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Our Journey so far

Find out how we created the program
empowering a new generation of leaders

Since 2015, the Ashoka Visionary Program has been gathering 30 decision makers and leaders of change per year and region. The executive leadership program is unique in the world.

Not only because of Ashoka’s practical know-how founded on our global experience, but because of pioneering a comprehensive learning package for (aspiring) social entrepreneurs – with materials on social entrepreneurship and innovation, impact and social business modelling, funding and scaling social innovation, new leadership, system change, partnerships and co-creation, and finally the art of storytelling and marketing. Prototyped and once fully operated out of the Ashoka Austria, the program has been replicated as a regional program in Eastern Africa and the Mediterranean Region.

Did you know?

The Ashoka Visionary Program was the first initiative in Ashoka to organise the organisation’s vast body of knowledge…..


… the start of the Ashoka Visionary Program.

7 years completed,
with a programme of 7 modules,
on 7 weekends – per cohort.
11 programme editions in total.






years of Ashoka’s experience


Ashoka Fellows & social entrepreneurs

Our journey since 2014


The big idea for social entrepreneurship knowledge

The big idea for social entrepreneurship knowledge

The big idea – 40+ years of knowledge and a community of peers: The idea to create the Ashoka Visionary Program was born out of our work with Ashoka Fellows – our core business. After 40+ years of building up the social entrepreneurial sector across the globe, Ashoka had a unique untapped body of knowledge, with recipes for changing the world.


At the same time, we found that there are no programs out there teaching changemaking skills in an entrepreneurial and immersive way, deriving theory from the earnings of practitioners and creating a space for changemakers to co-create. So, it was high time to organise our knowledge and make it accessible to changemakers beyond our own network of social entrepreneurs.


Between 2014 and 2015, we structured and labelled a diverse set of concepts, methodologies and tools on how to solve societal problems in an entrepreneurial way. The first version of the program-modules was ready! Our aim was always to immerse changemakers into our work, giving insights into our approach and the stories of Ashoka Fellows. Thus, we trigger new social entrepreneurial initiatives beyond Ashoka. Participants became passionate changemakers and numerous initiatives resulted from the program – a success on the journey towards an “Everyone a Changemaker World”. Read more on our Impact-page!


Leaders of change united

Leaders of change united

Leaders of change united for the first time: It was October 2015, when the top-manager from the corporate world Stefan Dertnig (former partner BCG BCG Russia, Director DD Management & Advisory GmbH) registered as the first participant of the Ashoka Visionary Program and triggered the opening cohort of 22 ground-breaking changemakers from 6 European countries – our first visionaries.


Managers of NGOs and the public sector, like Markéta Pěchoučková (Head of unit responsible for supporting social innovation projects with European Social Fund, Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs of the Czech Republic), Ashoka Fellows and other leading social entrepreneurs also joined and contributed their experiences to the program.


Bart Weetjens, Ashoka Fellow and Founder of APOPO, was our first keynote speaker along with Adam Lent who introduced participants to the “age of empowerment” – a global shift in how organizations empower their staff, customers and stakeholders. APOPO has been training the famous HeroRats to detect thousands of buried land mines, cheaply freeing up farming land and living space. Inspiring stories, right? Today, we have 200+ alumni from 40 countries and we keep growing.


A successful model in 7 modules

The program offers interactive sessions to learn from international speakers on-site & online: Ashoka Fellows, social entrepreneurs, academic experts. Inage depicts participants from behind, sitting in a semi-circle in front of a screen with a program speaker.

A successful model: visionary sessions across Central and Eastern Europe and the magic of knowledge finally organized. After this first successful year, we continued the yearly transformational learning journeys, evolving the modules with time and reaching participants in new sectors. In 2019/20 we teamed up with Ashoka regional offices and partners across Central and Eastern Europe to organize modules in 5 cities: Bucharest, Budapest, Prague, Vienna and Warsaw.


After this truly regional program, COVID made us turn to online and offline sessions out of Vienna. To provide top-quality, ready-to-use content we set up a franchising model, coordinated by the Ashoka Visionary Academy aka the team in Vienna and developed scaling strategies to expand the program to more regions (find out more about our growth below!). The program, also thanks to the leaders who joined it and learned from its content, served as a spark for more processes in the international Ashoka community to organise and share knowledge. An example: the Ashoka Systems Change Masterclass, available online to everyone interested.

Mediterranean and international collaboration for peace

At that time, funding from a big foundation allowed us to finally scale the program to the Mediterranean, creating an own cohort of leaders of change there. In 2019/20, the program brought together Israeli and Palestinian changemakers in Greece, a neutral ground for both, along with other Mediterranean participants.


As part of Ashoka’s peace-creating mission, we wanted to explore if the Ashoka Visionary Program could work as a platform to trigger collaboration. It was no smooth and easy task, but it was worth it. The Mediterranean program was restarted in 2021 in Italy after a COVID-induced break.


Scaling to East Africa

Scaling to East Africa

Bringing together visionaries in East Africa: The first cohort of the Visionary Program in East Africa was launched in December 2020. The cohort was comprised of twenty-two participants from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Burundi.


However, the work started much earlier in 2018 with the formalization of a partnership between Ashoka Austria, ADA and CARE to scale three programs – Visionary Program, Impact Transfer and Changemaker Map – to East Africa. A feasibility study on the viability of the program in the region was conducted which determined the strategic importance, relevance and immediate need for the Visionary Program.


To date 44 executives from across the region have gone through the Visionary Program with another cohort planned for 2023.


Revival of the Mediterranean program

Revival of the Mediterranean program

Revival of the Mediterranean program in Bella Italia: The restart in the Mediterranean region brought the program to Italy and was done with a key goal in mind: developing and increasing the value of Italy’s cultural heritage as well as boosting regional development together with Ashoka Fellows.


A key characteristic of Ashoka Italy proved to be its superpower: Ashoka’s deep knowledge of social entrepreneurship across the country, thanks to the Fellowship’s presence in all of Italy bringing more and more social entrepreneurs and their initiatives into the network. In spring 2021, the Italian team got to work and started shaping the new Visionary Program in the Mediterranean. To use the power of its network, the program would consist of sessions taking place in the whole country with social initiatives as local partners, allowing participants could dive into different realities. It was kicked off in December 2021!


During a module in Palermo, Sicily, the participants visited mafia-free touristic places during a no-mafia tour, the urban regeneration area Cantieri Culturali Alla Zisa housing 32 spaces of creativity and international culture, and migrant-led projects like the social enterprise Giocherenda with its African team creating handcrafted objects and games. Just imagine how many ground-breaking initiatives and changemakers you can still choose to discover!

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