How we talk about this matters. Think of the language of “generational warfare” we hear so often in the news—our vocabulary shapes our thinking toward conflict or toward solution. We need new words for new realities.
Our Work: The FrameWorks Institute, a communications firm that works to change the conversation about social problems, is researching, developing, and testing a positive message frame that unites diverse efforts for age, racial, and political equity and opportunity. Once we’ve got it right, we will we will work to get this frame widely adopted by key leaders.
Demographic change is public and political, but it is also private and personal. It is negotiated in people’s daily lives when they meet in the supermarket or in the classroom, and these personal experiences inform how we behave and vote. We need to understand: What is the impact of population size? Does it matter if the increasing diversity comes from the immigration of just one new racial group, or several? What affects how oldtimers respond to newcomers? And what strategies are communities already using to capitalize on demographic change as an asset?
Our Work: Since 2012, we have engaged community leaders and members in a number of cities experiencing rapid demographic change, including in-depth site visits to Charlotte, NC, Phoenix, AZ, and Seattle, WA. In early 2014, Manuel Pastor and PERE will carry this work forward with the release of a community report featuring data analysis of changes in 10 communities at the forefront of the demographic shift. The report will offer insights from communities across the country that are experiencing significant demographic change to understand how they are responding and what variations in their experiences seem to matter.
In 2014, a coalition of funders and partners will convene several meetings with metropolitan leaders to explore the need and potential for a learning network. We envision a Community Learning & Action Network of up to 20 communities where participants meet regularly to share experiences and build action plans. The new network will develop the capacities of diverse leaders and coalitions, build proactive strategies, share resources, and establish metrics for measuring effectiveness.
We need fresh thinking on how to respond to the changing needs of all generations. We are particularly investigating some of the areas where the interests of the young and the old align—public transportation, housing, civic engagement, and employment. How can we change our infrastructure to meet the transportation needs of people who don’t drive cars? Can multigenerational housing models satisfy young people’s need for affordable housing and older people’s need for assistance? How can we adjust our labor practices to improve both entering and exiting the workforce?
Our Work: In December 2013, we released a policy paper in collaboration with Generations United called Out of Many, One: Uniting the Changing Faces of America. The report challenges traditional approaches to changing demographics and elevates intergenerational solutions that strengthen our families and communities. It includes the results of a new public opinion survey on how Americans of all ages feel about the changing faces of their community and makes recommendations to capitalize on our growing demographic diversity.
In October 2013, we released a paper with the Center for Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University. Economist Anthony Carnevale looks at prospects for young people joining the workforce in Failure to Launch, and debunks the myth that older workers’ extended careers are cannibalizing jobs needed by younger generations.
We continue to seek and collect innovative intergenerational policy ideas. New policy refreshers in the works will be posted here.
Fresh, practical, positive-sum solutions are needed, and they demand lines of communication and working relationships between representatives of all generations and races.
Our Work: We are building actionable relationships between community and national leaders of organizations that have historically been siloed in the interest of a particular population. We will host a series of national convenings that build a movement towards positive action. In 2014, our convening will focus on the results of the FrameWorks communications strategy, the PERE community report, and the Generations United policy paper.