Beeta Ansari

Beeta is Ashoka U’s Exchange Director, the world’s largest global convening for social entrepreneurship education.

Changemaker of the Week: Jonathan Levi

Jonathan Levi, a student at INSEAD Business School, tells us of his online community, Zadaqa, that makes it easy for major brands to engage with social cause marketing.

Jonathan is being featured as part of Ashoka U’s new series, “Changemaker of the Week” which highlights extraordinary student changemakers in college and graduate programs around the world. Check the Ashoka U Blog each week for a story of a new Changemaker of the Week!

What is Zadaqa?
Zadaqa is an online community and platform that makes it easy for major brands to engage in cause marketing. We host “campaigns,” which exchange user actions such as Likes, Tweets, Views or Subscriptions for real world donations of anything from a dollar to a tree or fresh water. Our users even earn rewards like discounts for having the biggest impact.

How did you decide to start Zadaqa?
The idea originally came from a conversation over coffee. We wanted to figure out how we can help people give more to charity, but realized that so many people with good hearts, like students, simply don’t have the budget. What they do have to donate, however, is their valuable attention, and out of this the idea for Zadaqa was born.

How has being a student changed the way you act as a changemaker?
Most recently, I was at INSEAD, the Business School for the World. The major impact of INSEAD has been my international focus. I’ve really become aware of the opportunities (and issues) around the world, and transcended my very Silicon-Valley-centric mentality.

What’s the best part about working on your venture?
The best part is the feeling of creating something that will live on and grow bigger than yourself, changing people’s lives whom you’ve never had the chance to speak to or even know, all from a simple idea (and a LOT of hard work).

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to any college student thinking of becoming a student changemaker?
Honestly, I’d push them to just do it. I think a lot of people spend too much time weighing options, vacillating, and ultimately talk themselves out of pursuing their passion for change and entrepreneurship. Your heart knows where you want to be, and if that’s not a consulting gig or a sweet banking job, that’s ok. Stop worrying about failure and start failing your way to success.

How has being at INSEAD helped you as a changemaker?
INSEAD has some really wonderful courses on entrepreneurship, both social and otherwise. One wonderful class I took with Professor Filipe Santos helped me understand some of the challenges and doubts facing today’s Social Enterprises, which really primed me for Zadaqa. Also, seeing how nascent the Social Entrepreneurship sector really is has convinced me of what a tremendous “Blue Ocean” opportunity it is (to use INSEAD slang!)

More information about Jonathan will also be featured on social media this week, so be sure to like Ashoka U on Twitter and Facebook!