Key Steps & Basic Concepts to Keep in Mind
Create Physical Space that is Welcoming. When creating an inclusive multi-generational space there are a few things that you should be intentional about offering in the physical space to make sure you are accommodating to all ages from babies to elders. Make sure the building and room are handicap/wheelchair accessible, make sure there is seating in a small area if not in the whole room, make sure there are accessible, gender inclusive bathrooms and child-proof as best you can. Creating smaller spaces within your larger space to help accommodate families with small children and caregivers tending to an elder or disabled body can also help you foster a welcoming atmosphere. There should be a space for families to change diapers or feed their if they choose to do it away from the group, a space that is quiet in case someone needs a moment of peace to themselves and an area that personal or medical needs can be met. Offer food, drinks and childcare! Advertise ahead of time that you are offering these things! Meetings often are at awkward times for people who have routine based lives, such as children and elders. By offering food and childcare you will help to eliminate two major hurdles that families and caregivers face to show up. All meeting spaces should also be welcoming to children at all times. By offering different ways to open your space to children and youth you will begin to foster an environment that is not only inclusive but one that is flexible in meeting people where they are at giving you a greater scope to call in families and caregivers to the work.
Create Psychic Space that is Welcoming. Multi-generational spaces are often loud and there will be disruptions. As space creators and facilitators we have the ability to set the tone of inclusion in our spaces by keeping in mind the language we use, our facial expressions and our body language during these disruptions. If a mother wants to nurse her baby at the table, if a child is throwing a tantrum, if an elder uses a word we are uncomfortable with or if someone with a disability has an outburst or a physical need arises, it is important to be conscious of how our stares, glares and comments can affect others. Maintain a light, flexible and open atmosphere. Remember that your efforts are creating a space with multi-generational leadership, and that is a gift to the world! Children, youth, parents, non-parent adults, elders and any other group of individuals that make up the larger group should be represented in decision making, brainstorming, and organizing. Allow children and youth to take the lead for action and meeting organizing. Allow space for elders to share their gained knowledge and life experiences. When we have a leadership collective that mirrors what our larger space looks like, we are able to hear directly what the needs of different groups are and make intentional efforts to be inclusive to all.
Say it Loud, Say it Proud! Name it, for all the potential attendees who are caregivers. Ask, do you need childcare? Also say, children are welcome! Snacks are provided! Wheelchair accessible! Rides available! Say it verbally, put it on flyers, make it a normal part of how your organization does things. Then name it again, this time for the people without caregiver responsibilities or mobility concerns. Let the group know that you are in solidarity with folks by acknowledging their needs and bringing up the topic so that they don't have to. It's great when an ally is the one to bring up the need and even better when they follow through not just with making childcare/child-welcoming happen, but then with acknowledging the kids at the event in a joyful way, and similarly, expressing gratitude that we have elders with us. Welcome folks to choose where they feed, diaper, and tend to medical needs. Hearing affirmation that we are a delight and not a nuisance really makes a difference in our experience!
Don’t Let the Perfect Stand in the Way of the Good. It might be that you don’t have the perfect conditions right now - space that is child-safe, available child-care workers, accessible entryways. Be honest about that, and also, commit to making necessary changes. For some caregivers or elders in the movement, the most accessible way for them to participate may be to bring the meeting to them in their home. Be honest, be flexible, and be creative. When we make something a priority, we can usually come up with a way to make it work!
- Check In, Get Feedback, Adapt! Individual, family, and community needs are not universal. For example, some parents are not comfortable with childcare in a separate area while others find it necessary. Similarly, you may find that even after offering food, childcare, and other arrangements, there are still barriers for people to get to your events. There are likely community specific needs in addition to or different from the ones outlined here. Do the best you can, be honest about what you are able to offer, and be open to feedback. The best way to be sure you have the arrangements necessary to meet needs is to have a dialogue, get feedback, and keep making changes. Surveys are a great tool to collect the feedback anonymously and reach people who have not yet been able to attend meetings or events.
The InterGalactic Conspiracy of Childcare Cooperatives has great suggestions for activities and forming cooperatives.
The Allied Media Conference is nationally renowned for their remarkable family inclusive accessible setup.
In Colorado, the American Friends Services Committee released this statement and uses the language on all of their events:
“Child Care & Our Movements for Justice - We believe no one should have to choose between raising a family and being involved in grassroots movements. We believe that revolutionary change is deep and continual, and that we will need to sustain a revolutionary movement over multiple generations. We believe that childcare is a collective responsibility. We believe that when we build with and support families, our organizations and movements are stronger. We believe parents should have a say in what childcare looks like. We believe childcare keeps us grounded and real in relation to families and people in our communities and we should make kids visible within our movements. We believe childcare is healing for communities; when done in caring way, it nurtures self esteem and creates real connections.*
We want to make our values around child care part of our “Welcome” for all of our events and a part of the culture of our organizing. In doing this we want to be clear in our language about child care:
- When we say child care will be provided, that means we are already prepared for you to bring your kids. We have some expectations of care givers and expectations of parents. (Our monthly skill shares)
- When we say child care is available upon request that if you are planning on bringing your kids, please give us one weeks’ notice. If you can’t give us a week because your child care fell through and you won’t be able to participate otherwise, let us know we’ll do the best we can. We have some expectations of caregivers and expectations of parents. (All day workshops)
- When we say that our event will be family friendly, that means we won’t have designated people who will be doing child care, but there will be plenty of space to run around and act like a kid, and there may be activities that you can do with your kids.
Lastly, we rely on people without families to also help make the space more welcoming to children? You can send the following email out to ask everyone to help.
"We need your help in continuing to gather donated, diverse, age appropriate materials for children, and to the best of our ability we want to actually engage children in the meeting or with other meaningful content.
Also! We'd like to have a short list of people that we can call who are interested in doing child care for our events. All levels of experience are welcome! Please send your name, phone number, email address, availability, language ability, and background to [email]. Thank YOU!
Feel free to pass this email along to other interested parties!"
*Largely borrowed from the Bay Area Child Care Collective, with much admiration.”