The founder of Ashoka on why 'scale' is the wrong word

By Catherine Cheney 03 November 2015

Devex spoke with Bill Drayton, founder of Ashoka, about the difference between replication and scale at the Social Capital Markets conference in San Francisco.

Bill Drayton, the founder of Ashoka, is not only a social entrepreneur, but one of the people who popularized the term in the first place. Social entrepreneurs are the “innovators for the public” Ashoka seeks out and supports.

Devex sat down with Drayton at the Social Capital Markets conference in San Francisco to talk about the future of what he calls an “everyone a changemaker” world. He emphasized the need for replication rather than scale, calling this Silicon Valley buzz word not only overused but also misleading and unhelpful.

Drayton identified three levels of impact — direct service, pattern change and framework change — explaining that “scaling” is only appropriate for direct service. And he said that once a social entrepreneur does his or her prototype work, the focus has to transition to pattern change and mindset change.

Drayton also explained what the global development community can do to seize this moment, emphasizing in particular the need to reframe the way development organizations prepare young people to succeed.

“When you move from repetition to a world defined by change, it's not just different, it's the opposite,” Drayton said.

Drayton said this is a moment crying out for people to provide leadership. The rate of change is accelerating faster and faster, he explained, and the global development community has a huge role to play in making sure that people are not left behind at this turning point.

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About the author

Catherine cheney devex
Catherine Cheneycatherinecheney

Catherine Cheney covers the West Coast global development community for Devex. Since graduating from Yale University, where she earned bachelor's and master's degrees in political science, Catherine has worked as a reporter and editor for a range of publications including World Politics Review, POLITICO, and NationSwell, a media company and membership network she helped to build. She is also an ambassador for the Solutions Journalism Network and the Franklin Project at the Aspen Institute.

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