How our newest community member is contributing to positive societal impact

With his long-standing experience in the consulting industry, working with many industry leaders for more than 30 years, Bo-Erik Ekström has taken the step to become this year’s newest Ashoka Support Network (ASN) member in Finland.

Bo-Erik’s interest in Ashoka started some years ago already, when he was introduced to Ashoka Nordic's team and he joined forces with them to help establish Ashoka in Finland. Since then, he has been collaborating with Ashoka Nordic on events and nominations of Ashoka Fellows candidates, as well as joining the Finnish Advisory Board in 2018.

In the past months, he has been involved in the selection of two inspiring young changemakers for the Young Changemaker of the Year award in Finland. Currently, Bo-Erik is mentoring one of the winners, Son Chu who is co-founder of Rens Original, and bringing him insights around business acceleration, understanding of the production chain and how to measure societal impact.

Last week, we had the pleasure of talking to Bo-Erik and asked him about his motivation behind joining the Ashoka Support Network:

"I have more expectations from myself to Ashoka than the other way around. On the contrary, I want to give more than I want to have. I wish that I can contribute with my membership, professional experience, network and ideas."

  • What are in your opinion the most foremost values from social entrepreneurs?

It is a mix of many things that could be summarized in three areas:

1- It is the connection and the mix which is important: the eagerness to change and to do something new and also through the changemaking values promoted at Ashoka: Empathy, purpose, agency, teamwork.

2- Their professionalism and maturity in the specific working areas: the ability and energy to develop these ideas and the entrepreneurial dimension of it.

3- Their ability to come up with totally new ways of operating, which are completely different from how it was done in the past.

These three aspects are crucial. To have the social dimension around a specific societal challenge and then have this professionalism in the sense of developing a new idea and executing it in an innovative way.

  • What support do you feel motivated to pass on to others – younger generations and social entrepreneurs?

At present, you can see that young people have different values that I had at their age. And this social dimension comes from many different angles: environmental sustainability, mental health, etc. a lot of things are coming up, especially now after the coronavirus outbreak. Young people have other values rather than just money and career.

Hence, I feel motivated to pass my experience and ideas into changemakers to understand more that transition and also to see how young people think and act. A few weeks ago, I went to meet Son Chu, winner of the Young Changemaker of the Year, and I was sharing my experience, network and ideas but I also got key insights into new ways of doing things and operating, feeling more as if I were the mentee and Son was the mentor.

Being part of Ashoka is a give and take in a sense. You can give things back in terms of experience and what you get are new perspectives to understand the world we live in.

When people want to join Ashoka, the values are already there, and you can establish a nice atmosphere and develop new ideas. That is what motivates me, to really see the social entrepreneurs' eagerness and broadness in thoughts and the specific values they have, which represent the future. Also, the support that we can give changemakers through the Ashoka network is something very important: to gather and activate professionals from different fields and invite them to join the changemakers journey.

Bo-Erik Ekström at the Impact Workshop celebrated on January 18th
Bo-Erik Ekström at the Impact Workshop celebrated on January 18th
  • What would you say is the reason behind this mindset shift you were describing before? How is the world different today from the world you grew up in?

Nowadays, people working in the social entrepreneurship sector (from young and older ages) are living by their values and trying to lift them up. And even though everybody is not joining Ashoka as a Fellow, you have this Changemaker concept and skills, such as the empathy dimension, which goes through everybody involved at Ashoka.

Social entrepreneurship is about experiencing a challenge and trying to find solutions to it. And empathy is needed to solve the addressed problems first.

  • How do you think that the Young Changemakers can contribute to these societal challenges?

I believe they can contribute by example. They give examples of how we can act and how we could think. That is probably the most valuable aspect, to think out of the box. For instance, the second awarded initiative of the Young Changemaker of the Year, You Tell Me Collective, is bringing architectural students to take in the sustainability aspect already in the first stages of the educational system.

Ashoka is activating people by connecting them to a bigger worldwide network of people who are working towards the same systemic solutions.

  • What are you especially looking forward to, now that you are part of the international ASN community?

Previously meeting with other Swedish and Norwegian ASN members made me more aware of how the landscape of social entrepreneurship looks like in Finland. Now I have taken this step so that I can support Ashoka in the development of different initiatives and invite other partners and potential ASN members to join.

Being part of the jury of the Young Changemaker of the Year initiative has been a revealing experience, getting to know the finalists, their ideas and their values as well as what they are striving for. And I am very excited to follow up on the development of other projects as well such as the Nordic Changemaker Map, particularly in Finland, which you are developing together with Sitra. Currently, we are also going to join a breakfast series to be introduced to other ASN members and the Ashoka Fellows community in the Nordics.

Ashoka has supported more than 3800 leading social entrepreneurs across the globe since 1980. By providing them with financial, knowledge and logistical support, we want to continue developing our network to support changemaking for the good of all. If you want to be part of this mission, read more about the Ashoka Support Network and contact us here.