Embracing the “Everyone is a Changemaker” Movement
By Tony Tsao, Two-Year MBA ’22
“Everyone is a changemaker,” a slogan espoused and promoted by the nonprofit Ashoka, struck me hard the first time I heard it. After graduating from college, I spent one year teaching English as a volunteer in a rural elementary school in Taiwan, where English educational resources were scarce. I felt a sense of satisfaction from contributing my expertise to help make the community I was raised in better, and seeing myself changing people’s lives made the journey worthwhile. That’s why Ashoka’s slogan, “everyone is a changemaker,” is so relatable to me.
Ashoka’s vision is that everyone in the world, given the right opportunities, can be change-makers and take action for the common good. On a global scale, Ashoka is committed to working together with founders of social projects that help tackle the hardest problems on every continent, whether it’s improving literacy in Africa, promoting high-tech education in Korea, committing to stopping human trafficking all over the world, or much more. Fortunately, with the help of Johnson’s Social Impact Internship Fund (SIIF), I did an internship at Ashoka, where I was able to participate in a meaningful journey and develop a brand-new pathway within Ashoka.
Social entrepreneurship overview
Social entrepreneurship is a term that was first coined in 1972 by visionary social-impact leader Bill Drayton, the founder of Ashoka. It is an approach individuals, teams, or companies can use to develop, fund, and implement solutions that address the most difficult cultural, environmental, or judicial issues. For many individuals or startups, diving into the field of social entrepreneurship can be challenging because they often lack the resources to support their social cause. Human capital, funding, and partnerships are all crucial resources when it comes to transforming an abstract idea into large-scale implementation, but these resources often are not at a social entrepreneur’s disposal.
To help social entrepreneurs carry out their vision, Ashoka pioneered building a network of Ashoka fellows to not only connect these likeminded people, but also provides them with knowledge as well as financial and logistical support. On one hand, Ashoka is able to generate the cash flow necessary to help support the continuity of these social projects through various fundraising activities; on the other, it offers these leaders a platform to discuss their difficulties, strategies, and co-create large-scale impact. Today, this network includes more than 3,600 change leaders in 90 different countries, and it’s growing.
Building a new pathway: Entrepreneur-to-Entrepreneur network (E2)
As Ashoka expands the scope of its operation, it also faces various internal challenges. One of its biggest challenges is determining how to generate more revenue to continue to scale up its operation. During my internship, diversifying product offerings and improving market penetration became a crucial discussion topic to sustain expansion.
Another challenge Ashoka faces is matching supply to demand more efficiently. Supply refers to those people around the world who are interested in developing their own legacy journey in the social impact world by providing financial support for a certain social cause, whereas demand refers to the social entrepreneurs within the network who have great ideas but lack funding.
The Entrepreneur-to-Entrepreneur (E2) network aims to connect those dots by inviting high-net-worth individuals and entrepreneurs—people who have great interest in carving their social legacy and assuming leadership—into the highest-level relationship with Ashoka possible: As co-leaders of social projects, helping to engage a pipeline of entrepreneurs in their network. At the same time, Ashoka assumes the role of social impact consultant, providing guidance to these individuals to help them achieve their goals.
Leveraging my MBA skills to achieve our goal
While Ashoka’s E2 effort has ambitious goals for the greater good, it needed a team to help create back-end financial models as well as front-end, go-to-market strategies to reach its target market and design a network recruiting process. Over the summer, an E2 MBA internship team of three, including myself, launched a series of initiatives to help Ashoka pivot toward its vision.
To more accurately understand and size the market, we utilized a third-party database, Wealth X, to help navigate the high-net-worth population in order to identify areas of focus within the U.S. After a thorough market analysis, we decided to target four key metro areas that have the densest very-high-net-worth population (over $5 million in net worth). Next, we designed a market strategy to approach our target candidates. We established communication pipelines to increase visibility and promote brand equity. For example, we approached several media companies to seek partnerships and worked with a local broadcasting company that provided routine airtime to talk about Ashoka’s causes.
We created potential candidate profiles and designed a complex matrix to assign scores to these candidates based on their past philanthropic activities, net worth, and other criteria to help prioritize our focus. We also added depth to Ashoka’s product and service offerings through product re-pricing and redefined our target through a market segment analysis. Together, over the course of the summer, we identified revenue potential of more than $3 million over the next three years and created a plan to help realize this goal. Meanwhile, I also spearheaded the building of a detailed, five-year financial roadmap to help E2 more clearly visualize the potential value of creating such a strong network.
Ultimately, all our work was compiled and presented during Ashoka’s annual board meeting in order to help more stakeholders understand our vision and its potential. Our work received high praise from the board and some of our unfinished projects were carried forward as work-in-progress for the new fiscal year. The financial roadmap I constructed was reviewed by the board and the numbers were approved to be used for budgeting purposes.
My journey with Ashoka was fun and rewarding; seeing my ideas gradually turn into plans and random thoughts turn into permanent products at Ashoka also affirms the very ideology that Ashoka promotes: Everyone can be a changemaker in the world!
About Tony Tsao, MBA ‘22 (Two-Year MBA)
Tony Tsao, now in his second year in Johnson’s residential Two-Year MBA program, worked in public accounting and financial services in Taiwan before coming to Johnson. During his internship, he joined Ashoka’s newly created Entrepreneur-to-Entrepreneur division, headquartered in Washington, D.C. He is interested in working in management consulting in the tech industry after completing his MBA.