At the heart of every community are relationships between its members – the shared story that defines an aspect of who we are. The strongest relationships are built on mutual respect and trust. Increasingly I find myself in conversations with people about how we build communities to leverage the collective wisdom of different generations – an intentional intertwining of lives across age groups in order to bring out the best in all involved.
Today Friday the 12th of August 2022 is International Youth Day. The theme this year is Intergenerational Solidarity: Creating a world for all ages and leveraging the full potential of people of all generations.
Why is this important?
In 2015, the United Nations adopted a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity. These are known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - also known as the Global Goals. It is crucial to leverage the full potential of all generations to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Across generations, solidarity is critical for sustainable development – because when we look for opportunities to empower others (especially across generations), we create a ripple effect of change far greater than anything we could achieve on our own and we move closer to ensuring that “nobody is left behind.”
Increasingly our world is becoming more interconnected, more global, and diverse. We (that’s the big ‘Human We’) are responsible for ensuring that not only our immediate environments, the current schools we find ourselves in are fit for purpose but to recognise we are all part something bigger. Increasingly the young people we work with are going to be called upon to work collaboratively on complex problems that will not have simple solutions. Collectively we are being asked to consider how we respond to global issues that affect us all. To build our skills to understand these issues and to have the capacity to respond to global issues, requires the perspective of others from a wide range of backgrounds.
When we work across generations, we develop our capacity to grow personally and professionally by learning from others who have different skills, perspectives, and ways of thinking. Collaboration creates space for empathy by allowing participants to experience things from another person’s perspective, a key element of compassionate action. It gives us the space to explore (and challenge) our own biases and in turn, develop our skills to work with people who may hold a worldview different from our own.
To strategically build communities of all ages, and leverage the full potential of people of all generations, encourages the search for novel information and perspectives. Which in turn, hopefully, leads to better decision-making and problem-solving. When people from different generations come together, it not only helps to build stronger relationships across age groups but also strengthens communities, giving a sense of belonging and connection.
So on this day, I put out a call to action to all our schools. Where does the opportunity lie for intergenerational partnership? Below I offer three ideas to start the conversation – I’d love to hear your thoughts!
1) Consider employment opportunities that exist in your schools? Is there work that is currently being outsourced that a young person could do?
2) Consider having students on interview panels for prospective staff. Does your school have a student voice in this process?
3) Consider student-empowered learning – mixed classes, flexible hours, and ambitious project-based learning where staff and students are working together to solve a problem.
Let’s work together, across generations to discover new interests, find inspiration, and imagine new possibilities for all our futures!