Imagine if everyone had the skills, freedom, confidence, and societal support to create change for the good of all.

Ashoka U believes that colleges and universities – through the influence they have on students, their community, and the world – can play a critical role in activating and supporting changemakers. But it isn’t enough to have just a handful of institutions offering these programs, or to have a handful of students at any one institution be able to access them. We need an all hand’s on deck approach – one that involves deeper partnerships across and between institutions, new players at the table, and the opportunity to celebrate progress and momentum.


In 2019 Ashoka U, with the support of Schmidt Futures, launched #MillionsofChangemakers, a global call for colleges, universities, and higher education innovators to make commitments to activate and support changemakers of all kinds. The goal of the campaign was to recruit new partners and institutions to doing the work of enabling changemakers, showcase the impact of higher education institutions and innovators, and recognize, share, and increase adoption of best practices.


Commitment-makers included leading academic institutions, ecosystem builders, and individuals across 14 countries and collectively made 73 commitments to activate more than 200,000 changemakers. From these 73 initial commitments, a panel of reviewed selected four initiatives that had the greatest potential to sparks #MillionsOfChangemakers if adopted across higher education:

  • The Center for Women’s and Gender Studies at Florida International University launched an innovative academic course in partnership with 12 other departments on campus. The course empowered 15 enrolled students to become changemakers and leaders in violence prevention. These students then trained 746 of their peers in a bystander intervention curriculum called ‘Step UP! Step UP!’, designed to ignite a student’s potential to make a difference in their environment and community. Learn More.
  • Ohio State University, as part of the Global Arts + Humanities Discovery Theme, has engaged 300 faculty, students, and community members in several community-led projects. These projects integrate creative practices, experiential learning, and cross-disciplinary research.  Projects include those focused on peer-to-peer education to address the opiate epidemic, giving voice to community members facing mobility inequities, and extending college credit to incarcerated individuals in 11 Ohio prisons.  Learn More.
  • Tecnológico de Monterrey’s HUB for innovative social entrepreneurship at Guadalajara has expanded its hugely successful Changemaker Day festival. The Changemaker Day festival is a student-led event over two days that engages hundreds of students in talks, workshops, speed networking and live music that all celebrate changemaking. Over the coming year, seven Mexican cities will host a Changemaker Day festival building off of the original model.  Learn more
  • Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Virginia has equipped 2,250 changemakers through their three Policy in Action Labs and associated activities.  The labs offer students the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to real-world situations working alongside research faculty, policymakers and community leaders.  Their three Policy in Action labs include their local lab – the New Vinegar Hill Project – which is advancing racial equity and economic mobility in Charlottesville,  their regional lab – Impact Investing in Action: Appalachia, and their global lab – Social Enterprise for Climate Resilience: Dominica.  Learn more.


Six semi-finalists were also selected by a panel of reviewers:

Changemaker Challenge at Centennial College

Changemaker Lab at Evergreen State College

Leadership, Ethics and Values program and North Central College

Stimulating Urban Renewal at the University of Houston

Social Bond Innovation Project at UDEM

Social Innovation engagement at Universidad Santo Thomas


Both the Awardees and the Semi-Finalists were featured in a virtual poster session at the 2019 Ashoka U Exchange.