How Intergenerational Dialogue can Spark Imaginations and Generate Creativity With Kristin Bodiford – PS047

Intergenerational Dialogue Episode Overview

My guest Kristin Bodiford believes that that magic can happen when people come together around issues they care deeply about. She shares a number of moving and funny stories of her work in community building with different populations across a broad range of issues around children and families. Most of the issues are challenging, yet through dialogic and collaborative practices, she has seen people create changes that come from tapping into their strengths as individuals and as communities.


Kristin Bodiford on Intergenerational DialogKristin Bodiford has great strengths and experience working in a variety of communities and populations in the US and overseas.  Kristin is Representative for Generations United to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSC) at the United Nations advising on social development policy related to aging, youth, families and intergenerational solidarity.

Kristin is also an adjunct professor at Dominican University, Graduate School of Social Work, and teaches at the Taos Institute in the Master of Relational Leading program.  She continues to research in the area of how tapping into and strengthening our relational resources helps us to propel social innovation.

Intergenerational Dialogue Builds Community

Community Strengths is both the name and the focus of Kristin’s work.  In collaborations with others, and using a number of dialogic, collaborative and relational practices, such as Appreciative Inquiry and circle approaches, she works with many different groups, for example:

  • forming collaborations to help people re-enter society after time in jail
  • working with Boomers in leading dialogues across the cities in Oregon
  • supporting children and families who experience domestic violence
  • attending to aging and around children and families
  • working with young people who are labelled, delinquent, deviant  and dangerous
  • developing programs to promote healthy aging

Project after project, Kristen and her collaborators experience that through the relational process of dialogue and co-action, real social innovations happen. In conversation and through stories, the imaginative capacity is sparked leading to creative solutions that address issues at the local level.

A Strategic Approach

Intergenerational approaches are strategic.  Intentionally bringing the strengths of the different generations together when ordinarily they might not meet or engage in dialogue enables each generation to hear the different perspectives and generate creative solutions to issues. What can result are new understandings, new meanings and new relationships.

What is most exciting in the work that’s being done in the intergenerational space is the intergenerativity capacity of the different generations. To learn more about this take a look at Peter Whitehouse’s paper in the links section below.  To quote from it:

“… generativity involves conversations between two or more people about an idea with long-term implications, whereas intergenerativity implies a cultural conversation between generations distributed through time (and potentially space).

Positive Outcomes

Kristin shares many examples of the positive outcomes that come when you focus on community strengths by engaging the different generations. It helps, but it’s not necessary to bring the generations together around a specific issue.  Sometimes just coming together in a gathering so all the perspectives can be heard that produce unexpected and creative solutions that would not have happened if these diverse voices had not come together.  Furthermore, informal mentoring goes on when people work together around issues they care about.

Intergenerational Peace Circles is one such example.  A number or community based projects get started when the conversations start, are deepened and the relationships form.  As the increase in understanding between the generations rises, fear and distrust diminishes.

Listen in to Kristin telling the beautiful story of Miss Mary Perry and the Intergenerational Gardening project she initiated. Miss Mary Perry. 90 years old inspired young men to grow community gardens.

Positive Aging – what is that?

Think about how positive aging is presented in advertising.  How truly representational are the images and narratives associated with positive aging.  We talked about the need for a different narrative around aging.  Kristin is researching healthy aging.  One lovely perspective that Kristin shared from a colleague in Africa on this topic:

“healthy aging is supporting the beings and doings that give meaning to us.”

We also talked about quality of life as a broader dimension of aging.

Generations wiser together

Whenever you can create the opportunity of bringing people together for intentional conversation around issues that matter to them, magic does happen.  The relational field of co-creating through sharing our stories results in a fusion of conversations.  The potential to ignite sources of creativity that might not ordinarily happen if such a gathering had not happened.  The deep human connection through the intentional bringing together can tap into sources of creativity and spark the imagination.

Kristin reminded us of a project we shared some years ago on the topic of “Flourishing Destinies”.  A “flourishing” springs forth from conversation when people enter into a relational process. In such a case, it’s not a strategic plan or a given agenda, but the spark of creativity and the generativity comes from the conversations and the coming together.

Listening Deeply

It grows over time and it happens when we learn to be in relationship with others. It takes practice, it requires us to slow down, to learn how to be in relationship. When we practice and are intentional, we can be wiser together.  We increase our capacity to be together in new ways.

Learning to slow down and listen deeply was an insight gained by a young man as part of an intergenerational initiative that Kristen was part of in her role as an adjunct professor at Dominican university.  Do watch the video to hear this young man say it for himself.  The link in below.

In conclusion we talk about about the processes that facilitate real human connection, fostering inclusion and wholeness. Strengths-based, appreciative and relational perspectives support us in creating spaces and places where we can all be included and valued, wherever you are in your life span and whatever generation you are right now.

PPositivity Lens NotebookOSITIVITY LENS for this Episode

Download Kristin's suggested “positive activities” for this episode: Hint- it’s about having more intentional conversations with different generations; and pay attention to the narratives you are co-creating.

positivity lens


Downloadable Resources and Tools

Enter your details for instant access to this content

Click the button below to open your activity sheet for this episode:

Connect with Kristin

Links Mentioned In This Episode

Let's Stay Connected

It's always great to hear from you. Please connect with me to ask questions or leave comments about this episode or the podcast in general, and there are several good ways to do this:

  • Share your questions and ideas on the Podcast Feedback page
  • Leave a voice message here, and we may feature your question on an upcoming episode
  • Leave a comment on the show notes below

If this episode was helpful or enjoyable to you,

  • I invite you to share it using the social media buttons on the bottom of this page.
  • I'd love it if you can leave a quick review, on iTunes and Stitcher.