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In the past 100+ years, average life expectancy has grown by decades. That's real progress, and yet longer lives aren't available to all. How can we ensure that the longevity revolution lifts all boats rather than contributing to the inequalities that now exist? How can we ensure that additional years are added to the prime of life so we can enjoy them? Most importantly, how can we ensure that longer lives benefit not just individuals but society at large?

The Encore Public Voices Fellowship will amplify the voices of 20 thought leaders speaking out about the years beyond midlife, often referred to as the encore stage of life. Participants will explore what must change to establish the encore life stage as a time for personal renewal and social good. Participants will be provided with extraordinary support, skills and mentoring to ensure their ideas shape the greater public conversation.

We are looking for community and business leaders, activists, entrepreneurs, writers, educators, researchers and other thinkers. We are looking for a diverse mix of people in terms of age, race, religion, sector and areas of expertise or focus.

The Encore Public Voices fellowship is a collaboration among The OpEd ProjectEncore.org, and Ann MacDougall.

  • Encore.org is an innovation hub that taps the talents of the 50+ population as a force for good, ultimately creating a better future for future generations.

  • The OpEd Project is a think tank and leadership organization that expands history by accelerating the ideas and public impact of underrepresented voices, including women.

  • Ann MacDougall, the former president of Encore.org, will serve as a senior advisor to the Encore Public Voices Fellowship.

  • Our Advisory Council is comprised of a small group of outstanding social innovators and media professionals. Founding members are Ellen Goodman (Chair); Mary C. Curtis; Katie Orenstein; Trabian Shorters; Sree Sreenivasan, Ken Dychtwald, and Lester Strong.They will advise on strategy, recruitment of candidates and fellow selection and will potentially participate in training.


The Public Voices Fellowship is part of a prestigious national initiative to change who writes history. Launched by The OpEd Project in collaboration with fifteen powerful institutional partners, including Yale, Northwestern, and the Ford Foundation (and a dozen others), we have had extraordinary success accelerating the ideas and impact of new and underrepresented voices at the highest levels in their fields, including overwhelmingly women of all backgrounds. More information about The Public Voices Fellowship initiative is here and a video is here.


  • Year-long program

  • Up to 20 fellows

  • Four interactive day-long seminars in NYC designed to expand thinking and deepen expertise (dates are: Thursday, September 26, 2019 (9am-5pm) and Friday, September 27, 2019 (9am-1pm), Tuesday, December 3, 2019 (9am-4pm), Friday, March 6, 2020 (9am-4pm), Friday, May 8, 2020 (9am-4pm)

  • Dedicated editors (top journalists) to provide regular, hands-on, one-on-one support/editing/coaching

  • Access to big thinkers and media insiders as the occasion arises (past guests have represented TED, NYT, CNN, Wikipedia)

  • Access to ongoing mentoring for the fellowship year

  • Travel stipends for those who need them

→Application information

Anyone may apply. Fellows will be chosen through a competitive selection process, based on their history and track record of work, and the belief of our advisory team that, with proper support, they can change cultural narrative. 

  • We’re now looking for the next big thinkers. So please share this opportunity widely and/or apply yourself today. The deadline for applications is June 26, 2019.

  • Application is here.

↓ The Encore Framework

A new stage beyond midlife is emerging all across the globe. Created by longer lives, the new stage goes by many names – the “young-old,” “Stage X,” the Third Age or the encore stage of life.

There is an emerging conversation about this stage as a time to find renewal, new paths and new ways to make a difference. It’s a stage that offers great societal potential, as an army of later-life advocates can serve as a renewable resource to tackle the challenges our country – and the world – are facing today.

With 10,000 people turning 65 each day, we are at a watershed moment. If we dial up the attention on this remarkable population, we have a chance to change both the conversation and reality around this new life stage, not just for the enormous cohort of baby boomers, but also for generations to come.

That said, there are barriers to this exciting vision. Ageism remains pervasive. Government policy has not been innovative or supportive of policies or programs to prepare experienced people for new social impact roles. And many in this stage are members of the sandwich generation – juggling support of children and young adults while caring for elderly family members. There are scant pathways and opportunities for individuals to get from their main life’s work to a new chapter, often called an encore career. Finally, many people in this life stage are not experiencing longer lives or find themselves in difficult financial circumstances, without the resources to weather later life.

Encore.org has been a leader in this space for the past two decades, working to normalize the idea of people in this life stage as a force for social good. Encore has built awareness of the potential of this stage of life both in the U.S. and increasingly around the world. Scores of leaders (the vanguard of an emerging encore movement) are now engaged in thought leadership in this area. But this issue has not yet become part of a mainstream, public conversation. Rather, it is driven by a small chorus of people who mostly know of one another and are not reflective of the diversity of our population. The average man or woman on the street has yet to give this idea much thought.

↓ Program Goals

Most of us are familiar with the most prevalent description of older adults today. People of a certain age are seen as a problem, either retiring and devouring the resources of the system, or staying in the workplace and clogging the pipeline for frustrated younger generations. We aim to provide the megaphone for a new narrative.

We need to hear about this new life stage from an expanded group of people experiencing it or working to change its nature. This conversation needs more voices from communities of color, faith communities, the business and government sectors – and more attention. This arena deserves a level of public dialogue comparable to what is now happening in the #MeToo space.

If we fail to elevate this conversation and drive innovation around this new life stage, we will face an unprecedented waste of available talent, as well as legions of people without the skills and resources to weather old age and social isolation.

The Encore Public Voices Fellowship will seek to amplify a new narrative, by selecting a cohort of fellows with a credible personal and/or professional connection to this life stage. We will measure success by the number of published pieces and unique readers, and we will also collect anecdotal examples of impact (e.g. high-profile speaking opportunities).

Longer term, we aim to create a circle of supporters that will help launch new cohorts in subsequent years, with a thriving and connected group of alums from the Encore Public Voices Fellows group. Also in future years, we aim to develop success measures beyond just outputs.


Candidates should have a demonstrated interest in transforming the second half of life into a time of purpose, meaningful work and community. We are seeking people exploring issues and solutions arising from a central question: What needs to happen to allow everyone to find purpose and engagement in the second half of life? Fellows can explore this question from a wide range of angles and experience.

Fellows can also explore related questions, like these:

  • How do we reposition our active older population as a benefit to society, rather than a problem or drain on society? Said differently, how do we use an “asset frame” rather than a "deficit frame” for this population?
  • How can we learn and connect with other social justice movements that use similar approaches (e.g. disability, race, gender)?
  • How can we effectively deal with ageism?
  • What is the interplay between the current low unemployment rate and older workers staying employed or getting hired?
  • What innovative solutions are large companies using to tap the experience of their older workers? How are employers innovating around reskilling and transitional pathways for their late career employees?
  • How are institutions (e.g companies, unions, faith organizations, municipalities, cities) supporting their older members in doing good works in the community?
  • What is the local/state/federal government’s role in supporting and enabling meaningful work opportunities in the second half of life?
  • How can caregiving responsibilities and financial struggles be squared with the desire of so many older workers to do purpose-driven work later in life?
  • What does “aging well” look like in under-resourced communities? In communities of color?
  • How can we create more intergenerational connections -- in work, community, housing, education -- in ways that tap the talents of all generations?
  • What can we learn from outside the United States?

↓ Frequently Asked Questions

  • What kind of time commitment is involved? Fellows attend four in-person convenings. The first convening is 1.5 days, the remaining convenings are one day in duration. Fellows also commit to producing at least two op-eds or other form of concrete thought leadership in the public sphere during the fellowship year. There is no minimum time commitment, however we expect fellows to approach this experience in a meaningful and purposeful way, with appreciation for the extraordinary resources and talent being invested in them. Some fellows work a lot (several hours or more every week) because they want big and consistent results. Others work in waves, communicating in advance with their journalist mentor around a more flexible schedule, that may include intense bursts of activity at periodic intervals. Both options are fine, as long as communication is clear. We know that we are all busy professionals who have a full plate. Our aim is to use time with radical efficiency and maximum meaning, making it possible to achieve remarkable results in an amount of time that would otherwise be impossible.
  • Will the Fellows have mentors? Yes. Each of the fellows is assigned a journalist mentor from our team. Generally there are two journalist mentors assigned to each fellowship, each of whom mentors ten fellows (they may switch or swap during the year, for maximum impact). Additional facilitators and journalists may attend the in-person convenings.
  • Will there be individual meetings with our journalist mentors? Yes. Journalist mentors will meet fellows at the four in-person convenings. Following the first convening, they will kick off the fellowship by setting up one-on-one calls with each of their fellows, in the weeks following the first convening. Beyond this, there are no required individual meetings. In most cases, fellows will work with their mentors virtually (email, phone or Google hangout) in between convenings.
  • What can I expect from my mentor? In general, you can expect meaningful and timely support from your mentor, but not 24/7 support. Like you, we have other jobs (we are journalists, and we have other things cooking) but you can count on us to be in your corner on the regular. You can expect your mentor to provide editorial support and coaching for a diversity of ideas, including those with which s/he may disagree (unless the gap is too large to work together, in which case we will swap mentors). You can expect your mentor to respond to your emails within 24 hours (except on weekends), although not necessarily with edits. You can expect edits within a timely period, usually within a few days. An exception is if you have a ticking bomb of an idea, in which case our team will bend over backwards to edit faster. You can also expect advice and support with pitching at the start of the fellowship, when our team will typically pitch for you and CC you; as we progress, you can expect us to provide advice on pitching, as you begin to increasingly pitch yourself.
  • What will my mentor expect from me? We expect fellows to treat us like colleagues, not employees (better yet, if it's real, treat us as friends). We expect fellows to be fully present for all four convenings, start to finish, and to bring your most challenging and most meaningful ideas to the table. We expect you to engage with us and with each other, and to respond in a timely manner to our communications (which are designed to support you, and will not be intrusive or overwhelming). We expect you tosend us your draft op-ends, on the regular. As a condition for acceptance into this fellowship, you committed to producing at least two op-eds, therefore we expect you to send us at least two viable drafts, and hopefully many more. We expect you to give back to your fellowship cohort: to engage, challenge and support the other fellows in this fellowship by sharing ideas, challenges, learnings and successes with the group, in the way you see best, whenever possible.
  • We were asked to commit to writing at least two op-eds. Will these be submitted to media outlets? Yes. All fellows commit to producing at least two op-eds or other concrete "thought leadership" results in the public sphere (for example, a TED talk, an essay or blog post, a speech, etc). Our journalist mentors will help fellows pitch in the initial month or two of the fellowship, and in later months will guide fellows in pitching themselves, on their own. Statistically, many fellows will produce more than two pieces.
  • Can one work in other types of public media in order to be considered, beyond print (op-ed, essays)? Yes. Fellows are welcome to focus on any concrete thought leadership outcomes they wish, across any media platform they like, whether written, broadcast, online, public speaking, or something else. The purpose of this commitment to concrete outcomes is simply to ensure we are putting ideas into the public sphere, and not merely talking about it.
  • Will there be opportunities targeting multi-media, video or live camera appearances? Yes. We will discuss and may experiment with multiple media and thought leadership platforms. In some fellowship we may bring in video or other multi-media teams for live experiments (details are outlined in the onramping materials we send to each institution). The purpose is to give fellows multi-media experience (and footage that they can use to promote themselves). In some fellowships we will also collectively produce a short film about fellows’ ideas and experiences, led by fellows themselves. We also occasionally bring in experts from other media platforms (for example: TV, radio, TED, various online platforms) to talk with fellows either in person or via conference call.
  • Will there be opportunities to work with Fellowship advisers to decide how, where and when to publicize our work? Including in other media? Yes. We work across a broad spectrum of public media.
  • Will the fellowship help with venues like the New York Review of Books, London Review of Books, The New Republic, Harpers, etc., or is it just the short venues that "count"? It depends. Fellows are welcome to aim for those magazine outlets too, if they wish - but they should understand that doing so is a different game, and (on the whole) may be less strategic. This is because literary and political magazines like the ones mentioned above tend to feature professional writers and journalists, with experience in reporting. There are of course exceptions (several of our fellows have published in these outlets), but the value proposition tends to favor the skill set of professional writers - and in this arena academics and nonprofit leaders, who are not trained in this way, may be less competitive. By contrast, short form opinion forums (across all media and public platforms) place priority on the ideas and expertise of the contributor. Communication skills still matter, obviously one still needs be able to express an idea clearly and compellingly; but the value proposition favors expertise--so in this arena academics and nonprofit leaders have a strong competitive advantage. For this reason we place a strategic emphasis on these forums. Nevertheless, Public Voices fellows are free to weigh these strategic considerations and decide for themselves. Our curriculum is not about any platform – it's about making more and better ideas happen, creating an environment where we can think more expansively, and using the best available research and methods to increase our ability to influence the planet. If we do our job, the lessons will be applicable not only to any media but to any realm of life.
  • What if I have to miss a convening? Attendance of all four Public Voices Fellowship convenings is mandatory, and your commitment to attend all four convenings in full is a condition of acceptance into the fellowship. We expect you to realize that this fellowship is built around a social mission. Your presence is not just about what you will get out of this fellowship, it is about what you will give. As a fellow you will become 1/20 of the fellowship cohort, and we will expect you to show up. In the event of emergency, fellowship institutions may allow fellows to make up a session. In such cases, we encourage fellows to make up the missed convening, at no charge, by attending the corresponding fellowship convening at another participating Public Voices institution. Fellows (or their institutions) are required to cover their own travel costs. In addition, we provide up to one make-up spot (per fellowship cohort) at any of our public programs, at no charge. Any additional fellows who wish to attend one of our public programs can register and pay, or can ask for a need-based scholarship if they wish. This is because our public programs run on a separate budget, under our social justice revenue model, and every spot we give away eliminates a scholarship spot we can give out to someone in need.