Data

Face-to-Face, Online, or Both?
Both
General Type of Method
Deliberative and dialogic process
Informal conversation spaces
Open to All or Limited to Some?
Limited to Only Some Groups or Individuals
Recruitment Method for Limited Subset of Population
Stratified Random Sample
Types of Interaction Among Participants
Discussion, Dialogue, or Deliberation
Storytelling
Ask & Answer Questions
Facilitation
Yes
Decision Methods
Not Applicable
Level of Polarization This Method Can Handle
Low polarization
Level of Complexity This Method Can Handle
Low Complexity

METHOD

InterGenerational Dialogues

10. März 2022 liliyajl
9. März 2022 liliyajl
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both?
Both
General Type of Method
Deliberative and dialogic process
Informal conversation spaces
Open to All or Limited to Some?
Limited to Only Some Groups or Individuals
Recruitment Method for Limited Subset of Population
Stratified Random Sample
Types of Interaction Among Participants
Discussion, Dialogue, or Deliberation
Storytelling
Ask & Answer Questions
Facilitation
Yes
Decision Methods
Not Applicable
Level of Polarization This Method Can Handle
Low polarization
Level of Complexity This Method Can Handle
Low Complexity

InterGenerational Dialogues was a series of events created to host conversations between individuals over 65 and high schoolers. Each event offered a different topic for the groups to discuss to foster enhanced communication and shared understanding between the generations.

Problems and Purpose

In an ever-increasingly technological world with the ability to talk with someone on the other side of the globe, one would think that our communication would also be enhanced with these new channels. However, while the younger generations, Generation Z especially, who have grown up with this new technology have seemingly taken to it with ease, older generations still struggle to understand it. With this struggle to understand ever-changing technology has come the belief that people are not connecting the way they used to before phones and such were invented. This difference in understanding has caused an even wider gap of communication between individuals of Generation Z and individuals their grandparents’ age.

InterGenerational Dialogues was conceived to help bridge this gap between generations and to encourage people to connect with those around them. In response to hearing about her grandfather’s experience with social isolation during rehabilitation, co-founder Delaney McNally’s created InterGenerational Dialogues to foster connections and bring people together [1]

Origins and Development

InterGenerational Dialogues was born out of a partnership between multiple Delaney’s organization Generation Connect, the Partnership for Age-Friendly Communities (PAFC) [2], and the Center for Public Deliberation (CPD) [3]. The first event was offered in Spring 2019 with following events continuing to be offered as of this writing, including specialized events that focus on specific social identites, such as GenHerous's women only events.

While InterGenerational Dialogues debuted in 2019, PAFC had been working since 2016 to present events for older residents to bridge the communication gap. Offered events included panels in the Fort Collins, CO area with panelists holding identities from multiple backgrounds and generations to talk and compare differences in life experiences across generations. In 2019, the CPD became involved in the process, and its director, Martín Carcasson, acted as a glue that connected the multiple organizations as they collaborated to present InterGen.

Participant Recruitment and Selection

While the ultimate goal of these dialogues was ultimately to help bridge the communication gap between generations, the focus was specifically on mending the divide between high school students and individuals in Delaney’s grandfather’s generation or older. Thus, the participant recruitment was heavily targeted towards those who fit such criteria. 

For the younger half of the participant pool, Delaney utilized her connections within her high school and word of mouth to recruit attendees, including through the student council and other student organizations. When asked, Delaney stated that as a high schooler herself, she thought that high school was an appropriate age for such conversations and that they had not considered younger students at the time due to a potential lack of maturity required for such topics [4]. As for the older half of the participant pool, PAFC worked with multiple organizations in Larimer County to gather attendees. [5] They worked with senior centers, libraries, and other such organizations that catered towards the aging community. With the CPD involved, the attendee list grew to include CSU’s students and other college-age individuals who had heard of the event as the CPD provided trained student facilitators through its program. 

Despite the specific age limitations for participants, the recruitment was open to the public and anyone who met those age requirements was welcome.

How it Works: Process, Interaction, and Decision-Making

Rather than each individual event building on the last to culminate in a large project, the events tended to be considered complete alone and participants would receive a complete experience if they only attended one event. The overall umbrella of InterGenerational Dialogues fosters understanding and improved communication between participants, and each event focused on a specific topic rather than on generational disconnect as a whole. Some of the events done include “Life in the Time of Corona,” “Expanding Empathy,” and “Listening Courageously” [6].These topics were chosen by Generation Connect with input from the CPD and PAFC with regards to what was considered relevant and interesting to high school students at the time.

After topics were chosen, Dr. Carcasson and the CPD would work to create facilitation guides that would help direct the conversations. These guides were similar in structure to a National Issues Forum placemat, but rather than multiple approaches to an option, they offered potential questions of interest should the conversation become static [7].  As previously mentioned, the CPD also provided facilitators at every event to further foster improved communication between participants. However, as the events were more informal dialogues rather than decision-making discussions, they were informed ahead of time that they had the opportunity to provide their own input into the conversation, unlike more formal discussions where they would be impartial.

For in-person events, the settings were usually high schools or senior centers when possible. In addition, the setups would be multiple smaller roundtables for each group with a basket in the middle for all cellular devices. Once there, participants were allotted to the roundtables of around six participants each with both demographics represented as equally as possible. In addition to the participants, there would be around one or two CPD student facilitators at each table to help guide the conversation. There would then be an introduction speech on why the specific topic for that event was chosen and ground rules for the conversations would be shared, such as all cell phones being put on silent and put into the basket in the middle of the table. Then the groups would be free to discuss. As the events were dialogue-centered rather than having decision-making or informative purpose, storytelling and asking and answering questions were the main processes of communication.

Once things moved to mainly online modes of communication, instead of being taken to different tables, participants would be put into different breakrooms. However, the same division of participants was applied for online events and events would unfold very similarly. 

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

As the ultimate goals of this method of engagement were dialogic, there were not many immediate outcomes from the events. However, participants did express that they felt they had developed better understandings with others from the opposite generation.[6] They also expressed that they felt they had built bridges and improved their ability to listen carefully to other points of view from their own. They noted that they felt like they were combatting social isolation and loneliness through truly connecting with others.

This was also observed through the fact that many participants continued to return and attend multiple sessions after their first.

These InterGenerational Dialogues seemed to receive such a positive reception that there was even a subcategory of conversations called GenHerous, which highlighted issues specifically impacting women. There is a separate entry on Participedia which focuses on one such GenHerous event.

Analysis and Lessons Learned

When asked, Delaney noted that one lesson learned was that providing incentives to attend may change how people participated at the event. She noted that some of the teachers at her high school when they heard about the events offered their students extra credit, an outside incentive, for attending [4].This brought with it the question of how an extra incentive in addition to the dialogues and improved communication across generations impacted participant experience and expectations. For future events, it may be one aspect of the event to consider. 

In addition, when turning to online formats when in-person was unavailable, it should be noted to expect lower attendance and perhaps even lower quality participation. While online conversations still fostered connection and improved understanding across generations, the technical aspects were a new aspect to consider. Participation did see a decrease, and it was more dificult to do group activities. However, these aspects and logisitics were something to consider when planning, not complete deterrents.

See Also

References

[1] Fleskes, Austin. “Five Questions: Delaney McNally Carries on Young Life of Volunteering, Leadership.” Herald, Loveland Reporter-Herald, 26 July 2021, https://www.reporterherald.com/2021/07/25/five-questions-delaney-mcnally-carries-on-young-life-of-volunteering-leadership/?fbclid=IwAR0me0i4F9undqrmQVcOqeY2aqGyJWjBTnGRoVtnsNOjvyxJx6VZ9aw-I0s.  

[2] “PAFC -Home.” Partnership for Age-Friendly Communities, https://www.pafclarimer.org/pafc. 

[3] Center for Public Deliberation, https://cpd.colostate.edu/. 

[4] Delaney McNally (Generation Connect Founder) in discussion with Liliya, March 1, 2022.

[5] Myles Crane (PAFC member) in discusion with Liliya, March 1, 2022

[6] “Generation Connect.” Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/generationconnect17/events/?ref=page_internal. 

[7] “NIFI Materials.” NIFI, 3 Nov. 2020, https://www.nifi.org/en/nifi-materials.