National Civic League
Derek Okubo, senior vice president of the National Civic League, has helped to design and implement dozens of community planning processes around the country and assisted local governments, school districts and communities in long-range planning, economic development, conflict resolution, apprenticeships, race relations, program development, collaborative problem-solving, consensus building, substance abuse prevention and health care. He was actively involved in the Model City Charter Revision Committee, which produced the 8th Edition of the Model City Charter.
Before joining the National Civic League, he served as Colorado Governor Roy Romer’s liaison to communities in northeastern Colorado. He is primary author of NCL publications such as Governance and Diversity: Findings from Los Angeles and Governance and Diversity: Findings from Oakland and The Community Visioning and Strategic Planning Handbook. He managed the process to develop the revised version of the Civic Index, a self- assessment tool for communities to measure their civic infrastructure. His bachelor’s degree in psychology is from the University of Northern Colorado.
Q. Why did the National Civic League decide to join Age4Action?
The National Civic League joined Age4Action because of the connection we are seeing with the many communities we work with across the nation. Every community is aging. Not every community is exploring the many opportunities that baby boomers can provide. We saw it as an opportunity to hear and share the message within our own network.
We are always interested in innovations and promising models. We saw Age4Action as an organization where we could hear more about the positive things happening with the 50+ community around the country. We are interested in seeing generation-specific and inter-generational activities that open eyes and unleash the human potential that exists within every individual, young and old.
Q. Please share with us the latest news/developments coming out of NCL that Age4Action members would want to know.
As I mentioned, NCL does a lot of work with communities around the country. For the past five years, I have seen the issue of an aging community emerge in virtually every community I’ve worked with. Most of the time it is with the mindset of need—that communities will need to provide increased services to all of us who are 50+. We are trying to shift that mindset to looking at the 50+ community more as assets, not liabilities.
When we look at the many issues that communities are facing such as public education and the funding limitations for schools in today’s economy, communities will need to tap into other resources to create the success we desire. What better resource, on a variety of levels, than our 50+ community? We just need to come together and figure it out—build partnerships and develop shared solutions.
Q. In what ways can Age4Action serve/help NCL?
By helping us to continue to send the message to local communities to be willing to tap into our 50+ community to address the many community challenges we face. To help us send the message to the 50+ that we are never too old to make a difference in communities.
Q. Within the civic engagement and older adult movement, what would you say is the biggest unmet need and how can Age4Action have an impact?
I feel the biggest need is to bridge the gap between older adults and younger children who are in the public education environment. For some of us older residents, our children are grown and are no longer in public schools. As a result, our support and concern for public education diminishes. I would love to see more partnerships between older Americans and public schools, whether through mentorships, tutoring, staffing extra programming (such as family literacy programs), education fairs, etc.
For example, one of my inspirations is a man named Vic Jose in Richmond, Indiana. He is an 83-year-old retired businessman who, for the past number of years, has run an incredible reading program with the school district to try to make sure all children are reading by third grade. He’s an amazing man who is changing the world. He still is working, serving, learning and leading.
I can still hear my mentor, John W. Gardner, telling me, when we would hang out together and talk (he was over 80 years old at the time), that learning never stops; we just stop learning. When we stop learning, we stop living.
Q. How does Age4Action’s mission apply to you in your personal and/or professional life?
Work, serve, learn and lead: I feel that describes the path of life itself. If every person lived that way personally and worked that way professionally, many things we currently think are impossible could become reality. I know it can happen because I’ve seen it happen in communities around the country.