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How Ashoka selects Fellows & Bernhard Hofer


by ashokaaustria

Georg Schön´s Laudatio at Bernhard Hofers Fellowpresentation.

We select Ashoka Fellows based on 5 universal criteria. We use them all around the world for every selection process we undertake, since 30 years. More than 3200 Ashoka Fellows have been selected into our network based on these criteria. They also reflect critical qualities of social entrepreneurs. Let´s have a look on how Bernhard Hofer meets these criteria!


A new Idea: Ashoka Fellows solve social problems with new ideas. At the heart of a broken system is a broken mindset. Social Entrepreneurs find the core assumption and re-frames it.

And so does Bernhard. Tutoring in Austria is an expert-business. Only 5% of tutoring in Austria is led by students themselves. All the rest is done by experts. Bernhard turns the expert business into a peer-to-peer business, where students help themselves. He goes even one step further. He asks students what they really want to learn, and connects them with an ecosystem of knowledge and experience outside the classroom. He asks them what they really want to do after school, and connects them with the right employers. Bernhard ultimately works with the Experts so that they can learn from the students. Game-changing ideas are often very simple.

Social Impact of the Idea: Ashoka Fellows are possessed by their idea and aim to create systemic social impact. They change existing markets, norms and mechanisms of exclusion on the way.

The expert tutoring industry is a multi-million business. Still, 100.000 households in Austria cannot afford tutoring. Bernhard is going to change this industry by empowering students to help themselves. His goal is to reach 10-20% of all Austrian students, and to form a mutual-support community of more than 150.000 students in the long run. Picture this for a moment: 150.000 youth from all backgrounds – privileged and non-privileged – forming a community supporting each other to accomplish school, to explore what they want to do in life, to build bridges with the society around them, and to find the first job. Bernhard is creating nothing less than a movement for educational equality in Austria. This impact will go far beyond his social enterprise, it will grow beyond him and his team.

Entrepreneurial Quality: As you have just heard, Ashoka Fellows have bold visions and big dreams. They see opportunities for change and devote themselves entirely to making that change happen. They commit themselves full-time to their ideas. They are pragmatic doers´ full of passion. They are enthusiasts. They unite. They can inspire others to go together on this journey.  They are resilient. The social business is also a dark, a tough, business. They overcome an incredible amount of obstacles. And they are persistent.

Bernhard has all these qualities. His idea originates 15 years back when he was still at school. He never forgot about it, he took it up again two years ago, and here he is.

Creativity: Creativity is important to develop solutions that matter and to mobilize the resources to make them happen.

Bernhard has developed an incredible online and offline matchmaking process to connect students, to enable peer-to-peer tutoring, and to build bridges with future employers. Bernhard underpins his initiative with an extraordinary social business model that allows him to act sustainable in the future. He already proved that he can mobilize a mix of different resources that foster his impact mission. He is currently looking for investors, so use this opportunity and approach him!

Integrity |Ethical Fiber: The Ashoka selection process is also a very personal process. We have long, often very personal, talks with the candidates. It’s a wonderful opportunity to look into the life histories and world views of special people – or “VIPs” like Andreas Heineke puts it. Ashoka Fellows are people that you can fully trust. These are people you want to have at your side when life gets challenging. Bernhard is such a person.

The Ashoka Selection Process is not easy. It’s a lot of work, for Bernhard and for Ashoka. But its also very special. A truly deep encounter for everyone involved. We learn a lot about Bernhard, and Bernhard learns a lot about us, and somehow in this process, everyone learns again a bit more about him- and herself, and why we do what we do. This is a great start for our collaboration.

To be selected as Ashoka Fellow is much more than an Award. It means collaboration. And this collaboration already started. Bernhard participates in our Visionary Program and is already working with Ashoka´s “Financial Agency for Social Entrepreneurship” to attract impact investment. But, the collaboration is not limited in time. Its life-long, it’s like a friendship. Friendships are sometimes closer, sometimes more loose. But it’s always there when you need it. In our case, the friendship with Ashoka is not bound to Austria. Bernhard can rely on a global network of country offices, colleagues and Ashoka Fellows. I am looking forward to many joint adventures!


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