Claremont intergenerational coordinating collaborative: a building community initiative

by Joe Lyons

“Without intergenerational solidarity [amity] there is no real human, economic and social development, and without respect, responsibility, reciprocity, and resiliency, intergenerational solidarity is not possible.”

The duration of a generation has been traditionally measured in decades defined by significant historical events and cultural norms. That duration has become compressed and accelerated by rapid advances in technologies that occur every 10 to 15 years. And although we cannot ignore how our daily lives have been changed, the ways in which we and our generation become defined and redefined by these short-lived periods between major technological breakthroughs, are only beginning to be appreciated.

Our times with many challenges, some existential, some interpersonal, some local, and some global, have put into stark relief the increased level of tension and conflict among the generations that derives from two co-occurring series of events over the last 40 years: 1) the relentless exposure to political strategies aimed to instill distrust in government and polarization based on ethnicity, gender, identification, race, religion, among others; and 2) the accelerated and rapid advances in technology that cause widespread sociopolitical and economic disruptions sufficient to delineate generation defining differences in attitudes and world view every 10 to 15 years.

And although more subtle early in the technological revolution, the universal availability of mobile technology, and its ability to provide inexpensive handheld devices with unlimited access to information, and real-time connectivity to people anywhere in the world, has made technology’s impact impossible to deny.

It is in this context and with the urgency demanded by circumstances, that achieving intergenerational solidarity takes on critical significance. And it is at the local level where the generational tensions and conflicts are most immediately visible and potentially disruptive, that the greatest opportunity to achieve solidarity exists.

The fate of our older adults with housing insecurity, our at-risk youth, our unsheltered, and our hope to become the inclusively diverse and socioeconomically equitable community described in our city’s general plan, as well as defining the role we must play in the protection and restoration of our planet’s biosphere, requires that we intentionally commit to designing an adaptive intergenerational contract that is based on respect, responsibility, reciprocity, and resiliency among the generations that will implement and sustain its vital functioning.

The silent generation and the baby boomers could decide that it is less important to fault youth’s lack of experience trying to fix the past, and rather appreciate their ability to see the world as it is through the lens of possibility, and, if unencumbered by the past, could transform their eagerness to use the technologies they helped develop, into the tools to repurpose what is, into what they envision will be their future. While it is equally possible that Generation X, the millennials, and Generation Z could appreciate that the wisdom of their predecessors gained through decades of lived experience with problem solving is more important than their much less than working knowledge, let alone the potential, of the technologies our younger generations are eager to advance in service to their future.

By establishing an intergeneration coordinating collaborative with a mission to achieve intergenerational solidarity based on respect, responsibility, reciprocity, and resiliency, we will be, in the words of Mary Catherine Bateson, “convening a new reality when we invite the generations to sit down together and apply their collective intelligence to issues of common concern … Participants will carry with them the seeds of a new egalitarian attitude between generations that liberates participants by identifying and transcending the defensiveness often embedded in our opinions and assumptions about one another. The challenge will be to create an inter-generational understanding that transcends ego identity …” and generational norms and prejudices.

The initiative being proposed is driven by: 1) the necessity to achieve intergenerational solidarity as a precondition to formulating long-term strategies and priorities that have the broad public necessary for their implementation; and 2) the urgency to address the significant challenges facing our community with public input generated through a trust building, non-polarizing process, that facilitates reciprocity within and between generations.

In a previous submission (“Paralyzed by polarization,” October 29, 2021), I invited individuals to attend a convening on the issue of polarization. While being planned, much happened to suggest a more comprehensive undertaking would provide our community with a permanent means to obtain the intergenerational perspective on public policies and programs in advance of and during the debate on these matters.

This initiative is a concept in need of our entire community’s input to achieve. We are fortunate to have the means, the will to achieve remains yours to give.

Please email putclaremontfirst@gmail.com with your interest.

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