candidate has almost always determined that they’ve had to start an independent organization to advance their work. While they may have worked previously in government, community organizations, a family business, or the private sector, at the time they come to Ashoka most Fellow candidates have founded their current organization.  

4. The organization a Fellow candidate leads at the time of election cannot be registered as a for-profit.  

5. The Founder must be leading the work in a fully committed and full-time capacity (or planning to shift to full-time with the aid of the Ashoka stipend). 

6. Must be 18 years or older to apply.  

7. Ashoka is committed to finding and supporting extraordinary changemakers who reflect the full dynamism and diversity of U.S., representing all geographies, genders, backgrounds, abilities, and experiences. Our process is open and accessible to all.  

What is the selection process like?

We are committed to making the process of becoming an Ashoka Fellow an enriching opportunity for candidates to explore the systems-change aspects of their work with engaging thought partners.  

We review hundreds of possible candidates every year that come to us through a mix of online nominations and referrals from Ashoka Fellows, staff, and partners. All these ways of suggesting a potential Ashoka Fellow are equal. Unfortunately, we can’t promise to be in touch with every nominee or nominator.   

If your work is in alignment with our criteria, someone from our team will reach out to set up a [1] screening call. This is a chance for us to learn more about you and your work, and for you to learn more about Ashoka and how we work.  

If a screening call suggests alignment, the process may involve a few more exploratory conversations to drill down on elements of your work we find particularly relevant to our selection frame. If things progress, we will invite you to share your work in our [2] Ashoka Summary Document, which asks you to build the best case for your work in your own words.  

Once our core team has determined alignment, the candidate proceeds to a [3] life history interview, which is conducted by a senior member of the Ashoka community, someone from outside the U.S. The interview typically runs about three hours and covers a candidate’s life history, current work, and vision for the future.  

After that, three shorter interviews with members of the broader global Ashoka community at our [4] Ashoka Panel, which often includes current Fellows, are conducted. The recommendation of all four interviewers is sent to the Board, who make the [5] final decision as to whether candidates become fully elected Fellows. 

How long does the process take?

The process from screening call to panel can take between three and six months, or even longer if the work is still evolving. Since our later stage interviews happen on a rolling basis we are not driven by external deadlines; the pace of the process is set by the readiness of the candidate.  

What accommodations does Ashoka provide during the interview process?

We are currently holding all interview in-person. Interviews are conducted in the language of choice of our candidates, either with other speakers of your same language or with interpretation.  

We respect and are happy to plan around religion, family, and any other obligations. 

How many Fellows are elected each year?

Here in the U.S., we elect 15-20 new Ashoka Fellows per year, drawn from a pool of roughly 500 nominations. 

Can I nominate someone I think would be a great Ashoka Fellow?

Yes! If you think you’re ready to nominate an Ashoka Fellow, click here. 

I'm a social entrepreneur. Can I nominate myself?

Yes! Click here. 

When will I hear back regarding my nomination?

If we see strong alignment with our criteria, we’ll reach out to set up a screening call, usually within a month of receiving your nomination. We are not able to provide an update to all nominators or provide detailed feedback to candidates who are not – or are not yet – a criteria fit. Please know that we are grateful for all nominators and nominations! 

I don’t think I'm a fit for the Ashoka Fellowship at this time, but I'd love to stay connected. How can I stay involved?

We always love to stay in touch! You can keep tabs on what’s happening by subscribing to our newsletter. To learn more about some of our public events, please click here. You can also reach out to [email protected] with any specific questions or concerns.