IS Honors Social Entrepreneurship Pioneer Bill Drayton with 2011 John W. Gardner Leadership Award
Bill Drayton

(WASHINGTON, June 1, 2011) -- Independent Sector will honor Bill Drayton with the 2011 John W. Gardner Leadership Award in recognition of his innovation and leadership in social change and social entrepreneurship. The award will be presented at the 2011 Independent Sector Annual Conference October 30-November 1 in Chicago.

Mr. Drayton is the chief executive officer and founder of Ashoka, a global organization that supports individual efforts to address society’s most pressing problems with innovative, entrepreneurial solutions.

“I am deeply moved,” Mr. Drayton said.  “John Gardner helped us design Get America Working! and was a model social entrepreneur -- before such a word existed.  And Independent Sector stands up for all of us.”

Mr. Drayton has also been awarded a Prince of Asturias Award, Spain's highest honor and Nobel Prize equivalent.

Since 1981, Ashoka has elected more than 2,000 leading social entrepreneurs as Ashoka Fellows, providing them with living stipends, professional support, and access to a global network of peers in more than 60 countries. Through Ashoka, Mr. Drayton has introduced the world to a fundamentally new model of how ideas can change social systems around the globe, improving the lives of millions.

“Through Bill’s vital support and leadership, thousands of innovative and solutions-focused people have positively impacted communities in need around the world,” said Bernard J. Milano, president and trustee of KPMG Foundation and chair of the John W. Gardner Leadership Award Committee. “Ashoka is a testament to the power of changemakers in our sector and around the globe."

Mr. Drayton has been internationally lauded and recognized as a visionary. He was named one of America’s 25 Best Leaders by US News and World Report in 2005-2006. In 2004, he was named one of Fast Company’s “Fast 50,” a group of the idea elite who are pushing their industries forward with the power of their vision. In 2002, Business Week named Ashoka’s approach to philanthropy as one of the eleven “most innovative” of the organizations it surveyed. He was also elected one of the early MacArthur Fellows for his work, including the founding of Ashoka. He has been a speaker at the World Economic Forum, and has addressed audiences around the world.

“We are so pleased to honor Bill, whose leadership, vision, and commitment to the nonprofit and philanthropic sector is an inspiration to us all,” said Diana Aviv, president and CEO of Independent Sector. “From civic engagement and economic development to health care and human rights, Ashoka has been dedicated to solving our world’s social problems through supporting, financially and professionally, the social leaders we need to do real work on the ground.”

Mr. Drayton developed his ideas through personal experiences in many fields. He worked as an Assistant Administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency during the Carter administration, where he successfully led a series of major innovations and reforms in the field, ranging from the introduction of emissions trading to the use of economics-defined incentives to remove the advantage of delaying compliance. As a management consultant with McKinsey & Co, he gained wide experience serving both public and private clients, and built his understanding of how organizations work. He also served briefly in the White House, and taught both law and management at Stanford Law School and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. He is a graduate of Harvard, Oxford, and Yale Universities.

The award is named after John Gardner, the founding chair of Independent Sector. An advisor to six presidents and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Mr. Gardner was an active and distinguished participant in America’s educational, philanthropic, and political life, and his many achievements demonstrate the ideals this award celebrates. The award is generously supported by the William Randolph Hearst Foundations and includes a replica of an original bust of John Gardner by the late sculptor Frederick Hart. To learn more about the John W. Gardner Award, visit:


Independent Sector is a nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition of approximately 550 charities, foundations, and corporate giving programs, collectively representing tens of thousands of charitable groups in every state across the nation. Its mission is to advance the common good by leading, strengthening, and mobilizing the nonprofit and philanthropic community.

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