The four winners of the Zugabe Prize are, from left to right: Dr. Thilo Bode, Elke Schilling, Dr. Gerhard Dust, Dr. Bernd Krahl.
Photo credit: Körber Foundation

The German Körber Foundation believes that longevity is a historical opportunity for individuals and for society. Inspired by the Purpose Prize — an award created by and now run by AARP — the Foundation brought that idea to life last year, launching a prize recognizing older social entrepreneurs. Its honorees, all 60+, receive an award of €60,000.

This year, the Foundation awarded four 60+ social entrepreneurs. They are:

Elke Schilling, 75, founder of Silbernetz. Following a UK pilot, Schilling successfully created a German hotline to connect older adults and fight loneliness. The program offers immediate help via phone, creates friendships and informs users about local events and activities. Now a national effort, Silbernetz has proved its value in fostering connections as social distancing rules were implemented to combat Covid-19.

Dr. Gerhard Durst, 68, founder of PolyCare Research Technology, an organization that provides a sustainable method to produce low-cost housing using sand. The organization strengthens local self-help housing programs, creates jobs and supports fast and efficient building after natural disasters and in poor communities. Its Namibia program has hired 40 local employees and creates affordable housing in African townships.

Dr. Thilo Bode, 72, former CEO of Greenpeace international, is founder and executive director of Foodwatch, a European consumer rights advocacy group. The organization investigates manufacturers´ marketing and packaging claims, comments on food-related legislation, advocates with policymakers and companies, and mobilizes citizens. Its goal is to assure consumer rights to adequate food, healthy products and transparent information.

Dr. Bernd Krahl, 72, creator of “Ambulanticum Herdecke.” Having suffered from two strokes, Krahl saw the need for enhanced, cross-disciplinary treatment options for patients who have reached the end of conventional therapy. The organization provides a therapeutic center where children and adults, who suffer from multiple sclerosis, paraplegia, severe head injuries or strokes are treated with innovative technologies by a multidisciplinary team of experts.

Karin Haist leads the Foundation’s projects in demography and aging, including the Zugabe Prize. She shared background on the program and its impact in this Q&A. 

What was the Foundation’s goal in launching the prize program, and how does it fit into the Foundation’s mission?
In 2018 we implemented the “Zugabe-prize“. By putting the spotlight on senior social entrepreneurs we wanted to contribute to shaping new and differentiated images and narratives of later life. We also wanted to empower people beyond midlife to start their encore career. The German word “Zugabe” means “encore” – and the name is very much based on the model of and its former Purpose Prize. We award prizes to people 60+ who – like our founder Kurt A. Körber – use their entrepreneurial spirit to find solutions for the social challenges of our time. When we tell their stories we can demonstrate that making the world a better place is possible at every age.

What impact have you seen as a result of the process?
What struck us from the beginning: When we launched the Zugabe-Prize in September, 2018, nearly 100 stakeholders joined our KickOff event – social impact representatives, demographers, business professionals, academics, policymakers and civil society experts from all over Germany. They were truly interested in establishing a community for the constant exchange about the potential of older people and a new narrative of ageing. Regular meetings of this community have become part of our activities.

The public and the media were very interested in getting to know our 2019 honorees. Media coverage has continued since we announced the winners. There was also great interest in our survey on the social potential of  50 to 75 year-olds in Germany. The data proved that people over the age of 50 are interested in socially relevant topics and are willing to start new impact-oriented activities. It also showed that older adults have the life experience, subject matter expertise, skills and time to found organizations. Their stories will help to convince others to follow their example!

Where can people go to learn more about the Foundation?
Read about the Foundation and its activities here. For more information about the Zugabe Prize, contact Karin Haist at [email protected].


Published April 13, 2020

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