OVIEDO, Spain, Oct. 24, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Bill Drayton, CEO of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, received the Prince of Asturias Prize in International Cooperation last Friday, in a lavish awards ceremony broadcast throughout Europe. The prize is Spain's highest honor and one of Europe's most prestigious awards, often compared to the Nobel Peace Prize. Their Royal Highnesses Prince Philip of Spain and Princess Letizia were in attendance during the ceremony, which honored Bill Drayton and the other awardees, including Canadian musician Leonard Cohen and Harvard social scientist Howard Gardner. Recipients were awarded 50,000 euros, a specially commissioned Joan Miro sculpture, a diploma and an insignia. Earlier this year, an international jury deliberated over the 25 finalists from 18 different countries who were under consideration for this award.
During his Awards speech, Crown Prince Felipe described Bill Drayton and Ashoka as follows:
"On this evening devoted to culture and values, the centuries-old background of The Royal Society serves to both highlight and defend the social priority of education and instruction; the need to spread knowledge and to put our principles into play for the benefit of us all; the conviction that this is the surest way to finally overcome injustice, violence and fanaticism, as well as the suffering and pain they produce in so many human beings.
From this point of view, the question raised by Bill Drayton, on whom our Award for International Cooperation has been bestowed, is even more pertinent. "What is the most powerful force in the world?" And Drayton responds: A good idea, every time". Over the thirty years in which his Ashoka Foundation has identified and backed some 3,000 social entrepreneurs worldwide, Bill Drayton has undoubtedly been able to corroborate over and over again that this is more than just a statement. It is a fact and a truly beneficial one at that.
The work initiated by Drayton – which Ashoka has developed over time – focuses on and highlights fundamental characteristics of social entrepreneurship; features such as creativity, fortitude and, above all, trust. Bill Drayton also strives so that our actions have positive repercussions for society and our work takes on increasingly higher levels of social responsibility. In short, he works with the aim of changing and improving the world.
Social entrepreneurs discover and put into practice feasible solutions to social problems, seeing opportunities where others only perceive threats. As this way of working becomes even more necessary in times of crisis, this recognition here today of Bill Drayton's work becomes especially significant. One can look to the future fearfully or confidently and only those who truly believe in human beings – as is the case of social entrepreneurs – are in a situation to face the future with hope. This is the value of the Ashoka and social entrepreneurs. This is the significant and intelligent path trodden by Bill Drayton, whom we distinguish here today."
As the founder and CEO of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, Bill Drayton is a true social entrepreneur. During his time as a student at Harvard, Oxford, and Yale Law School, he launched a number of organizations. He began his career at McKinsey and Company and then served as Assistant Administrator at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where he launched emissions trading (the basis of the Kyoto Protocol) and other reforms. In 1981, he founded Ashoka and was able to grow it with the support that he received when elected a MacArthur Fellow in 1984. In addition to his current role as Chairman and CEO of Ashoka, Mr. Drayton is the chair of Youth Venture, Community Greens, and Get America Working! Mr. Drayton has won numerous awards and honors throughout his career, including selection as one of America's Best Leaders by US News & World Report and Harvard's Center for Public Leadership, the Goi Peace Foundation's Peace Award and the Essl Social Prize, for his work creating and building the field of social entrepreneurship.
The Prince of Asturias Awards aim "to reward the scientific, technical, cultural, social and humanistic work performed at an international level by individuals, institutions or groups of individuals or institutions." Those "whose work has contributed in both an exemplary and relevant way to mutual understanding, progress or fellowship among peoples" are nominated for the Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation. Previous winners have included Mandela, Al Gore, Simone Veil, Mario Soares, Jacques Delors, Mijail Gorbachov, Al Gore, 'Lula' da Silva and organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the World Health Organization.
Founded in 1980, Ashoka is the world's working community of more than 2,500 leading social entrepreneurs. It champions the most important new social change ideas and supports the entrepreneurs behind them by helping them get started, grow, succeed, and collaborate. As Ashoka expands its capability to integrate and connect entrepreneurs around the world, it builds an entrepreneurial infrastructure that is supporting the fast-growing needs of the citizen sector. Ashoka's vision is to create change today, for an Everyone A Changemaker™ society to become the reality of tomorrow. For more information, visit www.ashoka.org.
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