Four Encore Innovations from Across the Pond

I recently made a quick trip to London on personal business and took advantage of an extra day to visit with several folks leading innovative projects in the encore space. The more I heard from them, the more I wanted to hear!

I’m thinking now about what we can learn from these four projects. Would love your reactions, questions and the lessons you think we can glean.

Give More/Get More. I met first with Vicki Sellick, an Innovation Lab Director at NESTA, a UK foundation focused on “new ideas to tackle the big challenges of our time.” I was lucky to visit their spanking new offices—simple and functional but stunningly located on the Victoria Embankment.

Vicki leads several initiatives, all connected to government innovation focused on getting people to help one another. One, called Give More/Get More, is a pilot using older adults as “intensive volunteers.” The first grants went to five nonprofits — organizations like Beanstalk, a literacy charity — that took on 100 volunteers each. The vision is to grow exponentially and to have 50, then 100 organizations each using at least 100 volunteers. They are dreaming big!

Second Half Fund. Another project that especially resonated with me is the Second Half Fund, which is funded half by NESTA and half by the government’s Office for Civil Society. This fund makes grants for innovations that mobilize the time and talents of people in the second half of their lives to work alongside and assist public-sector services. The first set of grants have just been made, including one to a group that trains older people for various roles in crisis response.

NESTA plans to keep awarding these grants, and at the same time build a narrative-change campaign about the impact these older adults are having. We are big fans of this project and think it has many parallels with our new Encore Prize. I’m delighted that Vicki will attend the first Encore Prize awards ceremony this fall in Boston.

Age of No Retirement. I also spent time with Jonathan Collie, co-founder of Age of No Retirement. His vision is to create a world where age does not define us. He is an articulate, out-of-the box thinker who believes that that the radical change he seeks will require “disruption — not incrementalism.” So the guiding question for him and his organization is, “What can we do that is bold?”

In the short space of its existence, Jonathan’s organization has held several well-attended conferences, run design workshops, worked with large organizations to break down age boundaries, developed intergenerational design principles, coined the phrase “the extra 10” (referring to the longevity bonus) and much more. They are experimenting, innovating and disrupting at a gallop, and I look forward to seeing what they do next.

Now Teach. On the same busy day, I met with Lucy Kellaway, who for many years has been my very favorite columnist. Writing for the Financial Times, she deftly skewers corporate jargon and other inanities in the business world.

Last fall, Lucy stunned her readership by announcing that she was leaving her full-time position to start Now Teach, an organization that will train older adults to teach science, math and languages to students in at-risk London schools. The first cohort will comprise 40 new teachers, and Lucy will be among them, teaching “maths.”

Lucy and her mighty team of three have camped out at the offices of ARK, a UK education nonprofit and partner. The day I visited, we met over the employee café table from which they work. The energy was palpable as they interviewed finalists to get to the founding cohort of 40 (winnowed from 1,000 applications). Those waiting nervously downstairs were all dressed in suits and had an average of 20 years on the youthful ARK employees.

We had a wide-ranging conversation that started with Lucy’s inspiration to make this leap: her father’s death last spring, as well as her daughter’s experience with Teach First. She said that many of the strong candidates had similar “trigger experiences,” often including a death in the family, that pushed them to seek purpose-driven work.

At the end of our meeting, I asked Lucy what success would look like in five years. She said she hopes 70 percent of the recruits will be great teachers and will stick with it.

Why not 100 percent? “That would mean we weren’t taking enough risk,” she replied.

Hats off to the Now Teach team. We’ll be rooting for them over here!

What can we learn from these four innovative projects? Send me your thoughts at [email protected].