Creating A World Where Everyone Is A Changemaker

In This Podcast
Show Notes
Marie Ringler
E 113

In This Podcast

  • Redesigning the future
  • Using rats to clear landmines
  • Building resilient societies through social innovation
  • The power of businesses
  • The positives from COVID
  • Trust is the best way to lead
  • What makes a social entrepreneur

Marie Ringler is a member of Ashoka’s Global Leadership Group and leads Ashoka’s work in Europe. She founded Ashoka’s Austrian office in 2011 and soon took over as Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe.

Show Notes

Changing The World Through Social Entrepreneurship with Marie Ringler

Marie Ringler is a member of Ashoka, a global leadership group, leading their work in Europe. Ashoka envisions a world in which everyone is a changemaker, a world where all citizens are powerful and contribute to change in positive ways.

With her world full of these extraordinary people – changemakers, influencers, social innovators, experts, what are they thinking their future looks like? 

“The future as we know it, has become more uncertain and more complex than it ever was.”

From climate change, to the current pandemic, as well as future pandemics, all of these are challenges that both pose huge issues, but also present a chance for us to rethink and redesign the world in a better way. 

And this gives Marie hope and optimism each and every day. 

“What I’m hearing from the many social innovators, young changemakers that I work with, is this huge passion for driving change for the good of all. This responds to what we’re seeing as the big challenges and opportunities.”

Redesigning the future

One thing we want to avoid, says Marie, is designing a future where we hand pick the problems closest to us to try and resolve. Doing this means we create a problem solved future, where we rely on fixed solutions to problems we are facing. But as we are seeing with COVID currently, there aren’t always answers readily available. 

We need to be agile and fluid in our responses to the challenges of the world, because without an ability to adapt, we won’t be able to keep rolling with the punches. 

Marie shares an example of using rats to clear landmines in Mozambique. Rats have an incredible sense of smell, and by thinking outside of the box, rats have been trained to associate landmines with food rewards. They’re also light enough to walk over the landmines without setting them off, so they can locate them, without harming themselves or anyone around them. 

What does this example tell us? It tells us that we need to ensure the younger generations are prepared to head into an uncertain future equipped with the necessary skills, abilities, capacities and processes that can help them address these challenges. 

“We should look for abilities and skills in places that we don’t typically look.”

Building resilient societies through social innovation

One of the issues with social entrepreneurship is that you can’t simply copy and paste the solutions that have been found for other problems. 

One of the reasons for Ashoka’s creation was to support changemakers, to enable them to sharpen their replication models and help them scale their solutions. But one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to solving the world’s most pressing challenges. 

Marie is focusing on preparing the next generation to navigate in a rapidly changing world by making sure that they have the necessary critical skills, but how is she doing that and what skills is Ashoka focused on? 

“What we’re learning from the work with our 4,000 Ashoko fellows across the world, is that when we look at the work of those that are working with young people, is that 90% of them actually put kids in charge.”

By flipping the model of youth participation to include young people in the decision making process, in designing programmes, it teaches them skills that will not only aid them in their own lives, but help them to become leaders in their communities, for their friends, their schools, their societies. 

“When you put kids in charge, at an early age, they grow up differently, they become different types of adults, they become the kind of leaders that we look for, that we seek, as we’re addressing all the challenges that we face in this world.”

What has inspired Marie to do this work? 

It wasn’t one ‘aha’ moment, she says, it was a slow, very deep process of realisation, born from the legacy of her grandparents who were both resistance fighters in the Second World War. 

“Not necessarily because I always agreed with them. But because I saw the passion and the courage that they put into building something better and into fighting something that they saw was wrong.”

The beauty of not knowing

One of the things that makes a good politician is to understand the rules, so you can break them. But there’s a beauty in not knowing sometimes, says Marie, because if you don’t know what’s coming, it allows you to be adventurous in your approach, rather than cautious. 

“Different actors in society have different roles to address issues. From health care to education, from gender equality to human rights and poverty alleviation. One of the insights that I’ve gained over the last years is that if we confine ourselves to delegating responsibility to certain roles in society, we will not be successful.”

Innovation theory has taught us that unless you have diverse voices in the conversation, you’re not going to uncover the best solutions. 

How can we ensure that everyone plays their part? That businesses step into their powerful roles as actors?

“Business has resources and assets that social entrepreneurs do not have. They have logistic chains, suppliers, market reach, geographic reach. They have technological innovations that are critical and key to actually solving problems.”

Current crisis

The current pandemic is a perfect moment for all of us to stake stock of what needs addressing. 

COVID is teaching us that the answer can’t be found by one country, one government, one politician, one company, one social entrepreneur alone. 

We need to create a new culture of problem solving, one that focuses on ensuring that all societies remain agile in responding to crises. 

And that means learning new changemaking skills. It needs us to be empathetic towards one another. To have an ability to lead. To work with others. To help them see the beauty and power of collaboration. 

It also means we need to change the way we view success as a society. That we leave behind our obsession where money is a measure of success. And instead exchange that view for one that sees how we contribute to solving the challenges of the world, as a marker of success. 

“I would love for people to be sitting at the dinner table and bragging about their contributions and not their expensive watches.”

Trust is the best way to lead

What is Marie’s advice for leaders right now? 

“One of the key ingredients of success that I’ve seen, both inside my own organisation, but also in the work of our most successful social entrepreneurs… one of the key ingredients of their work is that they build trust, that they lead by trusting others, that they exemplify trustworthiness, and they ask others to not only trust them, but also themselves.”

Trust has this incredible ability to regenerate itself and grow beyond itself, to become an abundant resource. Trust should be the foundation of everything that we do and how we lead.

Defining a social entrepreneur

The thing is, says Marie, everyone can have the skills to be a changemaker, however not everyone has the ability to be a leading social entrepreneur. 

“In Ashoka, we look at a number of criteria. We look at both the entrepreneurial quality of the founder and her ability to overcome hurdles, to be driven towards an impact goal. We also look at her innovation and to understand whether it’s truly systems changing, because that is also what differentiates people in our network.”

You can only become an Ashoka fellow if you are truly changing the industry, changing the market, changing perceptions, changing rules, inventing new roles.

So what does the world need most right now?

“The world needs courage. The world needs people who step into their own power, and who do what they know needs to be done, and who change their communities and their societies.”

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