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Askwith Essentials: Who is Bill Drayton?

On Thursday, April 27, the Askwith Forum will host Bill Drayton, CEO and chairman of Ashoka Foundation, which seeks to “find, select, and support the world’s leading social entrepreneurs” for the purposes of scaling their ideas, for a conversation about how to empower young people to become changemakers. The forum will be held in conjunction with the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative’s “Education Deep Dive, Empowerment in Education: Understanding the Possibilities for Change.”

Live streaming of "Askwith Forums: Empowering Youth as Changemakers" will begin on April 27 at 5 p.m.

The Godfather of Social Entrepreneurship

Bill Drayton is the originator of the term “social entrepreneur,” someone who seeks to drive large-scale ideas to tackle entrenched social problems – in a word, changemakers. The basic idea is that entrepreneurs can impact society, not just finance or an industry. Since coining the phrase in the 1980s, Drayton has shepherded the idea to international prominence in large part through his work at the Ashoka Foundation. Ashoka has 3,300 fellows and alumni working in 93 countries.

Public Service

Drayton attended law school during the peak of the Civil Rights movement, and helped found Yale Legislative Services, for which, at one time, a third of Yale Law students volunteered. After graduation and a decade-long stint in management consulting, Drayton was appointed the assistant administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, where he led an initiative to institute an emissions trading policy, also known as “cap-and-trade.” Upon leaving the administration, Drayton founded Save EPA, a society of retired and other former EPA professionals dedicated to maintaining the integrity of the agency.

Discussants from the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative (ALI):

  • Monica Higgins, Kathleen McCartney Professor of Education Leadership, HGSE; faculty co-chair, ALI
  • Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Ernest L. Arbuckle Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School; chair and director, ALI
  • Fernando Reimers, Ed.M.’84, Ed.D.’88, Ford Foundation Professor of Practice in International Education and director of the International Education Policy Program and of the Global Education Innovation Initiative, HGSE; faculty co-chair, ALI

Event details:

Thursday, April 27, at 5 p.m.
Askwith Hall, Longfellow Hall
13 Appian Way
Cambridge, MA, 02138

NOTE: Seating is first-come, first-seated.

This event will be live streamed at