Peace Corps and Ashoka: Celebrating Anniversaries and Collaborations

Did you know that Sargent Shriver, the dynamic force behind the creation of the Peace Corps, provided thought leadership for the creation of Ashoka as a member of the Ashoka Council? In fact, there have been many powerful points of intersection throughout the history of Peace Corps and Ashoka.

Volunteers have trained Fellows during their early professional development (Badara Jobe), have become Fellows after building on their Peace Corps experience to launch system changing ventures (Greg Van Kirk and Elisabeth Stock), and Ashoka is proud to count many Returned Volunteers among our staff. Understanding the transformative potential for the countries in which they served, Returned Volunteer groups have invested in Ashoka and the launch of new Ashoka Fellows in India and Nigeria.

In Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in West Africa, Peace Corps and Ashoka have identified high-impact collaboration opportunities to reach the common goal of inspiring and equipping local agents of change to create and implement solutions to improve their communities. Beginning with a 2010 workshop to build relationships and train Peace Corps Volunteers to identify social entrepreneurs, Peace Corps and Ashoka are collaborating in a variety of ways to build mutual capacity, share knowledge and maximize impact for communities served. In the last year, over one-third of Burkinabe Fellows have collaborated with Peace Corps as counterparts, presenters or nominators of highly mobilized communities for new Peace Corps sites. 

Fellow Souleymane Ouattara has created a vibrant new system of apprenticeship for youth tailors that enables them to launch their first shop; he has partnered with a Peace Corps Volunteer to professionalize his organization and create a more robust entrepreneurship training program for his students. Another Volunteer is training Fellow Jocelyne Kompaore's staff in participatory photography to enhance their ability to utilize visual knowledge capture to redefine how knowledge is generated and disseminated within highly illiterate rural populations.

For Peace Corps Volunteers, introduction to the field of social entrepreneurship and access to leading social entrepreneurs who bring locally generated, high-impact solutions has greatly influenced their work and provided a new lens to view entrenched problems and create potential solutions. Fellows are the ideal counterparts because they rapidly transfer knowledge and facilitate community integration. One volunteer says of her work with Fellow Aminata Diallo: "I feel that having the opportunity to be plugged into a well-connected, efficient, and effective organization is amazing:  it's the opportunity to hit the ground running."

The rapidly growing Ashoka network currently includes initiatives, staff and Fellows in 29 active Peace Corps countries and 22 countries where Peace Corps previously served. As Peace Corps celebrates its 50th anniversary and Ashoka celebrates its 30th we would like you to join us in strengthening the engagements between our communities:

  • Identify yourself. If you are a member of the Peace Corps community, please let us know by filling out this brief survey.
  • Promote and introduce Ashoka to your Peace Corps community.
  • Share your stories and ideas: if you've connected with Ashoka in the past or have ideas how to connect in the future, leave a comment on our Facebook page or comment on Twitter at #PC&Ashoka.
  • Connect with Ashoka and Fellows in the US by joining one of our Ashoka Chapters in Seattle, Miami or the Twin Cities. Email Kila Englebrook for more information.
  • Nominate Ashoka Fellows and participate in Changemakers competitions to open-source the best new ideas for entrenched problems.
  • Invest in leading social entrepreneurs and an Everyone A Changemaker world.

Submitted by Kaitlyn Brown, a Retuned Peace Corps Volunteer currently working with Ashoka's Full Economic Citizenship team.