Social entrepreneurs

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This week I also met with Bill Drayton, one of the most interesting thinkers I know. I knew him at Harvard and Yale Law, where he already showed a contrarian instinct: He was one of the few people on campus who supported Hubert Humphrey in 1968. Not long after that, Drayton founded and has for many years headed an organization called Ashoka, which finances and encourages what he calls social entrepreneurs around the world.

Drayton has come to believe that there has been an explosion of the "citizen sector"—a term he prefers to nonprofits or nongovernmental organizations—around the world since around 1980. This "citizen sector," in his view, has been cutting the productivity gap with the private sector in half every 10 years. I can't do justice to Drayton's ideas in this space, but you can get a better sense of them from U.S. News's profile of him in our "America's Best Leaders" issue.

Here's a piece on Drayton that I wrote in 2001. A common thread: the idea that individuals can make a difference and can produce change for the better much more readily than is generally believed. Drayton seems to me to have developed a synthesis of the best ideas of the left and the right that rises far above the stale left-right arguments that we're all so familiar with. He tells me that he has written an article on the explosion of the citizen sector for publication next month, which I'll pass along when it appears.