How To Host a GenHERous Conversation

GenHERous was created so women could connect, learn and support each other across the genHERations by sharing their experience and wisdom in intergenerational conversations. At its core is the assumption that our collective wisdom is of great value to all of us and we need to have a way to share it and put it to use in our lives.

This document is written in that spirit. It is a living document that contains what we have learned so far. It will be updated to include what we learn as we live this experience. It is intended to offer guidance, tools and templates but not to stifle your creativity and ability to do what will work best for the women you gather. It will never replace the human connection to other genHERous women who are here in person to support and cheer you through this process and to learn with you.

Good luck!

1. Getting Started

The purpose of genHERous is to give us access to each other’s wisdom in the context of real life conversations.

Unfortunately, there are all sorts of constraints on women’s time so please keep in mind from the very beginning that you will need to offer options and be sensitive to constraints in order to get women from every generation to attend. For instance, women in their 30s might need child care, end of semester exams will suppress attendance for women in their teens and early 20s, and evenings and transportation issues might be a problem for older women. I set up a Google form that went out with the initial invitation and gave women a choice of several dates and times I asked if they needed child care etc. I then chose the date with the most numbers in each generation and continued inviting women until I had filled all of the slots in each generation for that date. The point is that picking a time and place should be a thoughtful process.

In addition to a convenient date, you will also need to decide how many generations of women you want to invite, how many women of each generation, a location, and a meeting length. The following will help you think through those decisions.

How much time should I allot?

The minimum length of a genHERous should be four hours depending on the size of your groups and the number of generations you chose to include—the more of each, the more time you will need for the conversations. To run a successful session you will need time for gathering the group, giving an introduction to the process, two rounds of conversations, a break between them, and a time to debrief and close the conversation with the whole group. (Review attachment 9: Instructions Handout to get a better sense of the meeting content) Ideally, there will also be a post-session reception where conversations can continue informally.

The pilot was 6 generations with 6 per generation (36 women). It was planned to be 3 hours long. The group chose to stay on and to talk informally for an additional hour and the overwhelming feedback was that the whole event needed to be longer!

How many generations should I include?

You can have women in their teens (preferably older high school), 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80 and above. Depending on whether you include teens and 80 plus, you will have 6 to 8 generation groups each of which will need its own meeting space for the first round. Unless you have access to a large senior population, I suggest using 70 plus. Teens were not included in the pilot.

How many women in each generation and in total?

You can have as few as 24 and as many as 48 women and have enough (but not too many) for a good conversation. What is imperative is that you have an equal number of women from each generation so there will be one from each age group in the second round. This insures that every generation gets represented with an equal voice in the intergenerational conversations. (Note: I found it hardest to find members of the younger generations and had too many volunteers over 50!)

Group numbers If you invite 6 generations (20s through 70s plus):

# of women per generation
x
# of generations
=
Total number of women
4 per generation
x
6 generations
=
24 total
5 per generation
x
6 generations
=
30 total
6 per generation
x
6 generations
=
36 total
Round 1 – Same Generation 6 groups of 4 6 groups of 5 6 groups of 6
Round 2 – One from each Generation 4 groups of 6 5 groups of 6 6 groups of 6

Group numbers if you invite 7 generations (late teens through 70s plus):

# per generation
x
# of generations
=
Total number of women
4 per generation
x
7 generations
=
28 total
5 per generation
x
7 generations
=
35 total
6 per generations
x
7 generations
=
42 total
Round 1 – Same Generation 7 groups of 4 7 groups of 5 7 groups of 6
Round 2 – One from each Generation 4 groups of 7 5 groups of 7 6 groups of 7

How much space do we need?

You will need a large gathering area and as many breakout/conversation spaces as you have generations for round 1, and as many conversation spaces as you have women per generation for round 2. For example, the pilot was held in a private home. Since we had 6 generations and 6 women in each group, we needed 6 conversation spaces for each round. The main living room was used as a general gathering space. 6 separate conversation groups were set-up in 6 different rooms of the house. If you have 7 generations and 4 women from each, you will need 7 spaces for round 1 and 4 for round 2.

Try to arrange for separate conversation spaces, as opposed to round tables all in the same large room. This promotes intimacy and is much better for hearing impaired participants. If you are using a church space, consider using RE rooms or offices as break-out spaces. Assign the oldest groups to the quietest most comfortable spaces for round 1. You might also want a table for coffee and water and a table for check-in and name tags. Snacks can be placed at the center of each of the small conversation groups.

2. Inviting Attendees and Filling the Generation Groups

Several weeks before the event, send out an e-mail invitation that is as personal as possible. For the pilot, we used e-mail from the organizer with the heading “Personal Invitation” and got a great response rate. (If you are not already wed to one date, you can include options for a number of dates and then pick the one where you have the most attendees in each age group.)

Include in the invitation:

  • a brief description of the event and the logistical details (Attachment 1)
  • a link to the registration page (Google form), and (Attachment 2)
  • either the long form document that explains the project or (when it becomes available), a link to the genHERous website. (Attachment 3)

Keep a running list of whom you invite and who accepts by generation. (The Google form will capture this information for anyone who accepts and create a chart. I pasted it in to an Excel spreadsheet because it was easier for me to sort.) When you need more women of a certain generation, ask women who have responded positively (yes, or cannot make this one but would like to be asked again) if they will share the e-mails of friends they would like to see invited. Ask them NOT to forward the invitation so you can keep control of the registration numbers. You do not want walk-ins the day of the event. Keep inviting women until you fill in all of the generation groups with the same number of attendees. (See attachment 4 for a sample list)

A few days before the event, send out a follow–up message to all attendees. Reiterate the purpose and logistical details. Stress the importance of showing up on-time and staying for the whole conversation. Ask that they let you know ASAP if they have a sudden change in plans so you can replace them in the group. Get the conversation started by sharing the opening question for round 1 and ask them to think about how they might answer in 4 minutes. (See attachment 5)

3. Preparing for the Conversations

Create group assignments. All participants will be with their age group for round 1. Create a list of group assignments for round 2 by putting one person from each age group in each intergenerational group.

Create name tags. Each generation has been assigned a color. Prepare a name tag for each participant with the color bar that corresponds to their generation. Put the individual group assignments on the name tags by filling in the “x/x” number slot with their assignment. So if the person is in their 20s and you have assigned them to intergenerational group 4, the number on their badge will be 2/4. (Attachment 6 is an electronic template for making badges that can be printed on standard name badge labels.)

Create a Location Assignments handout or wall chart with the locations of each group for both rounds. (See Attachment 6 “Meeting Location Template”). In the pilot, we had one large chart on the wall in the main room to use during the instructions and a handout on the tables in each of the breakout rooms for later reference.

Set up the rooms and tables. Arrange enough seating areas for each of the groups for each round. Consider how to maximize the ability for everyone to hear what is being said. I placed a piece of colored paper in the center of each table to match their generations color for round one. Also put instruction sheets and a “talking stick” on each table. (For a “talking stick” I used knitting needles through a ball of yarn and made the analogy during the intro that knitting had no knots. It is all about putting each stitch into relationship with the ones on each side and the ones above and below.) You can use any talking object that works for you.

Set up a table with the name tags by the entry and another with liquid refreshments. Keep snacks on the group tables rather than in a central location. You might also want to put boxes of tissues on the tables – we needed them in the pilot!

4. Facilitating the Conversation

Welcome and introduction (10 minutes)

Briefly welcome the group, thank them for coming, explain the purpose of the meeting and the hoped for outcomes. Review the instructions (See attachment 9 Instructions Handout) including:

  • The overall process and timing for the day
  • Ground rules and the need to make sure everyone is given equal a chance to speak from their own experience.
  • Appointing a timekeeper in each group to help people keep to the 4 minutes allotted to each person to tell their story. (If you can, model what this looks like by preparing and sharing with the large group your own version of a 4 minute answer to the round 1 questions. Mine is attached as an example.)
  • Point out the numbers on their badges and the locations for each meeting.
  • Ask “What questions do you have on what we are about to do?” before you close this section so you can clear up any confusion while they are all in one room.

Round 1: Same Generation Conversation (45 minutes to 1 hour depending on the group size)

Monitor what is happening in the groups by walking around and listening like a “fly on the wall” to make sure the groups are on track. Interrupt only if they ask for help or need to get back on track. Give a five minute warning before the end of the allotted time period.

Break (20 minutes) Time to get drinks, use bathrooms, finish conversations and find their way to their round 2 group.

Round 2: Intergenerational Conversations (75 to 90 minutes depending on the number of generations)

(Bring evaluation forms (Attachment 10) to each group and ask them to fill them out and return to the main room)

Debrief: (10-15 minutes)

Ask the group to share their high level insights by asking “What was most valuable for you in these conversations? What surprised or touched you? What might you want to do as a result of these conversations? How might we make this experience better for other women who come to a genHERous?

Living genHERous: (10-15 minutes)

Explain that it is a tradition of genHERous to express our gratitude and solidarity by making a concrete gift to a woman in whose life it would make a difference to know that other women are supporting her. For the pilot, we took up a collection and paid a month of student loan payments for a young woman who was doing transformative work and struggling to pay off her loans. (Attachment 11 is a card template for making this gift.) You can also identify a woman’s charity or another form of paying it forward. The point is to make it as personal and impactful in the life of an individual woman as possible. It is best if the group does not know the name of the recipient to avoid embarrassment.

Closing:

Thank the attendees for coming and sharing their stories. Make sure to collect all of the evaluation forms. If you have arranged for a post meeting reception, invite them to continue to make connections and conversation. Take a group picture and send it out as a follow-up.

5. After the Meeting

Review the evaluation forms. Get in touch with the genHERous organizers to share your experience, (Barbara Simonetti. 73 Fairmount Street, Brookline, MA 02445, 617-278-9544.) Send the gift to the woman who was chosen for “Living genHERous.”(Card is Attachment 11). Send the group photo and an appropriate note to the participants. Relax! You did it!

Final note: Please remember that the purpose of this document is to give you guidance on the practical logistics for the event. It is not a substitute for us working together. Please be in touch anytime. Nothing here is cast in stone so if you want to experiment, go ahead, just remember to let me know what you do and what you learn so we can share it with others. This project is all about being genHERous and harnessing our collective wisdom!

Good Luck,

Barbara Simonetti
Barbara@genherous.org
617-278-9544

GenHERous Materials

These materials are provided free of charge after you contact us using the form on this page.

  1. Sample initial invitation message – customize
  2. Sample Google form for registration – customize
  3. Background paper on genHERous
  4. Sample running list of participants by generation (generated from Google form)
  5. Sample pre-meeting message to final list of attendees – customize
  6. Nametag template – create one per participant (prints onto Staples or Avery 5371/8371 labels)
  7. Meeting Location Template – print one per table and one large poster version
  8. Personal example of succinct answer to first set of questions (create your own!)
  9. Instructions Handout –adjust times for your group, print 1 per participant double sided
  10. Evaluation Form – print 1 per participant, double sided
  11. Gift Card print whole file on card stock and fold.