Intergenerational dialogues in Islington
Our work with the Somali diaspora has been in partnership with Somali Initiatives for Dialogue and Democracy and Initiatives of Change and involved running a series of intergenerational dialogues for the community based in Finsbury Park, North London.
This programme of dialogues stemmed from consultations with the Somali community across the UK, recognising that one of the biggest divides faced by the community is intergenerational, with 2nd generational Somalis in London more invested in their lives here, speaking English and facing the economic and social challenges familiar to many young people in Britain. Older Somalis are often less invested in British society, with lower levels of English and many still hoping to return home to Somalia at some point in the future.
These challenges cause conflicting identities across generations and a lack of understanding across generations of the challenges faced in daily life. Often these conflicts remain unaddressed in families, affecting both younger and older Somalis. These challenges could be addressed in a safe and secure space of facilitated dialogue, giving opportunity for new ways of communicating, focusing on building empathy and understanding across the age groups.
The dialogues ran over three days in Islington and brought together a cross-generational and cross-clan group of over 60 people in a series of facilitated dialogue workshops to increase understanding of the challenges faced by each generation, build relationships across generations through dialogue, share skills and tools for more effective communication around challenging issues and inspire the community to tackle intergenerational conflict going forward.
‘When we contribute to the family, we contribute to the community, and we can involve the policymakers. Workshops like this can be a platform where we can raise our concerns. What we learned here, we will take to our homes, to the community, the mosques and the churches. We have to begin where we can begin, talking to each other without judgement. It will have a positive impact on the wider community, and continuing sessions like this will have more impact on the community.’
-Yussuf Ahmed Islington Somali Community (ISC)
The dialogues included sharing personal stories both within and between generations and sharing case studies of intergenerational reconciliation; separate facilitated groups of older and younger participants, creating a list of concerns to deliver to the other generation, enabled mixed-generation groups to brainstorm ideas for working on these concerns together and a chance to share the concerns and solutions generated with political and community representatives, including Islington Borough Council and Jeremy Corbyn MP.
Work leading on from these dialogues has included a second set of trainings reflecting on cross-generational leadership, and what is means to be a strong and effective leader in the Somali community. These linked evenings were held in Islington Town Hall with the support and involvement of Cllr Rakhia Ismail of Islington Borough Council. These dialogues involved a smaller group of community youth worker and figures of influence within the local Somali community, focusing on practical ways to tackle the challenges of communication and belonging across the generations.