Everyone is a Changemaker

“Entrepreneurship transcends the private sector” – this is Ashoka’s founding insight, and the reason why it exists. Forty years ago, its CEO, Bill Drayton, coined the term “social entrepreneur” to give a voice to those who had transformative ideas for social change.

At the Ashoka Future Forum in Washington DC, three of our Adobe Youth Voices alumni joined another young changemaker to present how they are transforming their worlds through the use of digital media. What they proved is that everyone is a changemaker, and age, upbringing, and environment have nothing to do with it. Yet, these are the very things that brought out the activists in all of them.

Rebecca Dharmapalan, 19:  “I’m not a filmmaker, I’m a changemaker”


19-year-old Rebecca Dharmapalan won 2nd place in the 2014 Adobe Youth Voices (AYV) Awards for “International Boulevard”, a documentary about child sex trafficking in her California hometown of Oakland. The results of creating this film catapulted her into a youth leadership position in the Mayor’s office and framed her future as activist committed to eradicating child sex trafficking in Oakland and around the world. Read a more in-depth story about Rebecca on Adobe Conversations.


Salim Shekh, 17:  “I want a world free from any discrimination – where I won’t be stigmatized as a slum boy. I want to make the environment my product, not become a product of the environment.”


When he was nine years old, Salim Shekh, was asked to join his friend’s crusade to increase polio vaccinations in their community of Rishi Aurobindo Colony, one of 6,500 slums in Kolkata, India. Seven years later, Salim has helped increase polio vaccinations in his neighborhood from 25% to 85%. He has also elevated awareness about his community’s dire need for local access to clean drinking water, improved sanitation, and preventative health education.  Now 17, Salim has called upon his public speaking skills to highlight his social causes in forums ranging from the Indian Parliament, to Columbia University; from a TEDx Talk with Melinda Gates, to a panel at the Ashoka Future Forum. Along with his peer, Sikha Patra, he has received a 2015 Adobe Creativity scholarship towards his higher education.


Sikha Patra: “Girls in my community are becoming aware of their hidden potential and coming together to stop child marriage.”


Sikha, 16, is a member of the Daredevils, a group of kids in a Kolkata (Calcutta) slum in India who work to collect health deata and rally the community around important health issues like life-saving vaccines. Recently, she was the youngest participant to speak on National Girl Child Day, hosted by the Ministry of Women & Child Development, to share her experiences of the problems faced by adolescent girls, especially early marriage. She is the recipient of a 2015 Adobe Creativity scholarship to provide her with the higher education she seeks to move her social change efforts forward. Read more about Sikha in Inspire magazine.

Zach Ingrasci: “Our academic and professional understanding of economic development didn’t prepare us for what we would go through. But the strength of our neighbors and friends gave us hope that there are effective ways to make a difference.”



Zach’s journey began in 2010 when he and three fellow university students took two cameras and spent their summer living on $1 a day in a rural Guatemalan village. Since then, he’s also lived in a tent in a Syrian refugee camp and worked as a radish farmer. These experiences are the basis of Zach’s new style of documentary film-making, using immersive storytelling to raise awareness and inspire action around pressing global issues. So far, his non-profit organization, Living on One, has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for sustainable poverty alleviation and awareness that directly supports micro-finance, education scholarships, and refugee services around the world. Zach produced, directed and starred in his first film, Living On One Dollar, which shot to #1 on iTunes for documentaries and won multiple awards at international film festivals. He’s currently working on his newest film, Salam Neighbor, to provide an in-depth perspective into the daily hardships and hopes of Syrian refugees.

Patricia Cogley is senior program manager, Adobe Youth Voices.