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How Ashoka's "Changemakers" Are Morphing Canada

Think you've got the next socially innovative idea that's going to change the world for the better? But need a bit of a boost to get started? Consider pitching the concept to Ashoka.

The global organization has long been an advocate for individuals who want to create social change. It has even dubbed these do-gooders "changemakers"--trademarked, of course. Some of these individuals push through a multi-month selection process to become an Ashoka fellow, having convinced various experts that their idea is a new solution to a social problem that, say, advances human rights, helps the environment or expands access to education, and meets other criteria as well.

Once accepted, the fellows garner access to mentors, strategic support and a worldwide network of social entrepreneurs, as well as a stipend that may run as high as $70,000 for the first year of participation before dropping off to zero in subsequent years. (The idea being that income generated from a successful social venture would cover a participant's salary.)

But despite being present in Canada for the past 10 years, Ashoka has been relatively unknown here, the organization's advisors and current fellows say. Which is why Ashoka Canada recently held a fundraising and awareness event in Toronto that showcased some of its local fellows in a new film. Here are some of the social entrepreneurs who were featured, and how their projects are impacting the country:

Anil Patel:

His "Timerasier" events act as matchmaking sessions between nonprofits that need certain tasks completed and the people who can offer the necessary skills. A volunteer who's willing to provide their expertise would mark down the agencies they're hoping to assist, then place a bid on a piece of art featured at the event--say, 70 hours over the course of 12 months to complete a pledge. The highest bid wins, and once a volunteer finishes their assignment they'd get to take home the piece of art. "We find ways to pay emerging artists market value for their work," notes Patel. "So it's a win-win-win."

Jean-Francois Archambault:

Heaps of food goes to waste following many business meetings and corporate conferences. But Archambault's organization, La Tablee des Chefs helps redirect large quantities of leftovers to Quebec's hungry and underserved communities. Last year, he assisted in supplying the equivalent of around 300,000 meals.

Mary Gordon:

Launched as a not-for-profit in 2000, Gordon's Roots of Empathy teaches schoolchildren to be caring and empathic to other kids as well as adults. The program requires children to watch a parent interact with their baby, while at the same time learning about emotional literacy, such as understanding why a little crawler might be cooing or fussy. So far, the program has reached more than 450,000 children around the world.

Donna Morton:

As CEO and co-founder of First Power, Morton builds partnerships with First Nations communities to connect them with innovative technologies while maintaining their traditions. Projects are focused on harnessing natural elements--wind, sun and rain, for instance--while creating "green collar" jobs for remote communities.

Here is the complete list of the Canadian fellows under Ashoka's program.

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