Acknowledging changemakers: Ken Banks awarded Ashoka Fellowship

“Successful social entrepreneurs must be creative; both as goal-setting visionaries and as problem solvers capable of engineering their visions into reality,” states the criteria for the Ashoka Fellowship program. For 25 years the Ashoka Fellowship has been investing in changemakers; those individuals providing innovative solutions to social problems. On 28th March 2011 FrontlineSMS founder Ken Banks joined a range of leading social entrepreneurs for an Ashoka Award ceremony in London, to accept the honour of becoming an Ashoka Fellow.

Ashoka Fellows work across 70 countries around the globe in every area of human need. Ashoka see that a powerful idea put in to action has the power to “shift societal perceptions, encourage new behavior patterns, and revolutionize entire fields,” and this is the kind of work the Fellowship program supports.

Ken Banks is honoured to have been awarded the Ashoka Changemaker’s Fellowship for his work on FrontlineSMS, our open source software which is able to bring the communication revolution to poor and remote regions where other tools don’t reach. Ken and the FrontlineSMS team are really looking forward to making the most of being a part of Ashoka's global network.

Learn more by watching the below video and visiting the Ashoka website

A fast track to SMS success

Earlier this year, Ashoka deployed FrontlineSMS in four African countries to help promote one of their Changemakers campaigns. In Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania and Senegal, members of the public were invited to nominate a great teacher - a champion of quality education - who had made a profound impact on their lives. Previous campaigns had used more traditional media. When Ashoka decided to try text messaging for the first time, they turned to FrontlineSMS. Ashoka advertisementThe campaign was a success. Ashoka said at the time: "We are very excited that we are using this technology. We are reaching out to an audience we couldn’t have accessed otherwise. We received over a hundred SMS in the first day and only one email". Since then, and Ashoka have collaborated further, starting with the creation of the Social Changemaking with Mobile Phones Group in May.

With interest in text messaging continuing to rise, Changemakers raised the idea of creating a guide, based on their experiences, to explain to other organisations in their network how to get SMS campaigns up-and-running in the shortest possible time and with the minimum of fuss. There are numerous SMS guides and reports on the web, but few talk NGOs through a simple set of steps to help them physically set up their own messaging hub.

With the help of the Group we'd set up earlier in the year, and input from other FrontlineSMS users, Ashoka released the completed "SMS Quick Start Guide" last week.


Two further collaborative reports will be released in the coming months. For now, the "SMS Quick Start Guide" can be downloaded here (PDF, 1Mb).