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Throwback Highlight: Launching a New Edition of the Visionary Program and our Latest Report

Published On: 11.02.2024

Last October, we hosted a special event to celebrate two milestones: the launch of Ashoka’s new report, ‘New Allies: How INGOs and Social Entrepreneurs Collaborate to Transform Global Development,’ and the start of a new edition of the Ashoka Visionary Program. It was an evening filled with insights, learning, and inspiring connections, engaging the Ashoka Austria community and its partners.

Ashoka Fellow Regina Honu’s Journey and the Power of Social Entrepreneurship

A highlight of the event was the keynote from the remarkable Ghanaian Fellow, Regina Honu, who shared her incredible journey, embodying the essence of social entrepreneurship. As the Founder and CEO of Soronko Academy in Ghana, Regina has earned international recognition and awards for her pioneering work in bridging the gender gap in technology in Ghana. Facing the challenge of persistent youth unemployment in the country, she recognized the critical need to empower young girls and women with digital skills, therefore paving the way for them to pursue successful careers in the rapidly growing IT sector.

Regina reflected on her motivation and journey saying, ‘I love my country and I wanted to offer solutions. But I hadn’t been socialized to be an entrepreneur. I was risk-averse and shy, believing entrepreneurs are born, not made. But I later realised this is not true, and that we need to change that narrative.’

Her personal story is a testament to resilience and determination in defying societal norms. From an early age, Regina had a passion for technology and aspired to build rockets, despite facing discouragement and stereotypes about women in technology. Still, she pursued her passion, becoming the only female in the IT departments of two international banks in Ghana.

Driven by her vision for a more inclusive tech industry, Regina founded Soronko Academy. The academy’s mission is to mentor and train girls and women in coding, app development, and computer science, equipping them with essential tools for success in the IT sector and beyond. Through its mentorship programs and partnerships, Soronko Academy has impacted thousands of women and girls in Africa, connecting many to job opportunities. Beyond teaching technical skills, the academy is changing the narrative and redefining success for women in Ghana by showcasing role models and breaking down societal barriers. Regina summarized her mission, stating, ‘I started with a vision of changing a single girl’s life. And I’m happy that, through our work, we’ve been able to impact so many girls, and continue to do so.’

Insights and Opportunities for Collaboration between INGOs and Social Entrepreneurs

A roundtable discussion, moderated by Georg Schön, Co-Director of Ashoka Austria, brought together key stakeholders in Global Development and Social Entrepreneurship. The panel featured Hubert Neuwirth, Head of Unit at the International Civil Society and Humanitarian Aid at the Austrian Development Agency; Elisabeth Schreiber, Deputy Head of the Program Department at CARE Österreich; Lukas Wank, Director of Global Responsibility; and Regina Honu herself.

The ‘New Allies: How INGOs and Social Entrepreneurs Collaborate to Transform Global Development’ report was the focal point of the discussion, shedding light on the changing roles of INGOs and social entrepreneurs in the evolving landscape of global development. Drawing on interviews with 35 social entrepreneurs and innovation leaders, as well as surveys, roundtables, and peer reviews from over 50 innovators, the report outlines 14 actions to enhance the collaborative impact of INGOs, social entrepreneurs, funders, and intermediaries.

INGOs are increasingly hiring innovative talent, enabling staff to develop and share new ideas, and collaborating with social entrepreneurs. They are pivotal in strengthening local ecosystems of social innovation through lobbying, providing access to international funding, and connecting with networks. This shift from being direct service organizations to becoming scaling platforms represents a significant change. Furthermore, the contribution of social entrepreneurs is crucial. Their expertise in technology, understanding of cultural nuances, and focus on financial sustainability are invaluable assets that complement the efforts of INGOs. By offering locally driven solutions and treating their organizations as quasi-laboratories for constant experimentation and optimization, social entrepreneurs play an essential role in tackling complex global challenges.

Elisabeth Schreiber reflected on the collaborative synergy, stating, ‘It’s a synergistic partnership where each party brings unique strengths, creating a more significant impact than we could achieve alone.’ She also underscored the extensive potential for collaboration, remarking, ‘The possibilities of cooperation are manifold. We find great solutions from social entrepreneurs and scale them to our communities.’

Hubert Neuwirth emphasized the pivotal role of innovation in global development, ‘Innovation is the approach of the evolution… we should all embrace and support it.’ He also stressed the need for contextual solutions and the development of local partnerships.

Lukas Wank and Regina Honu also offered their insights, focusing on the role of national platforms in shaping development by enabling environments and influencing policymakers, along with the necessity of fostering a culture of co-creation and risk-taking among INGOs, funders, and social entrepreneurs.

The report emerges as a compelling call to action, urging the formation of transformative partnerships to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

📩 You can download the report here.

Welcoming 25 new participants in the ninth CEE Edition of the Ashoka Visionary Program

The event also celebrated the beginning of the ninth CEE edition of the Ashoka Visionary Program. Initiated by Ashoka Austria in 2015, this part-time executive program is designed to empower leaders from various sectors by equipping them with the necessary skills, knowledge, and network to drive positive social change. This year’s cohort is particularly exciting, with twenty-five participants from eleven different countries, representing fields as varied as journalism, social entrepreneurship, NGOs, sports, culture, human rights, and healthcare, among others. In the coming months, they will immerse themselves deeply in the world of systems change, changemaking, social innovation and entrepreneurship to scale the impact of their projects or implement new ones, while discovering new perspectives on their professional and personal journeys.

👀 Meet the current participants here.