July 16, 2024

Lenovo partners with Ashoka’s network of changemakers to create kinder, more innovative cities

3 min read

On 31 August 2022, Lenovo and Ashoka – the global network of social entrepreneurs – announced a partnership to identify and empower four local networks of changemakers. Lenovo donated $100K to Ashoka to accelerate innovation and support initiatives based in Johannesburg, South Africa, and abroad.

Lenovo and Ashoka will also collaborate to connect and engage Ashoka changemakers and Lenovo business units and local offices in a transformative, collective journey to create a positive impact in the tech sector.

The Kind City initiative 

The partnership builds on Lenovo’s Kind City initiative, a crowd-sourced vision for a more empathetic and empowering future. Fuelled by global research, an interactive podcast, and a council of inspiring visionaries, Lenovo used AI to transform global submissions into 10 founding principles of a more inclusive and kinder City – made possible through technology. But the Kind City was always dedicated to more than just a bold reimagining of the future: Lenovo wanted to drive real transformation.

The Kind City aligns with Ashoka’s mission to create a world where everyone is a changemaker, where everyone has the empathy, agency and leadership skills to make positive change in their communities. Ashoka Southern Africa is part of the Ashoka Africa Hub and was launched in 1990 as the cornerstone and first ever office of Ashoka’s work in Africa. Ashoka’s network to date includes over 148 systems-changing social entrepreneurs, known as Fellows. The regional office based in Johannesburg includes South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho and Eswatini. 

“We are excited to partner with Ashoka, to drive meaningful transformation throughout various regions. This new venture empowers us to further extend our sustainable development agenda and embodies our commitment to delivering smarter technology for all,” says general manager of Lenovo Southern Africa, Yugen Naidoo.

Building communities through tech innovations 

Lenovo’s support will help accelerate these regional hubs, or Ashoka chapters, dedicated to fostering collaboration and elevating the most impactful ideas. Ashoka changemakers can connect, learn from each other, challenge historically established paradigms and, together, spread their powerful ideas. Four changemakers will be selected in each chapter; these could include current Ashoka Fellows, rising changemakers, and local technology leaders. The selected changemakers will also be part of a global campaign to inspire people to be changemakers in their own communities.

“For more than 40 years, Ashoka has empowered local changemakers all over the world to boldly reimagine and shape the future,” says Jeanine Buzali, director of Changemaker Companies in North America, a global Ashoka initiative that seeks to co-lead social change with the private sector. “We are thrilled to see Lenovo make this investment in kindness, equality and inclusion, and I know that our shared commitment to entrepreneurial innovation will have long-lasting impact in these communities.”

This collaboration builds on Ashoka’s belief in the power of the social entrepreneur to activate others’ change-making potential so they begin to see the world through the lens of possibilities rather than problems. The Kind City’s 10 founding principles also directly complement recent Ashoka work, including “The Unlonely Planet” report on strategies to inspire everyone to foster social change and the recent study: Cities and Social Entrepreneurs, A Playbook for Catalytic Collaboration.

Harnessing tech insights to create a more intelligent world

The Kind City initiative was shaped by visionaries including renowned teen scientist Gitanjali Rao, activist and Queer Eye host Tan France, and accessibility innovator and ‘human cyborg’, Dr Peter Scott-Morgan. Now, Ashoka is helping bring their rallying cries to life to bridge a ‘kindness gap’ discovered through Lenovo research: 97% of city dwellers believe it is important their communities have kindness/empathy, but only 37% feel their current city is a kind place to live or work.

“We need courageous companies to join us in breaking through existing paradigms and mobilising the next generation of changemakers,” Buzali says. Follow along throughout the year for updates on changemaker activity, new collaborations and the pioneering work enabled by this partnership.

“Lenovo harnesses the power of technology to change people and organisations. We look forward to working with Ashoka, by leveraging their network and being a critical supporter in key topics such as systems-change, financial and personal sustainability, and providing strategic opportunities for creating a smarter, more intelligent world,” concludes Naidoo.

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