Ashoka Romania Impact Report 2017-2018
As part of the largest global network of social innovators, Ashoka Romania has arrived at its first check point. This report aims at describing, narrating and evaluating the strategy, lines of action and impact of Ashoka Romania’s first years of existence.
We are strongly convinced that to improve our support to the ecosystem, we need to listen to our stakeholders. That is why, after almost two years in Romania, we deployed a targeted survey and interviewed our partners, fellows and changemakers. We confronted their perspectives with the ones expressed by our team in semi-structured interviews carried out by an external consultant.
The evaluation on external perspective was conceived using semi-structured interviews for qualitative data and online targeted survey for quantitative data. Data was collected between February and March 2019. Changemakers, Romanian Ashoka Fellows and partners composed the target audience. The survey was performed on a representative sample from our Changemakers Map and immediate stakeholders, with a 25% response rate.
Within the interviews, before entering into an evaluation of Ashoka’s action, people were asked about the most important challenges for Romanian society. Stakeholders interviewed expressed both thematic and transversal challenges. The political context represents the main concern for the people we interviewed. It is defined as “corrupted”, “instable”, “against NGOs” and “against social innovation”. Society seems affected by an education system defined as “outdated”, “not able to be in line with fast societal changes”, “focused on authority” and “destroying creativity”. Other issues raised are related to different sectors from health system challenges to environmental issues, from poverty to lack of public support for NGOs.
Thematic areas put forward by stakeholders are:
- Political instability and governance
- Education and people mindset
- Health system
- Environmental management and protection
- Lack of support for NGOs
- The exclusion of children and poverty
- Food sovereignty
- Waste management
- Vulnerable groups’ exclusion
At the transversal level, the clash between the youth and the elder generation seems to concern those that we have interviewed, as well as the weak voice of civil society. According to the people interviewed, the latter is due not to the lack of such voices, but mostly due to the lack of cross-sectoral cooperation among them. Other challenges, like emigration, lack of empathy, ambition and trust emerged from the interviews. Transversal challenges:
- Generational clash
- Weak civil society voice and cross-sectoral cooperation
- Lack of empathy
- Lack of ambition
- Lack of trust among people
TEAM PERCEPTION OF ASHOKA ROMANIA: HOW DO WE LOOK AT OUR ACTIONS?
The team was asked in a survey to evaluate specific items related to Ashoka Romania’s action. A clear intention from the team emerged; when asked, “Which Ashoka Romania activity should be enhanced?” team members replied, “working more to support social entrepreneurs”. In table 1 we summarize more considerations expressed by team members.
EXTERNAL IMAGE OF ASHOKA: HOW STAKEHOLDERS ACTUALLY SEE US!
When we embarked upon the journey of bringing Ashoka to Romania, we had in mind to foster A Changemaking Romania, one which not only recognizes and celebrates changemakers, but also actively supports them to anchor their innovations at systems’ level.
We thus started to not only identify changemakers and select some of them as Fellows, but also to offer them support instruments and international opportunities. We firmly believed that by connecting them to ecosystem players from other sectors, from corporate executives to business entrepreneurs, to public officials and journalists, we can accelerate social change in Romania.
In this exercise of self reflection we embarked upon almost two years after opening an office in Romania, we wanted to contrast these assumptions and plans with what we have achieved – as perceived by ourselves, but also by others. Survey respondents were asked to connect Ashoka with 3 words. 127 words came out from this survey. Innovation was the most mentioned word (7% of the times), followed by impact (6%) and changemaker (5%). Other words mentioned have been international and social entrepreneurship (3%), community, society, trust, change, social impact, connections and network (2%).
The survey has provided data to better understand our impact and reputation. We are grateful to be strongly perceived as an effective organization for the ecosystem, which is able to deliver change. Our brand seems strong in the eyes of our stakeholders and the high importance of Ashoka mission is recognized by changemakers.
At the same time, the level of trust in the organization is very strong among the respondents: 100% of partners surveyed and 92% of changemakers interviewed agreed or strongly agreed in considering Ashoka as a trustful organization. 81% of changemakers surveyed strongly believe that “Ashoka is able to nurture the local community of social entrepreneurs to increase its impact”.
A well-established reputation was built around Venture and Fellowship: all Fellows strongly agree and 76% of changemakers agree or strongly agree to see Venture (Fellows’ selection process) as a fair process; 100% of respondents from partners strongly agree on the fact that “Ashoka Fellows in Romania are developing very innovative projects.”
The positive evaluations on Venture and Fellowships were confirmed also in the interviews, where partners and changemakers appreciated the three Romanian Fellows, with some noticing that Ashoka was even “too brave” in choosing them.
SUPPORTING SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY
As emphasized by the team during the interviews, the hard work carried out to support changemakers in Romania, during the first two years, represented the beginning of a long-term journey. Among the different events and workshops proposed to changemakers between 2017 and 2018, several workshops organized under Localizer and all the events involving Romanian Fellows (especially their announcement) were the most appreciated.
Thematic workshop related to technical support such as the Social Investment Toolkit workshop and workshops on Social innovation were also appreciated. One open question was introduced in the survey to better understand which activities Ashoka Romania could develop further. From our current and past activities, changemakers would like us to do more workshops, in particular on social entrepreneurship, education and on network building. More fellows, as well as a broader national network are other clear requests. Furthermore, enhancing Localizer and Ashoka’s role of connector and capacity builder appear among changemakers’ needs.
PERCEIVED IMPACT: FIRST RESULTS OF OUR JOURNEY IN ROMANIA
CHANGEMAKERS PERCEPTION ON ASHOKA ROMANIA
PARTNERS PERCEPTION ON ASHOKA ROMANIA
We value and appreciate the support of our partners, both founding and pro-bono without which none of our activities would take place. Interviews and the targeted survey provided us a first evaluation on our work. Within the interviews, partners have been overall inspired by Ashoka, by Fellows and stimulated by the discussions on impact or the tendency to highlight the social value of any project. In some case, the partnership with Ashoka has allowed to change their perception of their own work; for instance a partner came with the conclusion that “even if ” they are “a big company”, they “cannot do things alone” and that “the company should improve the dynamic between managers and employees, giving “more power to people.”
THE IMPORTANCE OF FEEDBACK TO IMPROVE OUR ACTION
One can say that you cannot change a world you don’t know. In a short time, this field work has managed to confirm that:
- Romania has still many challenges ahead
- Ashoka Romania is perceived positively by the stakeholders who interact with the organization
- Ashoka Romania’s action had a positive impact on almost the totality of stakeholders involved \
- The most successful events were the one related to new international or national ideas (e.g. Localizer, events with Romanian Ashoka Fellows)
- Ashoka Romania is already perceived as a convener and ecosystem builder by social innovators and social entrepreneurs but not yet fully as one by partners
- Venture and Fellowship are truly appreciated and we can work more for including more changemakers in our programs
- Ashoka Romania could increase its indirect support to provide funding opportunities for changemakers
- Ashoka Romania support could be geographically expanded at the national level, extended to more social entrepreneurs and more personalized.
You can read the full report here: https://bit.ly/2YLTa3U