Bill Drayton is a social entrepreneur. In elementary school, Bill loved geography and history and was equally unmotivated in Latin and math. His real passion in those years went to sailing, and starting and running a series of newspapers in his school and beyond. In high school he created and built the Asia Society into the largest student organization. By high school he was also a NAACP member and actively engaged in and deeply moved by civil rights work. At Harvard he founded the Ashoka Table, an interdisciplinary weekly forum in the social sciences. While at Yale Law School, he launched Yale Legislative Services which, by the time he graduated, engaged one third of the student body in helping key legislators throughout the northeast design and draft legislation.
He graduated from Harvard with highest honors and went on to study at Balliol College in Oxford University, where he attained his M.A. with First Class Honors.
Bill is also a manager and management consultant - choices that also grow from his fascination with how human institutions work. Although he loves and thinks first in historical terms, he is trained in economics, law, and management, the three key interventionist disciplines. After he graduated from Yale Law School in 1970, Bill began his career as a consultant with McKinsey and Company in New York, gaining wide experience serving both public and private clients.
From 1977 to 1981, Bill served as Assistant Administrator at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency where he had lead responsibility in representing the environment in Administration-wide policy development, notably including budget, energy, and economic policy. He successfully "intrapreneured" a series of major innovations and reforms in the field, ranging from the introduction of emissions trading (the basis of Kyoto) to the use of economics-defined incentives to remove the advantage of delaying compliance.
After his term at the EPA ended in 1981, he returned to McKinsey half-time and launched both Ashoka and Save EPA (an association of professional environmental managers that helped the Congress, press, administration, citizen groups, and public understand and the block much of the radically destructive policies proposed by the Administrator Ann Gorsuch and others). Bill also founded and led Environmental Safety (which helps develop and spread better ways of implementing environmental laws).
With the support that he received unexpectedly when elected a MacArthur Fellow in 1984, he was able to devote himself fully to Ashoka. Bill is currently the Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public. He is also chair of Youth Venture, Community Greens, and Get America Working!
Bill has received many awards for his achievements. He has received Yale School of Management's annual Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence. The American Society of Public Administration and the National Academy of Public Administration jointly awarded him their National Public Service Award, and Common Cause awarded him its Public Service Achievement Award. In 2005, he was selected one of America's Best Leaders by US News & World Report and Harvard's Center for Public Leadership. In the same month he was awarded Yale Law School's highest alumni honor, The Yale Law School Award of Merit - for having made a substantial contribution to Public Service. In 2006, he was recognized as being one of Harvard University's 100 "Most Influential Alumni." In 2007, he was awarded Duke University Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship's (CASE) Leadership in Social Entrepreneurship Award, the University of Pennsylvania Law School's 2007 Honorary Fellow Award, the Goi Peace Foundation's Peace Award, and Yale Doctorate of Humane Letters in 2009.