By, Kari Henley – Director of Community Relations. firstname.lastname@example.org
In our most recent post, Millenials and Baby Boomers were joked as being equally “lazy.” While both stages of life can offer the discomfort of decades ahead, with a lack of clarity on what to do, the power and energy of intergenerational collaboration has been generating increased attention. For example, many of our baby boomers and millenials share a similar interest in issues around climate change, poverty, racial equality and world peace, and are eager to take action.
Silvernest team members recently participated in a unique intergenerational “World Café” of 40 invited older and younger leaders at the Positive Aging Conference, in multi-generational collaboration called, “Wiser Together.” The experience was facilitated by David Shaw, a millenial, and professor at UC Santa Cruz, and Moira Allen, a semi-retired Parisian entrepreneur and co-founder of the Pass it On Network.
Imagine the scene: a busy Washington DC hotel conference room filled with a random group of adults, ranging in age from 20-86 years old. Participants included students, thirty-something’s, successful business leaders and retirees from across the USA, and as far away as Switzerland. Moving between small bistro tables for constant new interactions; the age, status or position of the group quickly fell away into laughter, connection, reflection, and recognition that our fundamental desires, concerns and dreams are indeed timeless.
The overarching theme was: “How can we access the unique contributions of all generations to foster wise and committed action for life-affirming futures—for our organizations, our communities and our planet?” While the conversations were underway, Stephanie Brown a graphic recording artist, was sketching these fantastic, mural-length art work, that soon covered the walls with real-time answers, and inspiring visual images.
Take a moment and ponder the following questions, and notice the answers that come to your mind:
1. Think of a time when you had a really great inter-generational connection, or conversation. What enabled that to happen?
Some of the answers included: “cooking with my grandmother, asking, not giving advice, feeling safe and being allowed to express differences, music, compassion, respect and mutual concern.”
2. What about olders/youngers would you Never like never to hear again?
Strong feelings were expressed by all ages, including: “Are you STILL… (working? driving? Dying your hair?), young people want instant results and don’t want to work, you are too old to be in this conversation, you don’t have enough experience, we don’t need you.”
Both older adults and younger adults hated having someone asking them if they are STILL doing something- for the youngers it may have been, “are you STILL working that dead end job, or are you STILL living at home?” The older adults were chagrined at being asked if they are STILL wearing that bikini, dying their hair, skiing the black diamonds or even working.
3. What would you love to hear and feel? What would make you feel excited to be in partnership?
Simple answers included, “Let’s do something together. I am listening. What is your story? I really need you in on this. How can I help you? I would love to hear more, I hear you,”
4. Where in your life would you most want to have intergenerational collaboration?
Answers included specific solutions like:
- Share in political and social change initiatives locally
- Cultivate multi-generational communication on affordable housing
- Youth column in neighborhood HOA newsletters
- Make boards of organizations inter-generational
- Include all homemakers and residents of all ages in community directories
- Coaching younger women to be managers
- Multi-gen healthcare practitioners and conversations
- Rural incubators for self-sufficiency and community
- Inter-gen’ co-working space for entrepreneurs
- Launch multi-gen dialogue in higher education
“I loved participating in this conversation, because I really believe getting intergenerational views of how to deal with important life issues is critical,” said Barbara Greenspan Shaiman, a noted educator and social entrepreneur from Philadelphia who participated in the experience. “Sitting with young people opened my eyes to another perceptive.”
The World Café is a global conversational movement, with active participants and practitioners in business and organizational settings on six continents, and clients including the United Nations, the European Union, Apple, and NASA. If you would like to become active in the global World Café check out www.theworldcafecommunity.org.
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