It is an uplifting and sea-changing sign of the times: Today’s New York Times headline – and among the ten most frequently emailed - is a must-share. Starting Over, With a Second Career Goal of Changing Society, describes an experimental - and experiential - leadership program initiated by Harvard University this week designed for midlifers. It’s goal is to help those of us evaluating our choices at the second half of life to take our skills and experience, and to focus them on what matters most to us. In this case, to become effective social entrepreneurs and impact social problems like poverty, health, education and the environment.

According to the piece, more than 5 million of us between the ages of 44 to 70 have already shifted into work with social impact after our first careers, in education, health care, and nonprofits. In addition, half of us, to include models extraordinaire, Bill Gates and Bill Clinton, are seeking an ‘encore career’ that has social impact.

The first group in the program, called the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative, include a physician, computer executive, astronaut and former government officials and ministers. Their end of year project will be to produce a business plan of action that brings together their experience, skills and network together and concentrates it on an area of social need.
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Program directors developing course materials and case studies, say their yardstick for success will be the number of universities who emulate this “third stage” of education as a new model of lifelong learning and development. There is a strong sense that this model must become part of the 21st-century educational plan, beyond undergraduate, graduate and professional schools. They want to make the case that experience matters. Yes!

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