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Everyone can be a change-maker – round-up from Ashoka Globalizer Summit

KHR globalizer

Last week I had the privilege of attending Ashoka’s Social Entrepreneurship Forum in Stockholm where The Natural Step Founder was officially welcomed into Ashoka’s fellowship. The event topped off what was, by all accounts, a fantastic weekend for Ashoka’s Globalizer programme.

Selected from more than 2500 individuals in over 70 countries, Dr Karl-Henrik Robèrt is one of 16 social entrepreneurs participating in the 2011 Globalizer programme, which aims to match “ready to globalize” innovations - like the Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development promoted by The Natural Step - with the resources needed to rapidly and effectively achieve global scale.

When asked about what becoming an Ashoka fellow means to him, Karl-Henrik said:

“Institutionalizing an innovation is not the same as developing it. Ashoka really want to help us scale up. We try to help business executives who are suffering because they don’t know what to do on sustainability and it can be exhausting after a while, so when somebody wants to help you, it almost brings tears to your eyes. Bill Drayton and his team are really there to help. It has been an amazing journey.”

So what insights did the assembled panel of business leaders and experts provide Karl-Henrik and The Natural Step? Here follows a round-up of lessons we are taking from the event: 

  • Speak up! – The panel was impressed by the achievements connected to The Natural Step, the wider network of collaborators and the Framework we promote and recommended enhanced communications and greater brand visibility to increase our impact.

  • Show the pathway – In order to demonstrate the extent of our work and more meaningfully engage people, we must be clearer about describing learning pathways and providing recognition for competence in the methods we promote.

  • Work through others to achieve scale – far from sending us back to the drawing board with our transition plans, this advice reinforced our resolve to build a global sustainability network of change agents and gave tangible insights into how to empower some of our closest supporters. Stay tuned…

  • Emerging markets – We have long seen the need from a sustainability perspective to engage in rapidly growing markets like China, but we have not had the ability to realize this. We are extremely grateful to Ashoka’s network for connecting us with the right people and hope to share more news in due course.

A personal highlight from the award ceremony was hearing a panel of Ashoka fellows present their inspiring stories – from Jerry White, landmine victim and Founder of Survivor Corps (USA) distilling the essence of ‘survivor-hood’, to Mary Gordon’s work fostering empathy in children (Roots of Empathy, Canada), to Jack Sim’s socialization of toilets (World Toilet Organization, Singapore) and to Johan Koss’s work overcoming social barriers that prevent children from developing life-long skills through play (Right to Play, Canada).

Along with Dr Robèrt, the following social entrepreneurs were then acknowledged as Ashoka’s first Scandinavian fellows:

  • Anders Wilhelmson, Founder of Peepoople (Sweden)

  • Sofie Applegren, Founder, Mitt Liv (Sweden)

  • Thorkil Sonne, Founder, Specialist People Foundation (Denmark)

  • Hanne Finstad, Founder, Forskerfabrikken (Norway)

  • Orri Vigfusson, Founder, The North Atlantic Salmon Fund (Iceland).

Capping it all off was Bill Drayton, Founder of Ashoka, outlining his vision for a world where everyone is a change maker.

After being in the company of such inspiring people, I left the event feeling that with courage and commitment to follow your convictions, everyone can be a change-maker.

Richard Blume, Senior Advisor, The Natural Step International.


The Natural Step congratulates all the Ashoka fellows for their important work and would like to extend a special thanks to the Ashoka team and network for all their support.

For feedback on The Natural Step’s transition plans, our collaboration with Ashoka or to lend your support, you can contact us at transition@thenaturalstep.org.


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