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Intergenerational understanding - The key to community cohesion

Posted on 15 August 2017

In our global, interconnected and interactive world, community still matters. Community takes on different forms for everyone but centres around belonging. It’s something I’ve been fascinated with and studied as a value in and of itself. So, you can imagine my delight when I discovered Groundwork – a community charity with a green heart – and landed my dream job combining my passions for community development, communication and the environment.

Celebrating our differences

Highlighting the fine line between inclusive places that work for all - where diversity is valued and similar life opportunities are available to everyone; and places where understanding, basic security, and the idea of community itself are threatened is important now more than ever.

2016 (“that year”) showed us that community cohesion can be easily upset. Immigrants and refugees were used as scapegoats to argue that community services are too scarce to share. Elections have been fought upon pitching the needs of one generation against another and we have been told by researchers that the generation of 30-somethings are the first in decades with a worse standard of living than their parents.

Yet, as we started 2017, thankfully, I have witnessed recognition of the true causes of inequalities within our communities and the awakening of whole generations open to a change in politics, in policy, and in how we shape our communities.

I have also felt a healing of divisions between generations. I have talked to my friends about Brexit and election results, all of whom have had similar awkward yet constructive conversations with different generations of their family, most for the first time in their lives. It seems intergenerational dialogue, could be a vital to building community cohesion, as it brings out shared values between people who might perceive their views to be different.

Communication is key

That’s why our new initiative, Groundwork Youth, is so important to our work in 2017 and beyond. Now, more than ever, we need positive messages around intergenerational cohesion and we aim to start this dialogue around the green spaces treasured most within communities. I have been speaking with many young people over the past few months who are acutely aware of the sparse opportunities for their generation, yet are keen to contribute to building a sense of community, as well as developing themselves through volunteering, social action, and online awareness campaigns – an impressive display of resilience.

Working with our network of Young Ambassadors, Groundwork Youth aims to provide training and broker partnerships for each Ambassador to contribute in a practical way to the work of community groups in their area. Our next steps involve seeking out various groups who recognise the value of including young people from various backgrounds in their work.

As I have learnt more about Groundwork and the community projects we support across the UK, it is apparent that bringing about inclusive dialogues between people, centred on improving local places and prospects, is at the core to our work. Community cohesion is fought for daily: by youth worker outreach, which provides young people with someone to talk to during the summer; by community fun days organised across the country that showcase and utilise our beautiful parks; by arts and crafts workshops set up to combat loneliness and isolation. I would love to know more about the stories and people behind these projects and how Groundwork Youth might celebrate and showcase these to inspire the next generation of community leaders. So, if you are part of a project that brings people together (or you know someone who is) please consider celebrating the work you do through our Groundwork Community Awards.

Whilst each generation has their own outlook and experiences, some things are timeless, such as the value of community and working together to achieve a fairer society for everyone. A renewal of integrational dialogue and action across our programmes at Groundwork will, I believe, strengthen our mission to create healthier, happier, greener communities.

Post by Stephanie Lynch

Young Green Leaders Programme Officer