We’ve changed our name from Encore.org to CoGenerate! Join us at cogenerate.org to bridge generational divides and co-create the future.

We’ve changed our name from Encore.org to CoGenerate! Join us at cogenerate.org to bridge generational divides and co-create the future.

In a new piece, former Disney CEO Michael D. Eisner and I argue that the “graying” of America is an extraordinary opportunity to be seized, not a problem to be solved. The piece is already generating significant affirmation: Since going live on Friday, it was picked by the Aspen Institute as one of their Five Best Ideas of the Day and featured on Time.com.

Our assertion challenges a common refrain in the media and elite policy circles: The steady drumbeat about coming conflict between young and old, as rising numbers of “greedy geezers” purportedly spell disaster for future generations. Instead of leading to a war pitting “kids vs. canes,” we believe that collaboration across generations is possible, natural and essential. In particular, we are convinced that the vast and growing human capital present in the older population can be rallied to strengthen the education and development of young people, particularly children growing up in poverty.

For me, this potential is anything but abstract: It was in full and palpable display during the creation and expansion of Experience Corps, Encore.org’s founding project. Experience Corps grew out of former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare (and founding Encore.org board member) John W. Gardner’s dream: He named the program and described it as “operation give back,” an effort to match the untapped time, talent and experience of individuals in their 60s, 70s and beyond with the most pressing problems of society. Experience Corps launched in 1996 in close collaboration with Dr. Linda Fried, then of Johns Hopkins Medical School, and Tom Endres of the Corporation for National and Community Service, with a strong focus on mentoring low-income children in elementary schools. Since then, Experience Corps has come to focus on reading in the early grades, grown to include schools in 22 American cities and established a remarkable record of impact on the children involved, on the schools where these teams of individuals over 50 are placed, and on the Experience Corps members themselves. (Today, Experience Corps is a project of AARP.)

These successes answer a fundamental question: Where are the human beings to do those things only humans can do – like forge lasting, powerful relationships with those in the next generation? Much of the response can be found in the over-50 population, arguably the nation’s only increasing natural resource.

So many of these individuals are eager not only to leave a legacy, but to live one. They are waiting to be tapped. Indeed, the experience assets of millions of these individuals and the needs of so many young people fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. The challenge now is to summon the imagination—and the will–to realize this opportunity, and to do so at a scale commensurate with the possibilities.

All best,

Marc

PS Please take the time to read the piece and play a part in this essential conversation: Leave your thoughts in comments on the article, and if you are so inclined, please share it widely with your friends, family and social networks.

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