After a year and a half vetting process, we are excited to announce The Anou Cooperative founder Dan Driscoll has been named as an Ashoka Fellow. Ashoka is a global organization that searches for and vets social entrepreneurs with systemic solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges.
Dan’s vetting process was unusually long but for good reason. First, Ashoka has rarely awarded fellowships to expats and in recent years has effectively stopped this practice all together. Second, Ashoka places high scrutiny on artisan focused business and non-profits as they are rarely innovative nor are they built to address systemic problems that artisan communities face. In Morocco, these concerns invite even greater scrutiny because of the sheer number of expat or non-artisan businesses that crowd out the ability of artisans to develop the advanced skills and vision required to develop meaningful solutions of their own.
Ashoka knows that any solution to a problem that afflicts a community starts and ends with members of that very community. This is ultimately what set Anou and Dan apart in the vetting process. Ashoka’s global board approved Dan’s nomination to become a fellow by pointing out how impressive it was that Dan’s goal was not to use his work and creativity to profit but to phase himself out by creating an artisan focused entity where the full benefits would stay within the artisan community.
While we’re excited that Dan’s efforts in establishing Anou have been recognized by Ashoka, we believe this is more of a recognition of all the work that artisans have invested into getting Anou to where it is today.
The goals from the early days of Anou were to create a fully artisan owned and managed entity that would serve as the vehicle for Morocco’s artisan community to 1) change how people and businesses buy craft, and 2) realize needed changes so craft could sustain the livelihoods of artisans and future generations. These are no easy goals. Yet we’ve made tremendous strides towards them because of the endless work of countless artisans.
As we move towards the next decade, it will be the work of countless more artisans that will help finally see through the vision of Anou. Ashoka’s recognition brings us all one major step closer to realizing this future. Thank you to Ashoka, the team at Ashoka’s Arab World Office, and all of those who nominated Anou to Ashoka over the years.