Change Your City (CYC) is an Ashoka initiative aimed at transforming cities into hubs of social innovation. Started in Ireland, the program has spread to Spain and now here to the US. CYC works in partnership with Government, Business, Philanthropic, and Social-Sector leaders to identify the local landscape of assets and opportunities, develop place-specific strategies for supporting social entrepreneurs, and integrate them into metro-wide strategies for economic and community development. Ashokaâ€™s role is to offer the assets of its global networks and programs to city leaders in the design of social innovation strategies; tell stories of existing innovators and changemakers within a city; provide temporary additional capacity to a community as they begin to develop their own sustainable infrastructure and strategies; and inspire all citizens by raising awareness that Everyone can be a Changemaker.
CHANGE YOUR CITY EFFORTS TO DATE DENVER STORYTELLING Billboards in the Denver international airport and around the city exposed over 2.5 million pairs of eyes a day to stories of changemaking. New and traditional media continue to spread stories of ordinary and extraordinary Coloradans working every day to change the world.
CONNECTING Meet up groups and online media continue to bring together Coloradans interested in changemaking. TWIN CITIES STORYTELLING Ashoka has partnered with a Minneapolis firm of modern storytellers to spread the word of changemaking, including a documentary about Twin Cities social innovators. CATALYZING Working closely with local partners, Ashoka is helping to establish an incubator for young professionals interested in joining the ranks of social innovators.
Billboard in Denver this May
ASHOKA FUTURE FORUM CONNECTING In March 2010, Ashoka brought together innovators, thought leaders, and funders from innovative metropolitan areas like Boston, Seattle, Durham, and Denver to connect disparate efforts and increase sector cohesion, communication and collaboration.
LEARNING The day-long discussions of stories and strategies at the Future Forum provided a diverse space ripe for cross-fertilization of ideas and best practices. Throughout the discussions, a number of environmental factors important for social innovation rose up as recurring themes.
ON CREATING ENABLING ENVIRONMENTS Following are some of the themes of enabling environments that have recurred during the Ashoka Future Forum, our research, and our work in cities.
CULTURE VISIBILITY Social innovators are a visible a part of the daily life of the city. STORYTELLING Local social innovators are continually celebrated through concrete stories. FAILURE A willingness to take risks and the importance of failure are understood and accepted. CROSS SECTOR ENGAGEMENT The business community understands the economic payoff of social innovation. URGENCY A concerted sense of movement, competition, or urgency around specific issues drives innovators to break through barriers and cut through red tape faster.
SECTOR INFRASTRUCTURE FUNDING Funding is readily available for social innovators, with the minimum amount of red tape attached in order to grant responsibly. Startup grants for pilots and experimental efforts are plentiful and especially easy to obtain. CONNECTING/COLLABORATING PHYSICAL SPACES Meet up groups, roundtables, co-working spaces, and other spaces exist to bring innovators together. DIVERSE SPACES Efforts exist to bring together unlikely communities from a variety of backgrounds, sectors, cultures, and locations in order to foster cross-fertilization of ideas. DIGITAL SPACES New media tools are utilized that provide simple, effective, open ways to convene diverse individuals, build sector cohesion, and maintain evolving conversations. MEASUREMENT Infrastructure exists to assist innovators in evaluating their impact on the community, and the enabling environment itself has metrics in place to guide continual evolution. PIPELINE OF TALENT Involvement of local educational institutions provides a strong and continual pipeline of talent to feed the sector.
GOVERNMENT CITY BRAND The city government prominently and continually communicates a commitment to social innovation as part of the city’s brand. INCENTIVIZE Social innovation is actively incentivized where possible, and legal obstacles or red tape required along the pathway to becoming a social innovator is minimized. EVANGELIZE Regular vocal support and celebration of social change agents by city officials further supports the brand of the city, attracting social innovators and encouraging new ones.
ABOUT ASHOKA Ashoka is the world’s largest and oldest organization supporting social entrepreneurs, the Olympians of social change—men and women with systems-changing solutions for our most urgent social problems. Since its founding 30 years ago, Ashoka has provided community, resources, and connections to a global network of more than 2,500 Ashoka Fellows in over 60 countries.
EVERYONE A CHANGEMAKER