Bill Drayton: Phenomenon behind the rise of Social Entrepreneurship.

Insights Success
3 min readJun 21, 2021

Every one of us wants to be someone, a person others recognize and respect for great deeds. Every one of us come with unique ideas and insights to existing problems thus bringing different perspective and solutions to solve modern problems. However, not all these aspiring individuals have the capability to deliver extraordinary solutions and drive the change themselves.

That’s where the term social entrepreneurship comes in. For over 4 decades, social entrepreneurship or ‘quiet revolution’ has supported common citizens who come upfront with the ideas to impact and improve the lives of people around them.

Think of Florence Nightingale, who in the 19th century invented modern nursing during the Crimean War. Or Margaret Sanger, who launched the birth control movement in America by founding American Birth Control League in 1921.

In 1960, a Harvard-trained attorney Roy Prosterman during his visit to South Vietnam realized how giving farmers rights to their property would lead them out of dire poverty. His organization, now known as Landesa has been supporting rural land reform ever since and has improved the lives of 150 million people across 50 countries.

While this quiet revolution has been going on for decades it was in 2006 that social entrepreneurship gained global recognition when Mohammed Yunus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for launching a microfinance firm to support small businesses started by the individuals and communities belonging to a lower economic class.

However, it was Bill Drayton, named as one of America’s 25 Best Leaders in 2005, who is responsible for the rise of the phrase ‘social entrepreneur’.

Entrepreneurship in the early days

Known as one of the most prominent social entrepreneurs, Bill started his entrepreneurial journey during his childhood when he started and ran a student newspaper. His inspiration for entrepreneurship originates from his parents’ change-making journeys.

Growing up, Bill continued his endeavors by building Asia Society into the largest student organization. He was also an active member of the NAACP.

Bill launched several organizations while pursuing his education that included Harvard’s Ashoka Table and Yale Legislative Services. After graduating from Yale Law School, while working as assistant administrator at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Bill launched emission training, the foundation of the Kyoto Protocol.

Later while working for McKinsey and Company he founded citizen-sector organizations Ashoka and Save EPA, which served as the predecessor to environmental safety.

Rise of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public

Founded in 1980, Ashoka has been instrumental in capitalism to drive social change. Through Ashoka, Bill not only provides necessary start-up capital to social entrepreneurs but also monitors the social returns.

“Social entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry,” he says.

The citizen sector around 1980, when Ashoka was founded, was more structured and followed businesses to become competitive and achieve individuals’ goals to become an entrepreneur.





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