American Muslim Shakeela Hassan Named “Purpose Prize Fellow”

Posted Jul 12, 2007      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version Bookmark and Share

University of Chicago’s Professor Emerita Shakeela Hassan named as Purpose Prize Fellow, recognizing social innovators over age 60

“Fellows Solve Social Problems, Disprove the Notion That Innovation is the Province of the Young and Demonstrate What’s Possible in an Aging Society”

Civic Ventures, a think tank and program incubator helping society achieve “the greatest return on experience,” has designated a South Side Chicagoan, Dr. Shakeela Hassan, as one of its 2007 Purpose Prize Fellows for her work in interfaith dialogue and documentary film. The Purpose Prize is a three-year, $9 million program investing in Americans over age 60 who are leading a new age of innovation to solve critical social problems in the second half of life. In its own words, the Prize “seeks to shine a light on the critical work of individual innovators and combine these individual efforts into a wave of social entrepreneurship that could transform America.”

Hassan, has been an interfaith peace-builder and policymaker for over four decades, offering a wealth of life experience as a Muslim, immigrant, medical doctor, professor, mother, grandmother, and visual artist to a wide range of inter-religious councils, boards, and initiatives. An anesthesiologist, teacher, and former clinical care director at the University of Chicago Hospitals, Hassan brings her perspective as a caretaker and South Side community member to the International Human Rights Law Institute, Chicago Theological Seminary, the Cardinal Bernardin Center of the Catholic Theological Union, and Lutheran School of Theology. Nationally and internationally, she serves on the boards of International Museum of Muslim Cultures, Karamah: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights and Hands of Peace, dedicated to Israeli-Palestinian youth dialogue and cooperation.

Recently, lifelong interests in photography and grassroots peace-making led Shakeela to documentary film development and production. After successfully fundraising for and co-producing interfaith documentaries and mentoring a number of young filmmakers in their own projects, she established Harran Productions Foundation, nonprofit organization, to nurture the most socially significant films possible. Hassan’s current project is Sounds of Faith, a coproduction with renowned journalist and producer Bill Kurtis. This three-part exploration of sacred sound in the three Abrahamic faiths –Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – is being developed for national PBS broadcast in 2009; Chicago viewers can expect to view it on our own WTTW-11. The documentary will share sounds and songs from communities around the world, both inside and outside of worship, and illuminate a path for mutual understanding and appreciation between faiths through their intertwined history and modernity of sound.

Says Hassan,  “The promise of my premise, and purpose of my work, is simply to humanize each community’s internal struggles for peace, bring about understanding and cooperation for and with ‘the other’ outside of one’s community, and bridge gaps and divides across faiths and fortunes with the harmony of omnipresent sound – the symphony of existence.”

The Purpose Prize supports Fellows by helping develop their capacity, linking them with funders and venture philanthropists and connecting them to other social innovators over 60.  The 2007 Fellows will meet for the first time at an Innovation Summit cosponsored by Civic Ventures and the Stanford Graduate School of Business’s Center for Social Innovation, one of the world’s leading academic centers focused on social entrepreneurship. The Summit will take place November 10-12 on the Stanford campus in Palo Alto, Calif.

Marc Freedman, founder and CEO of Civic Ventures — co-founder of the Purpose Prize and author of a new book, Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life (PublicAffairs Press, June 2007) — says that Shakeela Hassan and other Fellows represent big changes in how boomers and older Americans approach work.

“As baby boomers leave their midlife careers and continue working into their 60s, we are experiencing the biggest transformation of the American workforce since the women’s movement,” says Freedman. “One of the most interesting and significant developments from this transformation is the emergence of social innovation and entrepreneurialism from people over 60. And there are no better examples of these pioneers than the Purpose Prize Fellows.”

In Encore ( ), Freedman outlines a new stage of life between the end of midlife careers and the beginning of true old age, introducing a new stage of work — the “encore career” — that combines continued income, new meaning and greater impact. Prize Fellows, Freedman says, “show that social entrepreneurship, once thought to be mainly the province of the young, can also be a path to vibrant encore careers for those in the second half of life.”