Sir Fazle Hasan Abed and the Everyone A Changemaker movement

January 23, 2020
January 23, 2020

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Ahead of this week’s selection panel of ‘Sir Fazle Hasan Abed Ashoka Young Changemakers’ we’d like to take a moment to share about the deep roots of Sir Fazle and BRAC’s long-standing relation with Ashoka.

Ashoka: Innovators For The Public is among the world’s most influential NGOs and is the largest network of social entrepreneurs like Sir Fazle. Founded in 1981 and headquartered in Washington DC, it is now a network of over 3,500 fellows and members in more than 92 countries. Ashoka has supported over 90 leading social change organisations in Bangladesh, including the likes of DNet, Friendship, BYLC and ME SOLshare.

Social entrepreneurship: Past and future

Ashoka’s Founder, Bill Daryton shared about Sir Fazle’s contributions in advancing the global social entrepreneurship movement in his tribute.

“When Ashoka and I came to Bangladesh in the 1980s with the then-little-understood idea of building social entrepreneurship, Fazle welcomed us.”

Sir Fazle nominated the first Ashoka Fellow, he served on selection panels, and has been an early supporter of many Ashoka Fellows in South Asia. He continuously inspired the global Ashoka community as he turned his ideas into reality, one after another. Thanks to his contributions, today social entrepreneurship is an aspirational career and life-choice for many young people. It is taught in the top universities of the world, funded by philanthropists like Ebay co-founders Skoll and Omidyar among others.

BRAC’s vision and the Everyone A Changemaker movement

At the heart of BRAC’s work for close to half a century is to create opportunities for everyone to realise their potential.

In her 2010 article on The Transformative Potential of the Poor, then CEO of BRAC USA, Susan Davis wrote: “It is remarkable how much potential the poor realise they have in themselves as a result of becoming involved with BRAC. To me, revealing such transformative potential inherent in each of us, particularly to the most vulnerable and marginalised among us, is Abed’s most important contribution to an open society. He puts into practice Ashoka’s vision of an ‘everyone a changemaker’ world articulated by its founder Bill Drayton.”

It is from the work of Sir Fazle and thousands of leading social entrepreneurs that Ashoka started articulating the need for ‘everyone’ to become a changemaker. It has worked on perfecting the most effective strategies to catalyse national and international communities of co-leaders of this next big movement.

Having this power becomes all the more pertinent for survival and success in an exponentially changing world that is defined by embracing and driving change, and not by efficiency in repetition. Drayton believes that the rise of ‘us versus them’ politics, and increasing income gap around the globe, signal the emergence of the ‘new inequality’ – between those who have the power to lead change-making initiatives, and those who don’t.

Bill Drayton talking about the New Inequality on Big Think

Sir Fazle had a deep understanding of this power to create change, and spoke about it at the Open Society Prize ceremony, saying “Poor people, especially women, can be organised for power…With the right set of organisational tools, they can become actors in history. This, to me, is the meaning of an open society – a society where everyone has the freedom to realise their full human rights and potential.”

Sir Fazle’s legacy and Ashoka Young Changemakers 

Having fought to eradicate poverty and end inequalities for close to half a century, Sir Fazle emphasised on the need for youth to be engaged as equals in solving this new inequality.

In the last couple of years, Sir Fazle worked closely with Bill Drayton and Yashveer Singh from Ashoka to start initiatives like the BRAC University Empathy Lab and the Frugal Innovation Forum (FIF) 2019 on Scaling Opportunities for Youth.

Lady Syeda Sarwat Abed (centre) and Yashveer Singh, Global Director of Ashoka Young Changemakers (right) speaking at the launch of the Empathy Lab

Speaking at FIF 2019, Sir Fazle shared that: “We have not thought of youth so far as actors in history. We think of them as a means to an end rather than an end in itself. Youth can create change and act on their own behalf. That’s what I would now like to work more on – taking youth as partners rather than as recipients of certain training or quality education.”

Under his guidance, the Ashoka team started working on the ‘Sir Fazle Hasan Abed Ashoka Young Changemakers’ programme early last year and we are proud to be partnering in the launch of the programme and the larger ‘Everyone a Changemaker’ movement in Bangladesh.

At its core, this is an endeavour to identify and support young people as actors in history, and not as passive recipients. These are teenagers who have already launched their own impactful initiative in their communities. They are willing and able to take a seat at the table, to combat the new inequality, to co-lead the Everyone A Changemaker movement, and to create a world where everyone has the opportunity to realise their potential.


Join us on 25 January at the BRAC Centre Inn for the first Selection Panel and Press Conference of Sir Fazle Hasan Abed Ashoka Young Changemakers.

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