ASU Lodestar Center


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CoGenerational Service Academy named finalist in Common Good Challenge, nets five-figure prize for further growth

May 25, 2023 — The ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation’s CoGenerational Service Academy was named a finalist in the Common Good Challenge and awarded a five-figure prize to support the continued development of the innovative program. The academy launched with a successful pilot earlier this year to bring together people of different generations in search of service-oriented solutions to today’s toughest problems.

The Common Good Challenge, a partnership between the Arizona Community Foundation, the Arizona Republic and the Morrison Institute for Public Policy, was designed to embrace the idea that society is stronger when people with diverse perspectives, backgrounds and experiences work together to develop meaningful solutions to complex problems. After an extensive application process, six finalists were named from an initial group of 38 teams. During a pitch competition, a pool of $330,000 in grants was awarded to finalists. It is the fifth philanthropic prize competition offered under the Arizona Community Foundation’s New Arizona Prize banner.

“It is encouraging to witness the quality of thoughtful and impactful projects selected as finalists for this year’s awards, and that certainly includes our ‘CoGen Service Academy’,” said Dr. Robert Ashcraft, executive director of the ASU Lodestar Center and Saguaro Professor of Civic Enterprise. “Multiple generations working together in common purpose, to implement mutually agreed-upon community solutions through service, is an idea whose time has come,” Ashcraft added.

During the pitch competition, ASU CoGenerational Service Academy partners Jill Bernstein (from the Baby Boomer generation) and Marie Sanyang (Generation Z) spoke eloquently about their collaboration as part of the program’s pilot cohort. They worked together on a service project to decolonize mental health and launched a podcast to share key lessons from the multigenerational experience.

“The conversations would model the challenges and benefits of cogenerational problem-solving and show how we found ways to better understand one another and to work across generations,” says Bernstein, who brought decades of experience in nonprofits and creative services to the partnership. Sanyang, meanwhile, was finishing her master’s degree in social justice and human rights and brought an entirely new framework to their thinking.

“We are honored that so many Arizonans participated in the Common Good Challenge as applicant teams, evaluators, and community supporters. They represent the best of us: people from all walks of life, working together across boundaries to design solutions to some of our state’s most pressing needs,” says Jaime Dempsey, Arizona Community Foundation's Acting Chief Program and Community Engagement Officer. “The intent of this competition was to embrace the idea that our society is stronger—we are stronger—when people with diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences work in coalition to explore meaningful responses to complex issues.”

In naming the program a finalist and awarding a five-figure prize, the Common Good Challenge judges lauded the CoGenerational Service Academy for the way it connects members of different generations and provides the space for innovative community solutions to flourish, ideas only made possible by cogenerational thinking.

Launched in early 2023 with funding through CoGenerate, the CoGenerational Service Academy will continue to learn from the inaugural cohort’s five pairings and further develop this new model for collaboration.

Arizona State University’s Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation educates, empowers and connects nonprofit leaders to accelerate social impact. Housed within ASU’s Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions and its School of Community Resources and Development, the ASU Lodestar Center believes that the quality of life in communities is enriched with impactful philanthropy and effective nonprofit leadership. For more than 20 years, the ASU Lodestar Center has provided education, research, practical tools and convenings for nonprofit professionals, philanthropists and volunteers who seek to solve problems and realize their communities’ highest aspirations.