Elders Retreat 2019 in Aix-en-Provence, France

Why is Eldership so important to us? 

a.      As Fellowship Europe, we want to support our Fellows, whether they are at the start of their journeys or further along. It’s our vision to be there, not only when things are easy, but also when social innovators enter a possibly difficult, new stage of life: such as eldership. But that’s not all..  

b.      Our Elders are a major source of wisdom. Integrating their wisdom and experience is a great opportunity, not to be missed.   

c.      Eldership = transition. And transition is everybody’s business. Let's take the chance to learn about transitions, as managing them well is a crucial capacity for having an impact.  

For all of us who want to reach system change, for all of us who are going through changes – the wisdom and experience of our Elders could be the missing piece of the puzzle to support us when facing challenges. At the same time, it is our responsibility too, to give back when our Elders could need our support.

The Elders Retreat & Session at the European Changemaker Summit 

To explore the great potential of supporting each other along the way, the Europe Fellowship Team, the Next Now Team and 10 Ashoka Fellows got together for an Elders Retreat at the beautiful thecamp in Aix-en-Provence last September (find the inspiring executive summary here). During the “Transition & Eldership” session at the European Changemaker Summit in Barcelona last November, we all gained further perspectives and valuable insights how to take this movement to the next level. 
What did we learn? We didn’t only reflect about aging and eldership to co-create solutions for the challenges that come with eldership; we also explored a future where many generations of changemakers can be supported by the wisdom of the Elders. During the Retreat and the Workshop, what we could feel, was a general excitement in the room. The excitement was coming equally from both – younger Fellows and the Elders – as the need for creating synergies and help each other on all the different phases of transitions became evident.  

The system changing potential of Eldership 

You think system change and eldership have nothing in common? We’d love to challenge your perspective on this. What we found out is: 

#1 Resilience & self-sustainability = key  

As change becomes more rapid and social problems become more complex, the need for social leaders at scale is evident. With new technologies and challenges coming up almost daily, there is almost nothing as important as being resilient to stress and (digital) overload.  

And there is one effect of getting older that is truly helpful for this matter: You take one step back and look at the whole picture. Things slow down and are taken into perspective.  

This is what most of us – young and old – need to master their lives in a self-sustainable and effective way. Without being resilient, changemakers can easily burn out or get distracted on the way. Let’s embrace the elders experience of creating layers of resilience and learn from it.  

#2 Want to level up your impact? Learn how to master transitions!  

Every changemaker experiences phases of transition. When organizations change, when system change (finally!) works, when we enter a different phase of life: all of these are moments of transition. The transition into eldership is (only) one transition of many, that our elder fellows are facing with courage and strength. Having mastered many transitions throughout their lives, the elders are the real experts for supporting Social Entrepreneurs when it comes to transition.  

And only if we master transitions, we will indeed be able to have the biggest possible impact. So, let’s learn from and with our elders!  

#3 Self-care = the base of every success  

How can you encourage others and have an impact, if you are constantly running low on energy? Self-care is at the very base of every successful leaders and impactful changemaker. Being able to adapt our own mindsets and skills to the changing environment while practicing self-care, is key. Most elders have learned this – sometimes in tough lessons – and we are happy and thankful the elder fellows are open to collect and share their wisdom of self-care with the whole community.  
(If you want to find out more about how to be well, visit our Wellbeing module and find out what the Wellbeing Retreat will offer!) 

#4 The Council of Elders: Support for Fellows in transition!  

The Elders Retreat in September 2019 culminated in the Elder Fellows forming an Elders Council. This council will represent and support Fellows in transition all around the world! We are sure that the support of this council will have a great impact on the wellbeing and the changemaking journeys of our community.  

What’s next?  

As a working group of the Elders Council has been appointed, the council will continue  and kick-off  their work in 2020. They will create the constitution and working practices of this Council by March, 31st 2020. We are excited about all following steps and are looking forward to a future where Elder and younger social innovators can work together hand in hand for reaching more impact and for the good of all.    

Thank you: For making this happen!  

Behind every achievement, there are many people that have been committed to make it happen. We want to sincerely thank:  

  • Our fellows Andrea Coleman, Agnes Gereb, Kathryn Hall-Trujillo, Horst Krumbach, Johan Marks, Elzbieta Pomaska, Ralfe Sange, Erzsébet Szekeres, Chris Underhill and Mel Young for having joined the Elders retreat, the starting point for the Elders Council. Thank you for your commitment!  
  • Andrea Coleman and Chris Underhill for having greatly co-facilitated the ECMS workshop!  
  • Andrea Coleman, Mel Young and Chris Underhill for meeting for dinner some two years ago – because that’s when the idea of an Eldership meeting started to take shape. Thank you for the initiative and your lasting commitment.  
  • Nancy Mortifee of the Wellbeing Project to encourage everyone involved to take this a step further
  • Last but not least: Our friends and partners from Steelcase, who became the generous sponsors of the Elders retreat. Thank you for hosting us at the beautiful location of TheCamp. We sincerely appreciate all your support!  

Thank you!  


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