Recently Ashoka held a series of summits with leading social entrepreneurs from around the world focused on globalizing innovative models for social change. These summits had the usual discussions around scale—such as capital constraints, leadership and talent, and capacity development—but one topic of discussion stood out: open innovation.

At each one of the three summits held in 2011 and 2012, we put social entrepreneurs in a room with open source experts for three days. It was an...


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