Generations network workshop series

Everybody seems to be talking about generations, but what do they mean when they do this?

Generation has both biological and social meanings, and can be used to describe family relationships, peer groups, political and cultural identities. It is a concept central to wellbeing, in supporting relations of care, solidarity, and socialisation, but it is also a potential source of conflict. Increasingly, generational differences are discussed in a divisive way, for example in the claim that there is a conflict of interests between older and younger people over social resources.

This project aims to develop a clearer understanding of the concept of generation, and how it can be most constructively used in public policy to support the wellbeing of individuals and communities across the life course.

By embedding close collaboration with the Centre for Parenting Culture Studies, and Third Sector organisations British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) and International Longevity Centre (ILC), we will pool knowledge from academics, charities, and think-tanks working with the concept from birth to older age, co-producing recommendations for future research and policy.

The network will be developed via a series of sequential workshops:

Workshop 1, Generations in the family and the problem of ‘parenting’

University of Surrey, 20 January 2020

What is passed down through successive generations? This question encompasses a wide range of disciplinary concerns, from biological reproduction to the reproduction of cultural norms and social problems. Paper presentations theorising diachronic generations will include those on historical and literary sources, tracing how parental and familial relationships have changed over the past 200 years. Discussion of these will be followed by an exploration of the significance of diachronic generations to cultural and policy debates about reproduction and parenting, and their relationship to individual and community wellbeing.

Workshop 2, Generational identities, and the problem of ‘presentism’

Held online, 1 April 2020

How and why do generational identities form, and what is their significance? A discussion of paper presentations addressing synchronic uses of the concept of generations will be followed by an exploration of how generational identities have come to be increasingly significant in discussions about wellbeing with regard to belonging, political affiliations, cultural differences, and moral values, and how intergenerational projects and environments can nuance and relativise those.

Workshop 3, Intergenerational relationships

Held online, 24 June 2020

What is the social and cultural significance of intergenerational relationships, and in what ways can they be supported or weakened by policy initiatives and community projects? Building on our previous discussions, this workshop considers how relationships between the generations are mediated within the family, and in wider society.

Workshop 4, Generational identities and historical events 

Held online, 10 September 2020

How do generational groupings and identities form in response to historical events? This workshop considered the question conceptually, and through discussion of three case studies.

Workshop 5, ‘Generationalism’ and the problem of social policy

Held online, 14 January 2021

In what ways is the concept of generation useful and/or obstructive in policies designed to foster wellbeing in the present day? The discussion here focused in particular on the emergence of new forms of ‘generationalism’, where particular characteristics of generation are exaggerated to frame claims about social problems and policy resources. Discussion considered how a more nuanced understanding of the working of generations could better inform intergenerational practice in policy areas including housing, education, care and community enrichment.

Read our briefing paper, ‘Talking about generations: 5 questions to ask yourself‘ (pdf).

Workshop 6, Consultation workshop with policy-makers and third-sector representatives

Held online, 24 February 2021

This event was hosted by the International Longevity Centre (ILC) and the Generations Network. It invited attendees’ input into the network’s draft set of recommendations for policy-makers and those in the media and third sector, and generated valuable discussion that contributed to the final document.

For more information about the network and related workshops, contact Jennie Bristow and Helen Kingstone at

Follow us on Twitter @GenerationsNet.

More about the generations theme: