Using experience gained from working on two exciting intergenerational projects in the Langney Ward of Eastbourne, 3VA's Chances4Change project has produced a new guide - Intergenerational Opportunities – Supporting an Intergenerational Project. The guide's aim is to share our experience, outlining a process that worked well and illustrating these by using a series of top tips, examples and quotes. This guide is useful to anyone who works within an institution such as a school or a care home and to anyone else wishing to broker links between two or more institutions or groups.
Chances4Change is project that uses the asset based approach to community development. The aim is to support community-led initiatives that enhance wellbeing, and strive to improve connections, links and contacts within a given community. Using this approach, Chances4Change spoke to as many people, groups, committees, organisations as possible and, from these conversations, new links and contacts were made that helped the project find out about the kind of activities people living in different areas were interested in undertaking. One of the ideas was intergenerational working and that this could take place between an extra care scheme and a school within the same geographical area. The idea was exciting and embraced by everyone with whom the project consulted. It felt like an initiative that fitted well with in the Chances4change remit. Turning the clock forward, Chances4Change now has the experience of two successful intergenerational projects, one between Causeway School and Cranbrook Extra Care Scheme in the autumn of 2016 and, subsequently, between West Rise Junior School and Cranbrook in the summer of 2017. Both were really energising and inspiring. Ongoing connections and friendships have been made between individuals and organisations, and the improvement in mood, activity level and social interaction for all involved in was profound.
First Steps of an Intergenerational Project
The first thing needed to help support a successful project is to have enthusiastic project partners. Chances4Change found that both the manager of Cranbrook and the headteacher and teachers from the schools were really up for getting involved. Talking to the care home manager and the headteacher at the outset is key; they have specialist knowledge about their institutions and will need to give their permission for any project to take place. They can also advise on the scope and will know the ideal number of participants. Chances4Change discovered tha, when working with secondary schools, a good cohort is year 8 & 9 students as they have settled into school but are pre-GCSE and in primary schools year 6 children have more time after they have completed SATs, so a project in June/July works well for them.
Top Tip: Ensure that staff, residents, and students have input into the planning and content of the project
Asking those who will be taking part what they would like to get from the project, ensures that the activities and topics will be of interest, which will encourage participation. For example, a memoirs project was suggested by Cranbrook residents, which gave the older people an opportunity to share some of their life experiences with the students. The young people chose topics they were interested in to talk about such as fashion, technology and the arts. Stories and experiences were exchanged, and common interests were discovered. This two way process meant that everyone taking part was involved and engaged.
It is helpful to have a check list when initiating discussions, including:
- Venue – think of using a familiar and safe space that's convenient and accessible.
- Make sure everyone has a part in planning the sessions and designing the project.
Project type – here’s a list of some examples of the types activities that have been suggested during conversations with Chances4Change, but this list is by no means exhaustive:
- The length of the project and when it will happen needs to be thought about.
- Participant numbers need to be determined
- The time of year – could the project take place outside or inside? Is there a garden or outside courtyard that could be used?
- Is there Flexibility within the activities in case you need to change course? Perhaps if there’s bad weather, or if new ideas for activities emerge
- Consider an end of project goal, such as a slide show, display, or scrap book this can act as a focus and provides a lasting visual memory of the time spent together. An end of project celebration is a great way to finish. Its a chance to present the scrap book or display and an opportunity to say thanks to one another.
We found that there are a few important points to consider when preparing to begin an intergenerational project, including:
- Appointing a designated person to take and circulate notes of meetings. This is really useful as clear communication keeps everyone informed about what needs to happen before the project begins and while it’s running. Continue to support students and residents - assistance will sometimes be needed to help facilitate conversations and to make sure notebooks and other materials and equipment are available.
- Involving local businesses. Some businesses are very generous and supportive of community projects. For example, a garden centre donated plants and two supermarkets each gave a voucher. Builders working at Cranbrook voluntarily dug over the overgrown flower bed that became the sensory garden. The school council donated compost that one of the teacher's dad had delivered. The garden became a real community effort.
- Transport issues. Can the children walk to the venue? Does the school minibus need to be booked? When we tried to book accessible taxis to take the older people to the school, for example, we found that most of them had been pre-booked for the school run, so it wasn’t a viable option.
- Mobility issues. Older residents may need help to get to the lounge or garden if they have mobility problems.
- Permission slips. These will need to be sent to parents.
- Risk assessments. A risk assessment will be needed. Check with your insurer to make sure the activities are covered.
- Have a digital camera or tablet available to record the project.
- Ask the children to send written invitations to the older people asking to meet them in the lounge or garden for tea and cake. It's a good way to start the project in a friendly and relaxed environment!
In terms of safeguarding, we found that:
- Any volunteers taking part should be DBS checked.
- Permission needs to have been given for both young and older people to be photographed.
- An up-to-date safeguarding policy and processes need to be in place. (NB in the model we used for our projects, the older people did not have to be DBS checked as all sessions and activities were held in a group).
- Young people need to be supported and supervised by a member of staff at all times.
Sustainability and Evaluation
During the project, continue to allow ideas to evolve and be prepared to try new activities. Once the sensory garden was completed, for example, the group moved outside for subsequent sessions and all manner of activities took place including garden games, singing and painting pebbles.
At the end of the project, it's important to regroup and evaluate how everything went. Here are some points to consider:
- Is there potential for sessions to continue in the form of an intergenerational after school club? A supervised group of Year 5 & 6 West Rise children are now visiting Cranbrook on Thursday after school. The children and older adults have designed a full and fun-filled programme of activities that they can do together, such as making name badges for each other, card and board games, arts and crafts, story sharing with photos, and a talent show with party pieces.
- Could invitations to school productions, summer fetes or games afternoons be extended to the older residents?
- Share your findings with others. Pass on the guide!
- Think about writing an article for a local newsletter and encourage others to try similar projects in their neighbourhoods or parishes.
- Think about applying for funding – 3VA can help!
Some of the evaluation tools that we felt worked well were:
- Photographic evidence of the activities and interactions.
- An end of project scrapbook is an excellent memento of the experience. This can include photographs, artifacts and write ups of stories that were shared.
- Quotes from participants and staff.
We have matched a mood wheel evaluation tool to this project which records mood at the beginning and end of each session.
For more information or to request a hard copy of the guide, please contact Jo Wunsch at firstname.lastname@example.org.