Where are we now? The development of the Camden Intergenerational Network

John Miles, Chair of the Camden Intergenerational Network, refelcts on how far the network has come and and where it is headed.

Its eighteen months since the last Camden Intergenerational Week and just under six months till the next one in October. Since January 2016, when we held our final meeting with Vanda Carter in her former role as Camden’s part-time intergenerational officer, the Network has been quietly productive. We’ve established a steering group and agreed a constitution. We’ve held four successful meetings each attended by at least fifteen people and carried out a member survey. There’s a growing recognition that the Network’s job is to serve as a platform, showcasing our members’ activities rather than running things directly.

We think the Network has the potential to influence community development. If we live lives increasingly segregated by age that gap can seem mild compared to the gulf between the organisations who serve us. But here things are changing in Camden. A youth worker manager and a young parent attended our most recent meeting. Meanwhile, the new Camden Youth Foundation (CYF) has started life by supporting a round of bids for intergenerational work.

The YCF projects and the Intergenerational Week offer a tremendous opportunity for public involvement through ‘creativity, community, friendship and fun’ at local level. But they may also bring energy and vision to a more ambitious project of age integration and community life. We need to link school and home, day centre and sports-pitch, museum and park. Camden has been bucking a trend. Intergenerational practice had a brief time in the policy spotlight ten years ago but since then has slid a long way down the scale of government priorities. In Camden, we’ve been fortunate that talented and committed people kept talking the talk and walking the walk - and were prepared to do so on a shoe-string. Bringing the generations together doesn’t need a great deal of direct investment. It should be about reordering the way we do things, bypassing the divisions we take for granted. We hope in the year ahead to see more and more people joining the Network conversation.