ASU Lodestar Center


Cogenerational Service Academy participants

In the news: What does cogenerational funding look like?

January 23, 2024, — Our nation and world are aging. More older folks are running around than ever before, sometimes literally. I recently went on a hike with an 81-year-old friend who I definitely did not outpace on the trail. But intergenerational hiking — and working, and socializing — are not the norm. The U.S. is so age-segregated that it has been referred to as a nation of “age apartheid,” said Marc Freedman, founder of the nonprofit CoGenerate, which just announced the 10 winners of its “CoGen Challenge to Advance Economic Opportunity.” Ares Charitable Foundation gave CoGenerate $700,000 for the challenge, as I wrote in September.

The CoGen Challenge is designed to elevate “cogenerational models that bring older and younger generations together to help create a more inclusive and prosperous future.” It is an example of the small but growing field of “cogenerational” or “intergenerational” programming and philanthropy — which taps the talents of people from different generations to solve an array of problems. Bringing generations together opens up new possibilities for solving the serious problems we face and is a cure for the rising loneliness and isolation plaguing people of all generations. At least that is the thinking behind much of the work in this area.

Age integration can happen in all kinds of ways, as the winners of this CoGen Challenge show. While some grantees seem like obvious picks, such as those focused on mentorship, others are more surprising. Winners focus on a wide range of issues, come from very different communities, and are of different sizes and longevity. Together, they demonstrate an array of ways organizations can bring an innovative, cogenerational approach to broader educational and economic efforts. [...]

During the month-long application period last fall, more than 160 organizations submitted grant requests. The 10 winning groups will each receive a $20,000 grant as well as six months of pretty extensive peer and professional support and coaching, beginning with the first in-person meeting this February. Winners include Denver-based Access Gallery, which is creating a cogenerational incubator for older and younger artists with disabilities; The Church Council of Greater Seattle, bringing together intergenerational groups of faith leaders to create more equitable stewardship of church-owned land and property; Miami-based Venprendedoras Foundation, empowering female immigrant entrepreneurs through cross-generational learning and collaboration; and Oakland-based Substantial Classrooms, working on an intergenerational support program for substitute teachers. [...]

The original plan was to award just eight fellowships, but CoGenerate wound up selecting 10 winners, an expanded cohort that includes two organizations focused on intergenerational national service and were part of last year’s CoGenerate cohort-based program, Generations Serving Together. These include ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation, which will use the money for its Cogenerational Service Academy to create multigenerational teams of AmeriCorps members and volunteers focusing on a variety of issues, and Northern Santa Barbara County United Way, which is also working with AmeriCorps but focusing on intergenerational homeless outreach.

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—Story by Wendy Paris for