Partner Story: Generations Working Together

Supporting and equipping intergenerational work from the Scottish Borders to the Highlands and Islands, Generations Working Together offers one of the most established intergenerational programmes in the UK. CEO Alison Clyde tells us more about their work.

How do you define intergenerational activity?

We use and promote the following definition across Scotland:

“Intergenerational practice aims to bring people together in purposeful, mutually beneficial activities which promote greater understanding and respect between generations and contributes to building more cohesive communities.” Beth Johnson Foundation

The elevator pitch: How do you describe your organisation to someone completely new to your work?

Generations Working Together (GWT) is the nationally recognised centre of excellence supporting the development and integration of intergenerational work across Scotland. Our mission is to develop, expand and improve intergenerational practice.

GWT provides training opportunities, a library of resources, organises events, facilitates local networks across Scotland and delivers pilot projects, all of which support and encourage the involvement of volunteers and grassroots projects as well as the more strategic levels of management and government. Importantly, we connect individuals and organisations who work across different generations, building trust and respect which creates long-lasting friendships.

GWT has more than 3600 members across Scotland and supports 18 local intergenerational networks. The networks cover most of Scotland from the Scottish Borders to the Highlands and Islands and consist of a rich mix of community and public service groups (volunteers and paid staff) that currently use or want to learn how to use intergenerational approaches for the benefit of local communities and the people who live there. During 2021 we have also been running thematic events that have included topics such as art, intergenerational spaces, animals, and more. 

Membership is free to anyone living in Scotland and to students from across the world. For those further afield there is an option to become an international member.

The hurdles: What are some of the main challenges you face around offering your services?

Our two biggest challenges include securing core funding and staffing resources. It would be great if there was more dedicated intergenerational funding. 

The rewards: What are some stand-out benefits of intergenerational activity for those you work with?

Intergenerational practice contributes to giving people of all ages a more positive attitude to ageing, countering and reducing negative attitudes towards older and younger people, helping older and young workers to support each other and see the shared benefits of a vibrant community, and supporting people’s educational development. Intergenerational work enables people of different generations to form trust and respect and build friendships that make a positive difference to them and their communities. Together younger and older people can share experiences, knowledge and skills which are mutually beneficial, tackling shared challenges and preventing exclusion and isolation. Intergenerational work improves health and well-being, helps tackle loneliness and isolation, and connects communities.

“If possible, take part in an intergenerational training course, connect with existing projects and speak with practitioners who have experience in this approach.” Alison Clyde, Generations Working Together

The people: Give one real-world example of a group that has benefited from your intergenerational work in the past 12 months and the changes you have seen for them since taking part.

With additional emergency funding from the Scottish Government, GWT has been able to specifically engage with care homes across Scotland during the pandemic. Community Engagement Officers have worked with care home staff to enhance the intergenerational connections that they had in the community and/or build new relationships and explore connections to break down social isolation and loneliness. The project aimed to ensure that relationships and community connections are kept alive during this difficult period.

The engagement work has created new opportunities for care homes to get involved linking them to different age groups in their communities. In the first phase, we spoke with care home staff to ask first how they were coping (giving a listening ear) and investigating what kind of support they may require which normally involved digital, networking, and training. GWT developed and shared two directory of resources that contained lots of ideas and a guide on how to connect generations safely online.

A series of free online training courses were developed including: What is Intergenerational Work, Overcoming Ageism, Planning Intergenerational Solutions and soon to be launched Intergenerational Housing & Places and Evaluation. These are now available to care home staff, volunteers, and to GWT members across Scotland. As a direct need, GWT introduced a care home representatives network that hosted several online meetings last year with plans for more over the next 12 months. These sessions are being positively received and have given care home staff a link with peers, additional training, signposting, and assistance in looking for connections.

This work with care homes has seen the creation of many Pen Pal Projects, telephone and online befriending, online signing and playing games, and lately a new school radio broadcasting station which filmed a festive celebration for residents at Christmas time. You can hear and read more stories from care homes across Scotland on our social media pages.

Top tips: What advice would you give to someone looking to get involved in an existing intergenerational project or looking to start their own?

If possible, take part in an intergenerational training course, visit existing projects and speak with practitioners who have experience in this approach. Create opportunities to bring younger and older people together to ask what they are keen to do together before planning the detail of the project. Link in with an event, learn about icebreakers that you can use or you could consider connecting over food based projects such as the Food for Life Get Togethers project which the Soil Association are running.

Training will give you the confidence and knowledge to plan and facilitate an intergenerational project using the principles of good intergenerational practice.

There are various intergenerational courses offered by GWT

  • a one-day introduction course
  • a 4 hour course aimed at schools
  • intergenerational workplaces

There are two international training opportunities:

  • International Diploma in Intergenerational Learning (GWT & University of Granada)
  • Together Old and Young (TOY)

During the pandemic, GWT has written a series of short free online courses introducing people to intergenerational working, ageisim, intergenerational places and spaces, measuring impact and how to plan intergenerational projects.

How can we find out more about your work and how to support you?

Check our website or our social media pages on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Every year we hold an intergenerational conference which will take place virtually in 2022. GWT also celebrates intergenerational work each year through an Excellence Awards programme. The awards recognise, showcase and celebrate achievement and outstanding practice in the field of intergenerationality. Nominations are encouraged from projects and individuals living throughout Scotland. The award nominations will open shortly.