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Playbusters’ Connecting Generations Project

Playbusters’ Connecting Generations Project aims to promote interaction between younger and older people within the East End of Glasgow. The project provides opportunities for both younger and older people to spend time together, learn different skills and work together to improve their community. Activities are aimed at improving confidence and self esteem and overall community connections.

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What are the aims and objectives?

The aim of the Connecting Generations project is to create positive relationships, raise awareness and reduce isolation by bringing older people and younger people together to participate in a variety of workshops and activities in order to exchange skills, explore and address negative perceptions, create greater understanding and promote safer, more cohesive communities.

Specifically Connecting Generations wishes to:

  • Establish positive relationships between the generations through positive dialogue, trust, understanding, awareness of issues and formation of friendships.
  • Support older people and young people to become both teachers and learners as they share skills and experience activities and informal learning opportunities together.
  • Reduce social isolation through involvement in a variety of activities, volunteering opportunities and the use of technology.
  • Make strong connections between younger and older people, enhance a sense of safety and wellbeing and impact positively on ‘fear of crime’.

Playbusters strives to promote a sense of community and to provide evidence that participating in the project benefits both individuals and the wider community, thus improving the community’s social capital.

Why was the project set up? Has the approach changed over time?

Established in 2002, Playbusters is based in and works with eleven of Glasgow’s east end communities. The organisation was originally set up to address the lack of safe, good quality play areas for children and young people in the east end of Glasgow. Playbusters aims to support parents/carers to work in partnership with various agencies to influence and increase play provision and services for children and young people. It also supports local people to take responsibility for their children’s education and personal development. In response to local need and the desire of parents to improve the area for the benefit of the whole community, Playbusters has developed significantly since its establishment and continues to evolve.

"We are community focused and never want to lose that grassroots approach."

The Connecting Generations project was set up following project working and wider engagement with young people. Many young people expressed a lack of close contact with extended family and were not being afforded the opportunity to learn from and build positive relationships with older citizens. Similar discussions with older people demonstrated that many did not have contact with young people, despite having spare time available and skills to offer. Both groups felt that they could share skills: older people offered ‘traditional skills’ whilst younger people could pass on their skills in the use of technology.

A successful pilot ran in 2006. Two local schools (77 young people) and 29 older people took part, supported by the Standing Up to Antisocial Behaviour Award and Scottish Government Wider Role Fund. The Connecting Generations project was subsequently launched in August 2009. The project continues to expand the range of activities available in response to the participants’ areas of interest and availability of skills.

Who are the participants and the partners?

Based in Glasgow’s East End, Connecting Generations engages with people aged over 50 and those aged between eight and 16 years within the community. The project aims to benefit 900 people over a five year period (2009 to 2014), 300 of whom will be volunteers aged 50 years and over, the remaining 600 to be young people.

“We really listen and take the lead from local people.”

The project works in partnership with local schools and is funded by the BIG Lottery. A wide range of stakeholders and partners also contribute, including the Police, PAGE (Pensioners Action Group East), John Wheatley College, Cranhill Community Project and the local housing associations. Playbusters has a team of 25 staff (including sessional workers), and a diverse and active volunteer group of over 100 people. The organisation is managed by a voluntary Board of Directors consisting of parents and grandparents from the wider East End.

What does the project do?

The Connecting Generations project works to bring older people and young people together through of a range of workshops and activities, visits to places of interest and the transference of both traditional and technological skills. All participants become both a “teacher and a learner”. The programme was devised to help bridge the gap between people of all ages throughout the East End of Glasgow.

The project is focused on creating strong connections and networks throughout the East End, improving understanding across generations, increasing levels of trust between the beneficiaries and reducing reported levels of antisocial behaviour. The programme not only opens up and builds new skills but provides a valuable opportunity to impact on the social isolation felt by many older people.  Older and younger people are the target groups as the project recognises that these are the people who spend the most time within their communities. 

“We have a strong network of partners because we do what we say we do.”  

Intergenerarional activities hosted by the project include gardening and allotment working, heritage workshops, art regeneration programmes, club activities, traditional crafts, games and sports, and IT and technology workshops. All activities are about providing joint learning and shared experiences. As at September 2010, 310 young people and 91 older adults had engaged and participated in workshops and activities. A number of organised visits to places of intergenerational interest have been organised by the programme including trips to museums, gardens and the theatre. From 2009 to 2010, 90 older people and 114 young people have taken part in the organised visits/trips.

Playbusters has received a number of high profile awards and commendations including the Queens Award for Voluntary Service 2011 (the equivalent of an MBE for voluntary groups), the Volunteer Friendly Award, and a number of awards for the work of individual volunteers.

In what way is the approach ‘asset based’? 

The Connecting Generations project works to enhance the existing skills of older and younger people and to build new skills through joint learning and shared experiences. Furthermore, through the work of the programme new relationships and friendships have been built, a greater understanding of each generation realised, and confidence and self esteem increased. This has resulted in creating stronger communities and greater cohesion between generations. Improved family relationships are also reported.

Working in partnership with a wide range of stakeholders and across the communities of the East End of Glasgow, the project provides a flexible response to the wishes and interests of each participant and strives to find activities that suit each person in a supportive and inclusive way. By providing opportunities for shared experiences and learning, the programme has helped build positive relationships between younger and older people. Connecting Generations supports positive dialogue and the formation of friendships, both within and across generations, and nurtures the development of trust, understanding and awareness of the issues facing each generation.

“Our strength is being where people are and where they’re happy to be.”

By adopting and embedding a volunteering ethos, Playbusters and the Connecting Generations project utilise the skills and talents of local people to create change, build social capital and inspire community action where people can make a difference in their community.

How has success been measured?

To ensure the project meets its goals and provides flexibility in its delivery, Playbusters has a comprehensive system in place for recording information related to all their participants and volunteers, and to measure and track wider project milestones and outcomes.

On engagement with the Connecting Generations project, each participant is surveyed to establish their areas of interest, skills and what they would like to gain from their involvement with the project. They are then followed up six months later and at the end of each year. This information is used to develop and plan future project activity. Video and audio equipment are used to encourage people to speak of their experiences and to help measure the softer outcomes such as increased confidence, wellbeing and changes in perceptions.

What are the strengths and challenges? 

Playbusters’ Connecting Generations project provides opportunities for both generations to learn from each other, enjoy each others company and work together to improve the general environment of the community. Through a range of activities led by participants, confidence and self esteem is increased and overall community connections and cohesion improved.

The negative perceptions and labelling of East End communities historically and by the media was also raised as ongoing barrier for the success of community led projects.

”It’s about communities working together to counteract negative media images.”

Funding was highlighted as a challenge for Playbusters as a whole. Staff expressed frustration arising from the need to deliver the project on a “shoestring budget”. Conflict between the short term nature of their funding and the long term plans they would like to put in place was a further difficulty. As Playbusters takes a whole community approach, accessing funding was raised as an issue as a number of funders have specific target audience criteria attached to their funds.

At a personal level, staff expressed high levels of job satisfaction and pride in being part of the local community. Staff also reflected on the energy of local people and their willingness to get involved and try something new. They felt that the local community and people have changed a great deal over the years.

Participants articulated their pleasure in being involved with the project and appreciation of the range of activities on offer and opportunities to volunteer. Participants also spoke of the important role of the project in providing opportunities to get outdoors and engage with the local community. They also valued being able to develop new skills and to socialise with other participants and form new friendships locally.

Relevant links to other parts of the Understanding Glasgow site:  social capital, community safety, children’s safety, children’s wellbeing and Understanding Glasgow film series: Young Mums