Empowering a New Generation of Leaders

An executive program in Vienna is bringing together diverse actors from civil society, business, policy and welfare organizations to tackle global challenges.

von Raphaela Toncinc-Sorinj, January 11, 2018
Program for Empowering New Generation of Leaders

In the wake of the Euro crisis, alarming levels of youth unemployment and the refugee crisis, Europe is facing its biggest challenges. At the same time, European political institutions and its politicians are faced with deep mistrust and traditional actors are finding it hard to come up with concrete, viable solutions.

The time has come for citizen sector organizations, public institutions and businesses to work together to solve large-scale social and environmental problems. Businesses offer expertise in operations, sales and financing. They are looking for new strategies to secure customer and employee loyalty and engagement. Public institutions steer political frameworks. They are looking for new ways of delivering services and are guarantors for the welfare of its citizens.  Social entrepreneurs and civil society are striving for greater impact and scale. They ultimate goal is to empower people to generate change for themselves. Partnerships between these actors change conventional practices and transform the organizations involved. This leads to new leadership styles, organizational and business models, and deep purpose for the people involved. The Visionary Program is a catalyst for these emerging new practices.


We need to enable a new culture and practice of collaboration. To this end, we designed and piloted a new immersion program in Vienna, called the “Visionary Program. Empowering a New Generation of Leaders”. It brings together diverse actors from civil society, business, policy and welfare organizations in seven interactive 2-day sessions over the course of 9 months and equips them with the practical tools and experience necessary to generate positive change and empower many more people to generate change for themselves. They get engaged in transformational learning formats to catalyze co-creation, to increase the social impact of their organizations and to develop new management principles across industries and sectors.

Participants of the Visionary Program become equipped with the skills to combine entrepreneurial success with social impact. They work with and learn from Ashoka´s network of leading social entrepreneurs, corporations, the finance industry and public institutions. The Visionary Program is ultimately a laboratory for co-creation.  Participants develop new ways of doing and enabling business with purpose and transformative social impact.

The pilot cohort of participants is made up of 10 accomplished social entrepreneurs and 12 senior leaders from policy, business, welfare organizations and grant-making. What we see in our pilot program and with the engaged participants shows the power of the Visionary Program: a) Business leaders become partners and co-founders of social entrepreneurs; b) Public sector intrapreneurs infuse social entrepreneurship into their institutions; c) Business Consultants start to offer “changemaking, social entrepreneurship and co-creation” as new service lines and thus, become promotors of an emerging new practice; d) Leaders of welfare organizations team-up with business and social entrepreneurs to scale social innovations in unprecedented ways.

One of the initiatives that emerged out of the Visionary Program is a partnership between the Red Cross, Accenture and Ashoka in Austria. We just joined forces to initiate an Austrian-wide refugee inclusion initiative. We will – in partnership with a wide variety of other stakeholders – crowdsource the most powerful solutions to tackle the inclusion challenges of refugees in Austria; support networking and coordination between them; build bridges between the innovations of these social entrepreneurs and scaling partners (such as welfare organizations, communities or businesses); facilitate teams of supporters, investors, scaling partners and social entre-/intrapreneurs to scale the most powerful solutions across Austria, and work with media to move the public debate from deficiencies to opportunities.

We believe that the Visionary Program can become the instrument for cultivating a community of changemakers from across all sectors and a lab for co-creating new ideas that unfold transformative social impact. In the next step, we want to scale the program internationally through our network of Ashoka Country Offices and global partners. The journey has just started. Join in! 

The Ashoka Visionary Program is a part-time executive program for decision makers in the private, the public and the non-profit sector dealing with social innovation, social entrepreneurship and new forms of leadership. The program enables participants to gain the skills needed to master both entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial challenges and to generate social impact.

It consists of 7 modules that last two days and cover all topics relevant to master social innovation and leadership. At the same time, participants have the possibility to work with a social entrepreneur on a predefined assignment or develop their own initiative.  

The Ashoka Visionary Program is a lab for co-creating new ideas, practices and initiatives that unfold transformative social impact. Read more about the power of the program!

Originally published April 22, 2016