Ashoka Reviews | Glassdoor

Ashoka Reviews

Updated March 12, 2017
78 reviews

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2.9
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Ashoka CEO & Founder Bill Drayton
Bill Drayton
51 Ratings

78 Employee Reviews

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Pros
  • Good opportunity to meet inspiring social entrepreneurs from around the world (in 10 reviews)

  • I learned so much from exposure to Ashoka's social entrepreneurs and loved the creativity and freedom the organizations offers its staff at all levels (in 11 reviews)

Cons
  • Ashoka pays at the bottom end of even the non-profit scale, so you should be realistic about this (in 9 reviews)

  • No internal advancement/career path (in 5 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

  1. Helpful (1)

    "The startup that grew up"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC

    I worked at Ashoka full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    Incredible colleagues. Inspiring, smart, globally minded, ethical, fun, and well rounded. You look forward to seeing them each day.

    A big, important vision for the world and energetic employees that believe in it.

    Cons

    Went from startup to 400-person, globally reaching organization without the appropriate infrastructure. Still suffers from archaic processes, inconsistent management, and lack of accountability, although there have been many improvements in the last 5+ years.

    Advice to Management

    Invest in Ashokans. Pay a little more, offer some non-monetary perks, and people may stay longer. Bite off smaller pieces of the vision, focus in for a time, and really excel at a few things instead of trying to tackle everything.


  2. "Compelling work"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Intern in Arlington, VA
    Former Employee - Intern in Arlington, VA
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    Smart people who care about the world around them. Inspiring place to come to work everyday

    Cons

    Sometimes unorganized, lack of direction

    Advice to Management

    More internal communication !


  3. Helpful (9)

    "Great for some, tough for many"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Change Manager in Arlington, VA
    Former Employee - Change Manager in Arlington, VA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at Ashoka (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    Amazing, amazing people. Ashoka staff are super smart, curious, and values-oriented. The work itself can at times be really exciting. I had the chance to work with a range of interesting partners, and learned a lot through them. I felt I was given a lot of responsibility and opportunities to grow my skills. Team culture can, on some teams, be incredibly dynamic and supportive - I was lucky enough to be on one of those teams.

    Cons

    Overall Ashoka culture is tough. There is a lot of distrust of upper-level management and a lot of frustration about issues ranging from pay to the hiring process to not feeling heard. In my opinion, this distrust is earned.

    The strategy that Ashoka uses build an "Everyone a Changemaker world" is always changing, usually at the whim of those at the top. This dynamism can feel exciting or extremely frustrating, depending on your point of view.

    Over-valuing entrepreneurialism leads to some strange outcomes. Despite the emphasis on empathy, people are incentivized to play politics and "own" strategic projects, sometimes cutting out members of their own, or other, teams. If you don't learn to toot your own horn, you get left behind. Additionally, key parts of Ashoka's infrastructure have been less-than-professionally managed because of a reliance on non-experts. Finally, sometimes entrepreneur-types who are terrible to work with make it through the hiring process. When they do, they're beloved by the management for their ideas, but drive everyone else nuts because they are difficult to work with, and oftentimes very self-serving.

    Advice to Management

    VALUE YOUR STAFF. Eliminate performance pay - no matter what the intention of it is, it feels like an annual slap in the face rather than a celebration of accomplishments. Changing the attitude about compensation from "If you care enough about the mission, you'll work at any price" to "We want to retain you and know you are worth the investment" will go a long way towards keeping staff around and making turnover less of a problem.

    Bring on new board members who do more fundraising and are more readily able to hold executive-level management accountable.


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  5. Helpful (6)

    "I wouldn't wish Ashoka on anybody"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Change Manager in Arlington, VA
    Former Employee - Change Manager in Arlington, VA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at Ashoka full-time

    Pros

    Nice people. Good network of fellows. The environment is casual and informal.

    Cons

    I could write a book on my experience at this organization. Unethical. Idiotic, utopian, elitist vision. If you aren't White, ivy-league educated or willing to spend long hours mulling over the state of the world in the year 3030, then don't bother joining this organization. Because one, you will lose your mind. Second, you have no hope of any career growth. The only thing I can say I truly valued was the extended network of fellows which always put up with staff in times when management was totally indecisive and inefficient. The organization suffers from severe Founderitis and the founder controls every single decision. I'm surprised that most of the funders haven't just dropped out given that the organization doesn't really do anything substantial. If you don't believe me ask any person working at Ashoka what they do or what the organization does. You will get a roundabout, vague response that has a lot of social buzz words which no one cares about. Other than this, there is literally no real work/life in this organization - everything is come as you please, go as you please. Responsibility-free. Accountability-free. There are only 9-5 workers who slave through the day and then there's senior/upper management. You will hear the word empathy thrown around a lot. No one in this organization knows the meaning. In this organization, all my dreams of career growth fell flat. I kept telling myself that it'd get better for years. It didn't. It got worse. I am so glad i finally found an opportunity and left before I wasted another year of my life.

    Advice to Management

    Practice what you preach. Everyone can see through the hypocrisy.


  6. Helpful (4)

    "Impostors"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Associate in Arlington, VA
    Former Employee - Associate in Arlington, VA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at Ashoka full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    Working with people with good hearts, believe in changing the world for the better. Very macro level work.

    Cons

    The company expresses these specific traits and values that are required to change the world when in fact, the leadership of the company does not practice such values.

    Advice to Management

    Dump the leaders and invest in better management, learning and development, and technology


  7. Helpful (2)

    "Great Mission, In the process of transforming itself"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Rosslyn, VA
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Rosslyn, VA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Ashoka full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    Great colleagues with passion, energy and dedication to social change, flexibility to work on projects you are passionate about. Amazing fellows network around the world, that you get to interact with.

    Cons

    lack of career path for mid to junior associates. Too much talk, too little accountability

    Advice to Management

    hold everyone accountable to what they are working on.


  8. Helpful (1)

    "Fun, creative place to gain experience"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Rosslyn, VA
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Rosslyn, VA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at Ashoka part-time (Less than a year)

    Pros

    I learned so much from exposure to Ashoka's social entrepreneurs and loved the creativity and freedom the organizations offers its staff at all levels. Entrepreneurs can flourish here!

    Cons

    The creative spirit comes at the price of organization and efficiency. If ambiguity bothers you, this is not the right place for you.

    Advice to Management

    Value your team! They are creative and entrepreneurial. Higher salaries might keep them around a bit longer.


  9. Helpful (9)

    "Learn Empathy - I think that's what Ashoka preaches"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Institution Builder in Rosslyn, VA
    Former Employee - Institution Builder in Rosslyn, VA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at Ashoka full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    Ashoka is a well known nonprofit amongst social entrepreneurs. Life at Ashoka is worry free and responsibility free. You can start your own initiatives easily (just don't expect for them to stick around once your gone), and can work on projects that would require years of experience at other organizations. The people are truly great on a personal level -- I loved the extended chats and debates and we could pretend it was work related (even though it never was)

    Cons

    No efficiency, no organization, no understanding of budgets, no concept of analysis, no respect for experts or doers. If you are a dreamer and just like to talk about things, you'll love Ashoka. If you actually like to execute plans, or evaluate programs, or accomplish anything, Ashoka will be your hell. Basic operational procedures are lacking. Want to know how many employees are there? Good luck -- no one actually knows. Want to know what Ashoka actually does? Wow -- if you figure that out you should let the CEO know. I'm still baffled years later. Staff turnover is technically unknown, but hovers around 40% a year. Why? Pay is extremely low, even for nonprofit standards. Employees are not valued -- the mentality exists that everyone wants to work at Ashoka so what's the loss of another person? And when that person leaves, don't expect any knowledge transfer. There is no documentation here. Everyone is an entrepreneur so everyone is encouraged to just do things their own way -- great, but sometimes things actually work and should be kept and spread. Don't expect onboarding -- there isn't any. Day one you'll walk in and not have a desk or a computer, and no one will ever offer training or to explain what you do. Final word of warning: if you actually get hired (and it will take 6 months at least to get through "Process"), review your salary carefully. They will knock 10% off and withhold that until the end of the year to make sure you meet your performance goals. You'll get the money, but let's be honest -- it's a bonus, not your salary.

    Advice to Management

    Stop hiring people for the Leadership team and start hiring operations level people. Stop relying on interns for everything. Start paying your people what their worth. Start providing training to your people. Start respecting your people. Stop believing you are special or unique and start adopting industry-wide best practices (they're best practices for a reason -- no need to recreate them!). Understand that the Expert track is more important than the Entrepreneur Track. Realize that you spend thousands of dollars on each hire from the time it takes from your employees to search and interview, so start trying to keep people on board. Realize that you don't actually know how much it costs to hire a new person and that knowing basic metrics like this could actually pull the organization out of its debt. Start doing exit interviews so you can capture this information. Start practicing empathy by paying your employees enough to survive (most work 2 jobs), and possibly consider respecting women by offering maternity leave.


  10. Helpful (9)

    "Great for early-career or late-career folks. Few middle-career or growth opportunities."

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Change Manager in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Change Manager in Washington, DC
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at Ashoka full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    Good connections to corporate and foundation funders. The mission, brand and hiring process are great at drawing-in talented folks. If you find yourself in a good team, then you can do interesting work. Excellent brand within the small world of international development and social impact.

    Cons

    The salaries are intentionally kept below the normal non-profit market rate, as a way to attract candidates who are likely to put high value on the org's mission, in lieu of salary.

    The culture of the org is generated by folks who can tolerate low pay. They fall into two main groups (a) young, idealistic, self-confident, high-performers who are attracted to the story and network around Ashoka and tend to burn out within 1-2 years (b) independently wealthy and/or semi-retired folks who are attracted to the mission of the org. Both groups tend to be drawn from elite backgrounds from the USA or other countries--not a lot of diversity in that regard.

    There are as many senior staff as mid-career staff. And, both of those groups are dwarfed by a very large number of early-career staff. The org isn't structured to provide its super-committed, entrepreneurial staff with opportunities to actually be entrepreneurial inside the org. The leadership of the org has learned that early-career staff burn out in 1-2 years, and they organize around that expectation. It is extremely rare for people in mid-career roles to elevate into senior roles. Instead, they constantly aim to hire people from outside for senior roles, so that they can benefit from the networks that the new outside senior people can bring to Ashoka's network.

    As other reviewers have noted, the CEO is micromanaging. The CEO is the founder and permanent member of the org's board. The other board members are old friends of the CEO. Also, the management team that the CEO has drawn around himself is an echo chamber. When talking publicly, the CEO espouses values of distributed fluid leadership and teamwork, and often supports that by pointing to the fact that there is no written org chart for Ashoka. However, the lack of an org chart serves the purpose of obscuring the actual personality-based, clique-based structure of authority that exists in practice, in the organization. This kind of thing is present in all organizations to some extent, but in Ashoka it's the main organizing principle. This produces very little transparency, accountability, or learning throughout the org.


  11. Helpful (11)

    "Founder Syndrome -- The Emperor Has No Clothes"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Arlington, VA
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Arlington, VA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I have been working at Ashoka full-time (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    Our fellow colleagues and staff overall is comprised of wonderful, nice, well-intentioned individuals who are good people. They are the kind of people you want to keep in touch with and get to know outside of work. The Ashoka Fellows themselves, for the most part, make a difference and do incredible work. Ashoka's search and selection process for identifying Fellows is the strongest part of the organization. Ashoka U is also a legitimate program.

    Cons

    The root of all the problems lies with the founder who is still the CEO since 1980. There is significant founder syndrome and nobody has the courage and/or ability to tell him what has been obvious to everyone else for so many years. The other top leadership members are also lacking. They are nice people but are ineffective. Ashoka is run like a family organization with little regard for or investment in basic, fundamental operations such as finance, accounting, marketing and human resources. It exemplifies what is wrong with most NGOs. It needs to be run like a professional organization, which requires real leadership and quality staff (which requires competitive pay). Good intentions and "nice" people do not cut it. Surely, being a nice person and being effective do not have to be mutually exclusive, but Ashoka needs a wake-up call. It suffers from a lethargic, complacent attitude that stems from being satisfied with marginal improvement from the status quo. Basic improvements are celebrated rather than expected. The standards are too low to make any real progress and become a relevant, yet alone a leading, citizen sector organization again.

    Advice to Management

    Bill Drayton should provide guidance and vision, not run the organization. Hire people who actually know how to run a successful operation and pay them competitively. There is a lot of dead weight staff who add no value to the organization and should be let go. There are, however, some staff who actually know what they are doing. Empower them, pay them more, and then get out of their way.



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