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Ashoka: Innovative talent development

Helping advance Ashoka's mission to support social entrepreneurs.


Ashoka is the largest network of social entrepreneurs worldwide. The network provides start-up financing, professional support services and connections across the business and social sectors, and a platform for people dedicated to world change.

Accenture Strategy collaborated with Ashoka to develop a new model for professional development, supporting Ashoka’s mission to help social innovators get established, grow their ideas and collaborate more effectively.

Ashoka became the chosen non-profit to participate in the 2014 Accenture Innovation Challenge, in which hundreds of undergraduate and advanced-degree students compete to develop solutions for challenges faced by non-profit organizations.

The winning solution was called “weLearn”—developed by Georgetown University students—which was a blended learning model combining curated massive open online courses (MOOCs) with virtual facilitated discussions among participants.



Ashoka’s mission is to support social innovators in getting started, growing ideas and collaborating. Ashoka understands the importance of professional development. The engine of innovation and entrepreneurship is the people, and people need high levels of critical skills, especially skills in what it calls “changemaking”: teamwork, empathy, problem-solving and leadership.

Senior leaders at Ashoka realized that its ability to accomplish the organization’s mission could be compromised by skills gaps across the private sector, as well as the citizen sector. Research and analysis led to identifying six priority areas for development, a mix of hard and soft skills that include leadership, partner/relationship management, fundraising and budget management, agile project management, and negotiation and conflict resolution.

Lacking a talent development model that could promote these skills at a large scale, Ashoka began working with Accenture Strategy.


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Teaming with Accenture Strategy throughout late 2014 and early 2015, the students and Ashoka worked to design a model that would be able to scale Ashoka’s talent development plan to a national, cross-sector level. The “weLearn” approach also brings together both private-and public-sector organizations to co-create the learning environment and enable ongoing connections among participants.

Accenture Strategy worked with Ashoka to test the solution and develop a program delivery model for implementation. In an initial phase of work, Accenture created and tested a prototype solution in only two-and-a-half weeks, using Ashoka and Accenture participants. The prototype enabled Accenture to refine components of the solution such as group design, content curation, planning and logistics.

Accenture Strategy incorporated key prototype findings into the final, comprehensive delivery model. The model encompassed overall strategy, objectives, delivery, program management and evaluation. Accenture also outlined key processes and provided supporting documentation to operationalize “weLearn” at scale.

Accenture Strategy helped Ashoka assess private-sector organizations and identified three potential partners that could especially benefit from “weLearn”. Accenture developed and created pitch decks with customized value propositions for Ashoka to engage those partners in the promise and potential of “weLearn”.

Advancing Ashoka’s agenda: Accenture Strategy’s work with “weLearn” has advanced Ashoka’s agenda to bring about large-scale social change through improved connections and learning experiences among public- and private-sector organizations.

Spread the “weLearn” program through Ashoka’s network: The work to support communications with potential private sector organizations will allow Ashoka to more easily and confidently spread the “weLearn” program through its network, existing partners, “weLearn” incubation partners and citizen-sector organizations.

Develop a multi-year vision: “WeLearn” is a multi-year vision, and Accenture Strategy has helped Ashoka to define a roadmap toward the realization of that vision.