As the founder and CEO of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, Bill Drayton has pioneered the field of social entrepreneurship, growing a global association of nearly 3,000 leading social entrepreneurs who work together to create an “everyone a changemaker™” world.
Drayton has been a social entrepreneur since an early age. During his time as an undergraduate at Harvard and a law student at Yale, he launched a number of organizations, including Harvard’s Ashoka Table, an interdisciplinary weekly forum in the social sciences, and Yale Legislative Services. In 1970, he began his career at McKinsey and Company in New York. From 1977 to 1981, Mr. Drayton served as Assistant Administrator at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where he launched emissions trading (the basis of the Kyoto Protocol) and other reforms. In 1981, while working part-time at McKinsey and Company, he founded both Ashoka and Save EPA, the predecessor to Environmental Safety. With the support that he received when elected a MacArthur Fellow in 1984, he was able to devote himself fully to Ashoka. In addition to his current role as Chairman and CEO of Ashoka, Mr. Drayton is the chair of Youth Venture, Community Greens, and Get America Working!
Mr. Drayton has won numerous awards and honors throughout his career. In 1996, he was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in recognition of his leadership in public service. In 1999, Common Cause awarded him its Public Service Achievement Award. In 2005, he received the National Wildlife Federation’s Conservation Achievement Award and was selected as one of America’s Best Leaders by US News & World Report and Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership. In 2006, he was recognized as being one of Harvard University’s 100 “Most Influential Alumni.” In 2007, he received the Duke University Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship’s (CASE) Leadership in Social Entrepreneurship Award, the University of Pennsylvania Law School’s 2007 Honorary Fellow Award, and the Goi Peace Foundation’s Peace Award. In 2009, he was named Honorary Fellow at Oxford’s Balliol College and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Yale University. In 2010, he received an Honorary Doctorate from NYU, as well as the Essl Social Prize, for his work creating and building the field of social entrepreneurship. In 2011, he received Honorary Doctorates from Babson College and Marquette University as well as the John W. Gardner Leadership Award from Independent Sector, the World Entrepreneurship Forum’s Social Entrepreneurship Award, and the Prince of Asturias Prize for International Cooperation, Spain’s highest honor. Most recently, Bill was recognized by the University of Pittsburgh’s Johnson Institute with the Exemplary Leader Award and by the Harvard Kennedy School with the Richard E. Neustadt Award.