Ashoka’s Youth Venture brings model for fostering young entrepreneurs to South Florida

MIAMI – (Sept. 20, 2013) – To encourage South Florida youth to develop entrepreneurial skills that benefit their community, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is investing $50,000 to help launch Ashoka’s Youth Venture. Ashoka is also partnering with two local organizations, The Miami Foundation and Breakthrough Miami to select its first round of youth participants, along with facilitators and program mentors.

A project of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, a global association of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs, Ashoka’s Youth Venture provides high school students with the skills, training and mentorship to launch their own social venture. As part of the funding, Ashoka and partners will work together to select youth participants from 14-18 years old to take part in training workshops that allow them to develop a deep understanding of community issues. They will also learn to recognize opportunities, lead, set goals and think critically to transform their communities.

Students will then research and design a project that addresses a specific local challenge, such as teen jobs or public safety. They will present their idea to a panel of community leaders, for a chance at $1,000 in seed funding to launch the venture.

 “Ashoka’s Youth Venture believes that the greatest contribution we can make to the world is to increase dramatically the number of changemakers today and in every future generation,” said Elliott Jones, Project Manager, Ashoka South Florida. “By working with the leaders of tomorrow we are paving the way for a world that responds quickly and effectively to social challenges, and where each individual has the freedom, confidence and societal support to address any social problem and drive change.”

“Ashoka’s Youth Venture will establish a culture of social innovation and entrepreneurship among South Florida’s youth,” said Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation program director for Miami. “By inspiring young people to take on issues that are important to them the program will foster strong community attachment and help build a brighter future for Miami and beyond.”

Established in 1996, Youth Venture grew out of the experiences of more than 400 Ashoka Fellows, a group of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs. Ashoka identified a strong pattern among the fellows. Most had experienced taking initiative at an early age and worked toward mastering empathy, teamwork, problem-solving and leadership.

The idea that youth could be capable, competent leaders, creating lasting social change became apparent and Ashoka established Youth Venture, first in the United States and then internationally. Ashoka’s Youth Venture has since launched over 5,000 teams in more than 20 countries and 16 U.S. cities.

Beginning in July 2013 Ashoka launched the Breakthrough Miami Youth Venture cohort at Ransom Everglades. In September 2013 the Miami Foundation’s Engaged Youth cohort will launch.  In total, 70 students representing 26 schools in Miami-Dade County will take part in Ashoka’s Youth Venture this year and identify as changemakers in June 2014.  

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit

About Ashoka

Ashoka is the largest network of social entrepreneurs worldwide, with nearly 3,000 Ashoka Fellows in 70 countries putting their system changing ideas into practice on a global scale.  Founded by Bill Drayton in 1980, Ashoka has provided start-up financing, professional support services, and connections to a global network across the business and social sectors, and a platform for people dedicated to changing the world.  Ashoka launched the field of social entrepreneurship and has activated multi-sector partners across the world who increasingly look to entrepreneurial talent and new ideas to solve social problems.

Ashoka’s mission has evolved beyond catalyzing individual entrepreneurs to enabling an “Everyone a Changemaker” world.  This means equipping more people—including young people—with the skillset and a connection to purpose so that they can contribute ideas and effectively solve problems at whatever scale is needed in their family, community, city, workplace, field, industry, country. For more, visit and


Anusha Alikhan, Director of Communications, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, 305-908-2677, [email protected]