Purpose Prize winners: 10 years of extraordinary encore stories

This year’s Purpose Prize winners were announced today by Encore.org, marking the 10th anniversary of these extraordinary awards.

I’ve always thought of the Purpose Prize as the Macarthur genius award for people approaching retirement age. Since 2006, Encore.org has awarded more than $5 million to more than 500 prize winners and Purpose Prize fellows. This year, six winners received cash prizes of $100,000 or $25,000 – a total of $225,000. The award recognizes trailblazers over age 60 who have tackled social problems creatively and effectively.

The life story of one of the winners this year, filmmaker and artist Jamal Joseph, has a breathtaking arc.

Joseph grew up in the Bronx in foster care; at age 15 he joined the Black Panthers, where he received his education in social justice. Incarcerated twice for Panther-related activities, he experimented with “artivism” while in prison, reveling in the power of theater to bring opposing prison factions together. Years after his release, the gunshot death of a boy in his neighborhood inspired Joseph to create IMPACT Repertory Theatre, a refuge for Harlem youth to learn creative arts and leadership skills. To date, IMPACT has worked with thousands of kids, helping them experience success academically and personally in the wider world.

This year’s other winners include a journalist who became an advocate for children with disabilities warehoused in abusive institutions around the world, an innovator in micro-lending and an Episcopal priest who created a music program aimed at addressing suicide and substance abuse among Alaskan native youth. You can learn about this year’s winners at Encore.org, and read my short profile of Jamal Joseph in my Reuters column today.

Here’s a link to everything on this site about encore careers – and below, you’ll find a short video on Jamal Joseph’s inspiring work.

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