Purpose Prize Honors 60+ Innovators

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December 7, 2012; Source: Dowser

Encore.org, the nonprofit dedicated to helping people pursue “encore careers” for social impact in the second half of life, has announced the winners of their 2012 Purpose Prize awards. The awards come with $100,000 grants to social innovators who are over the age of 60. The Purpose Prize has been honoring individuals addressing social good in their work for seven years, and the John Templeton Foundation and the Atlantic Philanthropies help fund the grant opportunity, which is billed as the “only large-scale investment in people over 60” in the United States. This year’s winners are:

  • Bhagwati (B.P.) Agrawal, executive director of Sustainable Innovations Inc., for using his engineering skills to set up systems of collecting rainwater in India during the monsoon season that can provide a year’s worth of safe drinking water;
  • Susan Burton, founder and executive director of A New Way of Life Reentry Project, for helping women rebuild their lives after imprisonment, which begins by seeing that recently-released ex-prisoners are immediately shuttled to her nonprofit’s doors rather than being dropped off at Los Angeles’ Skid Row with some money and no place to go;
  • Judy Cockerton, founder and executive director of the Treehouse Foundation, for finding innovative ways to connect people to helping foster children beyond just adoption, such as serving as “honorary grandparents;”
  • Thomas Cox, a pro bono lawyer working with Maine Attorneys Saving Homes, who discovered and called attention to mortgage lenders’ practice of “robo-signing” in Massachusetts, helping to bring about the recent $25 billion national mortgage crisis settlement with large banks; and
  • Lorraine Decker, co-founder and president of Skills For Living Inc. for expending her financial planning skills to assist Houston-area low income families with comprehensive financial, career and college-planning workshops, including the Game of Real Life, a 120-hour course for disadvantaged teens that reports impressive results.

Social innovation is often associated with younger generations, but Encore.org Executive Director Jim Emerman created the Purpose Prize “as a refutation of the notion that creativity is something that is exclusive to 20, 30 and 40-year-olds.” Dowser’s Lindsay Hebert interviewed Emerman and asked if Encore.org observed any trends among the applicants this year. Emerman said that the most common issue applicants were battling was the financial crisis and the economy, which is no surprise to NPQ. NPQ has previously noted the work of Encore.org here. –Aine Creedon