The Power of Connecting the Generations

‘Age-diverse programs can both solve the unique problems older and younger people face and create new ways of addressing everything from homelessness to climate change.’

We are at a moment of significant shifts in demographics—shifts in which there are both challenges and opportunities. To explore these, Encore commissioned a paper examining what lies behind entrenched generational divides, what potential exists in bridging these divides, and how funders can support the growth of intergenerational innovation.

The research found that:

  • Since the 19th century, our institutions have evolved in ways that have not fostered generational diversity.
  • Barriers to cross-generational diversity are significant, ranging from the institutional and structural to mindset obstacles such as ageism and a sense of zero-sum competition between generations.
  • The siloed nature of philanthropic funding makes it difficult for cross-generational social impact initiatives to secure the resources they need to scale up.
  • While hard data is still hard to come by, the positive impact of bringing different generations together is starting to become clear.
  • Age-diverse programs can both solve the unique problems older and younger people face and create new ways of addressing everything from homelessness to climate change.
  • A growing number of social innovators—both for-profit and nonprofit—are finding ways of bringing generations together to create positive impact.
  • Bringing different generations together can spark the innovation and creativity that arise from diverse thinking, increase the exchange of knowledge, build mechanisms that strengthen social and economic resilience, and harness the increasing diversity of younger generations to bridge more than just age divides.
  • Breaking down the institutional and cultural barriers that underpin our age segmented society will take everything from shifting entrenched attitudes and rethinking funding models to seeing all social problems through an intergenerational lens.
  • Great potential lies in the service corps model, which provides well-established frameworks and infrastructure that could be replicated by an intergenerational
    corps.
  • Funders need to increase the age diversity of their grant making teams, start applying an intergenerational focus to any problem—from the climate crisis to homelessness, and view age diversity as a lens that uncovers previously unrecognized assets.

Read the full report below: