Civic Ventures, a think tank in San Francisco, recently announced the 15 finalists for the 2007 Purpose Prize, which recognizes social innovators over the age of 60. The John Templeton Foundation and Atlantic Philanthropies fund the three-year, $9 million program, now in its second year. Each finalist receives at least $10,000 in prize money and five of them $100,000.
Civic Ventures co-founder Marc Freedman, author of Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life, enthusiastically espouses the influence aging baby boomers can have on society through “engaged retirement.” “As the first wave of America’s 77 million baby boomers turn 60, the Purpose Prize winners are doing what society least expects people over 60 to do: innovate,” says Freedman.
Prize finalist Wilma Melville of Ojai, California, has helped save lives in some of the country’s worst disasters, including 9/11 and Katrina, with the 85 search-and-rescue dogs she rescued from animal shelters. Ray Anderson of Atlanta, Georgia, has developed effective conservation practices for businesses that also increase profits. World War II bomber pilot Gene Jones of Tucson, Arizona, created a K-8 education program that uses current brain research to integrate music into core curricula as a means of boosting academic achievement. Begun in three schools, his program currently operates in 36 schools and involves 17,000 students in the Tucson area.
Other finalists include Gloria Jackson Bacon of Chicago, Illinois; Donald Berwick of Cambridge, Massachusetts; Sally Bingham of San Francisco, California; Phil Borges of Seattle, Washington; Richard Cherry of New York City; Adele Douglass of Herndon, Virginia; Jose-Pablo Fernandez of Houston, Texas; Sara J. Gonzalez of Atlanta, Georgia; Gordon Johnson of Daytona Beach, Florida; Marian Kramer of Detroit, Michigan; Gary Maxworthy of San Francisco, California; and Sharon Rohrbach of St. Louis, Missouri.
The Purpose Prize program also arranges educational and networking opportunities for senior-citizen leaders. Civic Ventures invites current and past prize finalists, along with over 100 Purpose Prize Fellows, to its annual Innovation Summit at the Stanford Center for Social Innovation in November.
The Purpose Prize’s five winners will be announced in September, and nominations open for the 2008 Purpose Prize in October.
Sabbatical Grants for Nonprofit Leaders
Some nonprofit leaders are receiving much-needed sabbaticals, thanks to a handful of foundations and other organizations.
Most existing sabbatical grant programs are intended for the pursuance of solutions to problems in grantees’ organizations or respective fields. The Community Sabbatical Research Leave Program, co-sponsored by the Humanities Institute and University of Texas’s Professional Development and Community Engagement Program, facilitates a unique educational opportunity for grant recipients. Grantees are eligible to participate in either a 160-hour or 80-hour commitment with direct stipends of $5,000 or $2,500 respectively. The program additionally gives the non-profit participants a “UT faculty collaborator, a circle of interested UT researchers, and access to the university’s resources” to assist the academic process.
Yet some programs are less concerned with research and simply aim to provide nonprofit personnel with some much-needed R&R. The California Wellness Foundation (TCWF) Sabbatical Program contains no provisions for research or project development from the nonprofit health staff who qualify. The three- to six-month sabbaticals aim to “improve the long-term effectiveness of health service nonprofits by providing their executives with the rest they need to continue to direct their organizations’ missions.” Not only are the $30,000 grants given to the grantees’ organizations to cover salaries, organizations are additionally eligible for up to $5,000 for the “professional development of staff members who will assume extra responsibilities during the sabbatical period.”
The Barr Foundation’s Fellows program takes a slightly different approach. It concentrates on combating the tendency of leaders to become isolated “within their organizations, their fields and their geographies.” Twelve selected leaders network with one another continually over the three-year-long program, which consists of a three-month sabbatical and five group retreats, concluding with a two-week trip to southern Africa where the group is immersed “in an entirely different learning context where Fellows are free to think differently.”
Encouraging Youth Entrepreneurship
In a recent New York Times article, Tyler Cowen, general director of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, reports on the United States’ unusually high business start-up rate among 18- to 24-year-olds. Cowen attributes young Americans’ entrepreneurial interests to “the commercial, competitive, philanthropic, nonegalitarian and open nature of American society,” as well as the perception that entrepreneurship is a high-reward, autonomous and thrilling endeavor.
Some philanthropists are finding ways to encourage this entrepreneurial trend through youth entrepreneur leadership programs. The National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), supported in part by the Shelby Cullom Davis Foundation and Coleman Foundation, has reached over 80,000 low-income youths through its “mini-MBA” programs.
Cowen believes children’s direct use of products widely known to be creations of young entrepreneurs, such as Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook, has led them to hold entrepreneurship in high regard. Philanthropists have thus found that they can supplement entrepreneurship’s fame by implementing campaigns of their own that reach youth through media outlets.
The Kauffman Foundation’s “youth entrepreneurship awareness” initiatives tap into the Internet to connect with and educate potential business leaders of tomorrow. The foundation created Hot Shot Business, an Internet simulation game created in tandem with Disney Online, which blends “fun game play with real-world lessons to teach kids entrepreneurial concepts and skills.” The program was partly inspired by a Kauffman Foundation study which “found that 41 percent of kids ages 9 to 12 would like to start their own business, but don’t know how.”