I had the chance to jump on a conference call on Friday that brought bloggers together to discuss the Ashoka Tech4Society conference in Hyderabad, India. Due to some technical difficulties, we were unable to connect with two of the 106 social entrepreneurs who had planned to join us in the discussion. However, we learned of how this newsworthy convention, sponsored in part by the Lemelson Foundation and Microsoft, provided opportunity and energy to inventors for social change from around the world. The following is a post taken from the Ashoka website, and offers a comprehensive look at the agenda and goals of the conference.
Fostering Social Entrepreneurship Through Invention
Ashoka and The Lemelson Foundation, with support from Microsoft®, brought together inventors and social entrepreneurs from February 11 to 13, 2010, in Hyderabad, India. The goals of this first-of-its-kind meeting, called Tech4Society, were to bring greater attention to the importance of technological innovation in driving global development and to highlight effective strategies for cultivating the next generation of inventor-entrepreneurs and scaling their world-changing ideas. The event attracted over 250 of the world’s foremost social entrepreneurs, innovators, business leaders and movers and shakers to showcase technological advances and entrepreneurial business models that are revolutionizing social change.
Over the past three years, the Ashoka-Lemelson Fellowship has brought together two organizations that work passionately to find, support and celebrate social innovators whose technologies offer fresh, effective approaches to advancing social change. These innovators—a cohort of 106 Ashoka-Lemelson Fellows—were chosen for their unique and cutting edge uses of technology, education, capital and support as tools for community development, policy setting and poverty alleviation. They were in attendance at Tech4Society, sharing best practices, demonstrating inventions and developing partnerships that can work toward solutions to economic, environmental and societal challenges.
Ashoka-Lemelson Fellow examples include: Harish Hande, whose organization, SELCO-India, brought affordable and reliable solar-powered electricity to more than 100,000 homes and businesses in India; Isaac Durojaiye, who created Nigeria’s first mobile toilet initiative to remedy rampant urban unemployment and poor sanitation conditions; David Green, based in the U.S., who is producing and globally disemminating socially-useful products, including affordable hearing aids, using a tiered price-structure; and Tri Mumpuni, founder of People Centered Economic & Business Institute, who is tackling challenges of rural electrification and economic development by creating community-owned, micro-hydropower systems throughout Indonesia.
“Inventor-entrepreneurs such as these Ashoka-Lemelson Fellows can help lead the way to eradicating poverty,” says Bill Drayton, CEO and Chair of Ashoka. “They have the ability to think creatively and systemically to design appropriate solutions; profoundly increase markets for life-changing products; increase incomes; and advance sustainable rural development.
“The people who will attend Tech4Society demonstrate the power of uniting social entrepreneurship with invention and technology. Their successful approaches will help international policy makers and actors in the private sector, financial industry and civil society learn how to support invention-led development, a bottom-up entrepreneurial approach to economic-inclusion,” adds Julia Novy-Hildesley, Executive Director of The Lemelson Foundation. “The conference attendees work in greatly varying fields, from low-cost alternative energy development to science education to agricultural innovation, but they are all brought together by a singular goal: to harness their inventiveness to be changemakers.”
The three-day conference included plenary panels and break-out sessions covering topics such as mobile technologies for social change; women and girls in science and invention; venture capital; and intellectual property. Tech4Society is also supported by Microsoft, Infosys® and will take place at the Indian School of Business.
For more agenda, attendee and speaker information about Tech4Society, please visit the Tech4Society website.
Ashoka is the global association of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs—men and women with system changing solutions for the world’s most urgenet social problems. Since 1981, Ashoka has elected over 2,500 leading social entrepreneurs as Ashoka Fellows, providing them with living stipends, professional support and access to a global network of peers in more than 60 countries. More information is available at http://www.ashoka.org.
About The Lemelson Foundation
Established in 1993 by Jerome Lemelson, one of America’s most prolific inventors, The Lemelson Foundation uses its resources to inspire and recognize inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs to support invention-led sustainable development. It has donated or committed more than $150 million to improve lives through invention in the U.S. and developing countries. For more information, please visit http://www.lemelson.org.