Search and Selection Process
Ashoka helps maximize social impact through a rigorous Fellow selection process that has been refined over 30 years. With the help of a robust global nominator network—consisting of partner organizations, businesses, social entrepreneurs, and community leaders—Ashoka scours the earth for leading social entrepreneurs and evaluates each candidate against Ashoka’s five selection criteria.
From nomination to election as a Fellow, candidates go through an extensive series of in-depth interviews, a judging panel, and a final executive board vote. International staff frequently make site visits to evaluate candidates in their work environment. Nominees are rigorously questioned about practical implementation—the blueprints that will make their ideas come to life—as well as personal background, values, motivations and aspirations.
The process is long but also fruitful. In fact, many candidates describe the selection procedure as one of the most difficult but enlightening experiences of their careers. Candidates must communicate their ideas, scrutinize their methods, and reflect on themselves as individuals. Even those who do not pass believe they are better equipped to return to their projects afterwards. In this way, more than a means to an end, our selection process generates robust discussion, sharpens ideas, and focuses tremendous energy into the citizen sector and the growing field of social entrepreneurship.
There are no age, education, class, race, or other such bars to election. Anyone who meets the five criteria is someone Ashoka wants.
Ashoka has a few negative grounds on which a candidate may be denied entry into the fellowship. Violence, any form of discrimination, partisan political leadership, or membership in any political party which advocates violence, discrimination or totalitarianism are incompatible with election or continued participation in the fellowship. We have also found that those who are captive to ideology do not have the open capacity to listen, an essential part of creating fundamentally new change.
As quality (and therefore likely impact) is our unique test, Ashoka only considers financial need at the end of the selection process. It provides financial support to those it elects if and to the degree that the person needs such support to be able to pursue his or her vision full-time. As Fellows' ideas take root, their institutions will increasingly be able to pay for their directors—and the level of Ashoka's support typically will decrease.
Learn more about our Ashoka Fellow Selection Criteria.