Accelerating Social Transformation

Drive Social Impact and Spur Innovation Across Sectors

The Accelerating Social Transformation (AST) program catalyzes the potential of social impact leaders from across the non-profit, foundation, development and business communities to drive transformational social change. While many social leaders are currently balancing crisis management, rapid response, and recovery in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many are also looking at this moment as an unprecedented opportunity to accelerate social transformation. To achieve this they need opportunities to find community, heal and grow, share resources, and devise strategies for advancing transformative social change.

AST is a thought-provoking experience that will deliver fresh thinking and new tools to help you lead and accelerate social impact initiatives you are working on. The executive leadership program is designed for mid-career professionals working in – or, contemplating a switch to – the social development space. We invite you to be a part of this innovative approach to professional and personal development and join our 2021 global cohort.

You will:

  • Learn the tenants of a ‘Purpose Mindset’
  • Think more broadly and deeply about the major challenges facing social entrepreneurs.
  • Listen to industry influencers and leading-edge organizations about how to adapt to and embrace transformational change.
  • Cultivate a high impact network of collaborators
  • Improve your effectiveness as a leader and social entrepreneur as you navigate complex operating environments.

Join our 2021 Cohort: October 6-28, 2021 (3 hours per day)

  • Week 1: 10/6 Wednesday, 10/7 Thursday
  • Week 2: 10/11 Monday – 10/15 Thursday
  • Week 3: 10/20 Wednesday – 10/21 Thursday
  • Week 4: 10/27 Wednesday – 10/28 Thursday

Through AST, you will discover and better understand your core values, learn new leadership frameworks from expert lecturers, and observe those frameworks in practice during site visits. Then, through reflection exercises using Appreciative Inquiry, Liberating Structures, and Design Thinking, you will develop an action plan that will expand your effectiveness and increase your impact in your work. Spawning Salmon not Creating Whales – A New Paradigm for Accelerating Social Transformation, developed by Akhtar Badshah, will form the central thesis of AST.

A few weeks prior to the AST program, online presentations, readings and resources will be available to set important context and introduce core concepts from the curriculum. Then, during the two months following the program, we will work with you to finalize your action plan and support you as you follow through with implementation.

The AST curriculum will help you:

  • Understand how a new set of funders and funding instruments – such as equity, debt, and online funding – are creating new opportunities for social investments and mobilizing people.
  • Explore the evolving intersection of technology, creativity, and social impact.
  • Determine relative impact, take risks, and scale projects.
  • Design innovative solutions by combining technology and policy for maximum impact.
  • Co-create new approaches to accelerating social impact.
  • Develop an enhanced appreciation of on-the-ground challenges and understand linkages between innovation, policy, design, and the value of quick prototyping.
  • Appreciate the importance of communities, social fabric, and the structure of belonging to creating a better future.
  • Apply learnings to your specific project/program
  • Develop a high-impact alumni network with whom you can continue learning and creating future opportunities for collaboration.


Our society is going through enormous changes, many of which are driven by access to and development of technology. Now, it is possible for individuals to create change on scale that was previously inconceivable or that only a large organization could undertake. This has given rise to a new set of funders who are looking to shift the paradigm of how we design and implement social programs. Participants will discover new approaches to social development and learn how to combine innovative solutions with technology and policy for maximum impact.


ASTers are individuals committed to making a positive change in society and are open to absorbing new ideas, challenging conventional notions, and participating in a growing community of social change leaders.

In 2017 and 2018, AST had an average of 35 participants from around the world. They represented social entrepreneurs, foundations, corporate foundations, nonprofits, academia, and government agencies. Our cohorts had a varied degree of experiences including a former diplomat from El Salvador, to someone starting her career at a corporate foundation, to a nonprofit organization leader and everyone in between. Participants came from across the United States as well as from Australia, Barbados, Egypt, El Salvador, India, and Greece. W

Our dynamic, interdisciplinary cohort will:

  • Take a critical look at how think-tanks, experts and organizations are observing and projecting large-scale issues and how they innovate, take risks, and adapt to societal change.
  • Participate in these critical conversations and apply learnings to help you grow as an effective agent of social transformation.

Leadership & Faciiltation

AST is curated and facilitated by Dr. Akhtar Badshah a seasoned executive with over 30 years of experience in international development. Akhtar managed Microsoft’s philanthropic program for a decade, and co-founded a global nonprofit for social enterprise. Badshah teaches at the University of Washington and has taught Architecture and Urban Development at MIT. He is a published author, and an acclaimed international speaker.

Contact: Akhtar Badshah at

AST is offered through the University of Washington Bothell School of Business and the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Policy & Governance, in partnership with the Catalytic Innovators Group. The course will also feature guidance from world class change-makers from the Seattle area who are having both local and global impact.

AST’s aim is to cultivate ASTers’ strengths and skills to help them maximize their social impact. Below are AST-inspired projects that developed as a result of ASTers’ action plans, their learnings throughout the course, and the partnerships they have formed with one another.

Pamela Kilborn-Miller

Pamela Kilborn-Miller, ASTer ‘17, is building a national campaign to strengthen our democracy for the 2018 & 2020 elections. As program director, she’s currently partnering with PBS member station KCTS 9 and the UW DataLab on a pilot project to determine if quick, creative, and non-partisan Public Service Announcements (PSAs) can reduce the spread of fake news among eligible voters in the United States. If successful, “We the People PSAs” will be crowdsourced as part of a growing national media and academic partnership that currently includes the Society of Professional Journalists.

Estrada Colón

Estrada Colón, ASTer ‘17, is piloting Microsoft Translator at the Matt Griffin YMCA, the most diverse Y in King County. She is testing whether Microsoft Translator can bridge the language gaps between members (who speak 16+ languages) and Y staff. If successful, the pilot will help members and staff better understand each other’s needs. Thanks to AST’er Diane Wagner for the introduction of this tool to the YMCA.

Terrence Nevins

Terrence Nevins, ASTer ‘17, has launched the 4% Community Collaboration Challenge in the greater Puget Sound region to boost millennial engagement that will result in 11,000 millennials finding a volunteer opportunity where their talents, skills and ambition are appreciated.

Marsha Kabakov

Marsha Kabakov, training director for the National CASA Association, is working with Cindy Bonfini-Hotlosz (they met in the AST cohort) from Centreity Learning Systems. Their initial project is a proof of concept to improve CASA’s web based training. The ultimate goal is a scalable learning program for the national network of CASA programs (Court Appointed Special Advocates). Their target of learners are 88,000 citizen volunteers in the CASA movement who advocate in over 900 court jurisdictions nationwide to bring best interest advocacy and stability to 250,00 abused and neglected children in the United States annually. In Marsha’s vision for the longer term is a comprehensive learning program based on a distributed learning environment and best interest advocacy curriculum that is sustainable and responsive to changing clinical and legal trends in child welfare.

Timos Plastas

Timos Plastas (Head of Microsoft Philanthropies in Central & Eastern Europe) connected Chitra Hanstad (Executive Director, World Relief Seattle) to various NGO’s working on the refugee crisis in Athens, Greece. This proved very timely as Chitra was in Davos, Switzerland where she worked with a Hong Kong based Foundation to conduct a “refugee experience simulation” for participants of the World Economic Forum. After Davos, Chitra visited Athens and Lesbos Island where Timos introduced her to several (Microsoft Philanthropies funded) Greek run non-profits that are having a meaningful impact on local refugee women and children. Since the Greek visit, facilitated by Timos, both Chitra and the Greek Executive Directors she met have learned a lot from each other and, furthermore, have been able to transfer that knowledge back to their respective offices and staff. This cross-pollination of ideas has further energized and equipped them and their teams to serve refugees more powerfully.

“As a mentor in the Accelerating Social Transformation professional course, I met an incredibly high caliber of passionate individuals. They are ready to take on more challenging roles or pursue new career avenues. Their participation in the course has given them new insights, exposed them to innovative techniques and prepared them to lead national or worldwide initiatives. Companies, institutions and leaders should be drawing talent from Accelerating Social Transformation immediately.”
— Dana Manciagli, President, Job Search Master Class®, Global Career Expert

“From the moment I arrived in Seattle I realized I was in for the learning experience of a lifetime with a unique and special window into the world of philanthropy and the world of practitioners of social transformation. The potential for tension and power imbalance between these two is real but Akhtar curated an experience that allowed us to both hold that tension and the potential for the good that can come together when the multi-sectors come together and “taste the ground” together. This course surpassed my expectations.”
— Ann Verhey-Henk, Managing Director, Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship, University of Michigan School Of Public Health, Aster ’17

“Accelerating Social Transformation is a one-of-a-kind program, providing participants with the rare opportunity to learn from a diverse group of experts, apply knowledge directly to their work, and collaborate with peers through engaging conversations.

Those of us currently working within the social impact space are doing so at a time like no other. AST was strategically built around 4 key changes taking place: changes in philanthropic giving and funding models, impact and the value of SROI, exponential growth in technologies available, and discussions around effective scale and systems level change. The benefits of AST vastly exceed the 3- day course, by creating a network of change-agents, it was just the start, partnerships were built and conversations sparked that will continue for years to come.”
— Melissa Edmiston, MPH, Vice President of Operations, Mavuno, Aster ’17

“Accelerating Social Transformation was an eye opener and unique. The leadership of Akhtar Badshah was inspiring, amazing power of collaboration, high level Networking and sharing of real time experiences. The speakers gathered under one platform was commendable. This program is a must who sets his/her mind to change the world for better”
— Naila Chowdhury, Director, Social Impact and Innovation, University of California, San Diego, Aster ’17

“Participating in the inaugural Accelerating Social Transformation professional course has helped set me up for success in my new role to lead national skills initiatives for Microsoft Australia. The opportunity to meet so many creative, compassionate and intelligent people working to make a positive impact in our world was inspiring, and the structure and content of the course strongly facilitated deep learning for action.”
— Dr. Eva Balan-Vnuk, National Skills Program Lead and State Director South Australia, Microsoft Australia