This June, I was excited to attend the third Generation to Generation Learning Lab session in Milwaukee, WI, which brought together 54 members of the learning lab network. Participants shared ideas for connecting the generations, particularly in ways that would bring more caring adults into the lives of underserved youth, and which have the potential to be replicated and spread nationally. We also shared approaches for addressing persistent challenges in fostering intergenerational connections.
I came to the meeting feeling personally inspired by the older adults in my life, like my colleague Jim Emerman, who manage to find ways to give back to their communities despite incredibly busy lives (and a ‘day job’ that’s all about giving back). People like Jim encourage younger colleagues — like me, a millennial passionate about volunteerism as a way to reduce the impacts of income inequality — to try to do the same. I’ve watched Jim juggle work commitments (including launching our newest innovation prize), family life (caring for both his father and his grandchildren), and then making time for people outside his own family, through his volunteering at Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) and 826 Valencia. Seeing Jim’s commitment to standing up for kids was just the example I needed. This January, I also started volunteering with 826 Valencia. That’s the Gen2Gen effect!
Gen2Gen Circles, first developed by Gen2Gen San Jose, support local community members to help build a web of support for young people in their communities. The Gen2Gen Circle concept is simple: People bring their friends, colleagues and acquaintances together to share stories about connecting across generations, and to learn about opportunities to do that out in the real world. The model is guided by research that human brains are wired for storytelling. The Gen2Gen San Jose team found that the storytelling element prompted more older adults to get engaged than more traditional methods, like putting out leaflets at a table. They also used their Circles experiment to identify local champions who were interested in helping get others involved.
Based on the early success of the Gen2Gen Circle experiment in San Jose, other Learning Lab members are developing their own Gen2Gen circles, modified for their local contexts. Now, anyone who wants to do this in their community can use this simple facilitator’s guide. We’re searching for more individuals, communities and organizations that want to join us in this experiment. So take a look at the facilitator guide, and if you do organize a circle, let us know what you think! Email us, or leave feedback on the Gen2Gen Toolbox page.
Digital Content Producer