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TechTown’s Randal Charlton Wins $100,000 ‘Purpose Prize’

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DETROIT — Civic Ventures, a San Francisco think tank on boomers, work and social purpose, Thursday announced that Detroit’s Randal Charlton is one of five winners of its 2011 Purpose Prize.

This annual $100,000 award honors social entrepreneurs over 60 who use their experience and passion to effectively address societal challenges.

Now in its sixth year, the $17 million program invests in social innovators who are making extraordinary contributions in their second half of life. It is the only program of its kind in the nation.

“Randal Charlton has improved the prospects for entrepreneurs throughout Detroit — and the city itself,” said Marc Freedman, CEO and founder of Civic Ventures and author of The Big Shift. “It’s really good news that Purpose Prize winners like Randal — and millions of others in encore careers — are turning personal passions and decades of experience into invaluable contributions across sectors, continents and generations, often through entrepreneurship.”

In his lifetime, Charlton was instrumental in starting 14 companies, worked as a journalist, tended dairy cows for a Saudi sheik, started a jazz club and consulted for a world bank. For four years, he served as executive director of TechTown, a business incubator and accelerator in Detroit. During his tenure, Charlton, 71, led TechTown’s dramatic growth as a business accelerator that transformed from a nearly empty industrial building into a thriving entrepreneurial hub that supports more than 250 companies. TechTown has trained more than 2,200 entrepreneurs and has helped clients raise $14 million.

On November 1, Charlton transitioned to a new role as executive in residence for Boom! The New Economy, a TechTown-affiliated venture that offers training, one-on-one mentoring and internships to people over 50 exploring second acts.

“I am humbled and honored to have been selected to receive the Purpose Prize award, which I owe to the entrepreneurial spirit of the people of Detroit and the team I have worked with at TechTown,” said Charlton. “Purpose is that underlying motivation that gives our lives meaning. With this prize, I hope to inspire baby boomers across America to embrace the encore career as an opportunity to redefine their purpose in life and, in the process, change the world.”

Charlton, the four other winners and 42 new Purpose Prize Fellows will be honored at the 2011 Purpose Prize awards ceremony on Dec. 1, in Sausalito, Calif.

The 28 judges — leaders in business, politics, journalism and the nonprofit sector — chose the five winners from a pool of more than 1,000 nominees.

Funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies and the John Templeton Foundation, the Purpose Prize is a program of Civic Ventures’ Encore Careers campaign (www.encore.org), which aims to engage millions of boomers in encore careers combining personal meaning, continued income and social impact in the second half of life.

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