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The InterGenChallenge –The Start of an “Engagement and Inspiration Loop”

Entrepreneurship is the catch, challenges the key and the stories and memories lived the journey towards inspiration.

Photo of Tino Elgner
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One of the first assumptions that the following idea is based on is that mentorship, despite its different definitions on "what" it is supposed to do, might only be accomplished authentically when... 
  • the mentor understands what the mentee is going through as closely as possible
  • the mentee believes that the mentor understands what the mentee is going through as closely as possible 
Only with this type of understanding and knowledge, can one give advice and create the openness in the mentee to truly think about taking it or not.
Thus, creating the environment for true mentorship appears already complicated enough; however, when looking at the current issue another aspect toughens the entire dilemma – the age difference between the participants and the therefore accompanying stereotypes of for example, “the older I am, the wiser I am.”
As a consequence, it was decided to take mentorship out of the initial formula and primarily focus on the creation of mutual understanding. In other words, although we might not be able to change for example the stereotype that age and mentorship should go together based on increased life experience (What can somebody younger than I teach me?), what we can change and increase is the level of understanding that all participants have of each other (S/he can teach me because s/he knows what my problems are). Thus, mentorship will not be seen as the "mean" but as the general "goal" that one is trying to reach, through having achieved a particular type of understanding that allows for mentorship to flourish in the future.
The second assumption of the idea is that it is easier to start with “engagement” first that will later lead to inspiration through powerful experiences and knowledge, instead of trying to create inspiration from the beginning.
The third assumption of the idea (and there are more to come) is that inspired participants will create a momentum that with the right support will be self-sustaining and therefore able to have a greater impact than the initial idea could ever have had by itself. This momentum will guide the “inspired” to use for example mentorship, or other means, to share their experiences and keep the spirit of the original idea alive in their own ways by engaging others.
Thus, the overall “formulas” underlying the idea basically look like the following:
  1. Engagement + Powerful Experiences = Inspiration
  2. Inspiration + Support = Self-sustaining Momentum
  3. Self-sustaining Momentum -> using mentorship + different means to engage others

The Idea
The idea is to create a platform that is engaging and attractive enough to gather a certain number of people to come together over a certain period of time.
The goal of the idea is…
  • to construct this platform in a way that it creates personal experiences and mutual understandings that are powerful enough to inspire the participants to engage others through their own way and their own personal stories…of which mentorship could be one
  • to provide participants with the knowledge and support of how they possibly could engage others by helping them to implement their own ways of wanting to contribute to the cause…of which mentorship could be one 

The idea is not about getting participants to find other people to join the initial platform/idea, but to empower them to use their own talents to create new platforms and ideas around the cause in question, and thus to bridge the gap between the old and the young through creating a loop of engagement and inspiration. As a consequence the idea becomes not only a mean in itself but also an end.
Questions surrounding the Idea
How do we engage people from different generations to come together?
By segmenting the potential participants correctly based on how valuable they find the information they THINK they will discover through the process. In other words, by answering and focusing on the question, what do I gain through my engagement? 

How can different generations learn to understand each other?
By doing what these generations do now/did in the past and engaging in dialogue about it. 

How do we create powerful experiences that lead to inspiration?
By creating an illusion around the true goal of the platform based on the assumption that people, when surprised or through discovering something themselves, show much stronger emotional connections to the surprising factor and the things they have discovered. In other words, people will be inspired “by surprise”, and thus inspiration can occur naturally. 

How can we help inspired participants to implement their own platforms and ideas through for example mentorship?
By supporting them to use the discovered knowledge to share it with others through the stories and experiences one was able to live through throughout the process. 

Details of the Idea
The InterGenChallenge
External Value Proposition to Participants:
The InterGenChallenge is a competitive platform/incubator for young entrepreneurs that offers the opportunity to get to know older generations to come up with startup ideas surrounding these demographics by truly understanding their needs, desires and problems while competing for seed capital of $1.000.
True/Hidden Value Proposition:
Offering a platform of carefully designed challenges that will not only help the participants to get to know each other but create powerful experiences and memories that will turn participants into advocates for the true cause of using their own ideas and energy to bridge the gap between different generations. Thus, entrepreneurship is used to “engage” but the process/the journey depicted through the challenges is used to inspire.
Assuming that the participation of the elderly is a given based on the nature of the organization in question, it was decided to focus on young entrepreneurs as the participating counterparts, as young entrepreneurs seem to be one of the different demographics/groups that would have most to gain when looking at the question of what they will get from their engagement* – the knowledge they need to create their startups by getting to know their customers + an initial investment price of $1.000 + the free publicity in case their startup idea wins.
*It is assumed that many young people “engage” earlier when having the possibility to satisfy personal needs instead of when asking them to do something for other people without personal gains. This of course does not apply to everybody but might be one of the reasons for the overall lack of mentorship for the old by the young in the first place. Thus, a hidden value proposition is the chosen route for this idea, as the external one might also lead to higher and more long-lasting motivation levels.
How does it work?
To gather the knowledge and to find possible startup ideas, a minimum of two young entrepreneurs are paired with two elderly participants. These teams will complete challenges that are designed to bridge generational gaps and help all participants understand each other. Challenges for older generations are optional, while challenges for the entrepreneurs are mandatory to aid them in their quest of understanding their future customers. All of the challenges need to be completed together and documented on an online platform, a simple website/wiki, that can later be used as a diary to tell InterGenStories. Once all challenges are completed, teams send in their final ideas to be evaluated by all elderly participants. Winners will receive an initial capital investment of $1.000 and free “publicity,” which most likely also depicts to main motivation factor.
The Key - How do these Challenges look like?
This part of the idea still needs to be developed more fully due to its deep connection to psychology as challenges need to be carefully designed to create a journey that will not only lead to mutual understanding but possible inspiration. Challenges should for example get more “intimate” as time progresses to stimulate the opening – up process” on both sides. However to give you an idea, some of the challenges could look like the ones below:
  • Challenge 1:
    • Entrepreneur: Read the favorite book of your partners in crime and discuss with him/her at meeting of the elderly
    • Elderly: Choose to read the favorite book of your partners in crime and discuss it with him/her 
  • Challenge 2:
    • Entrepreneur: Get a typewriter or pen and paper and write a letter to your best friend/family member of your choice
    • Elderly: Choose to learn how to write an email, with the help of your partner in crime 
  • Challenge 3:
    • Entrepreneur: Go to a city hall meeting and listen to prevalent issues of the day
    • Elderly: Choose to learn how to engage in an online chat with the help of your partner in crime
  • Challenge 4:
    • Entrepreneur: try to learn the favorite hobby of your partner in crime
    • Elderly: Choose to engage in the favorite hobby of your partner in crime 
  • Challenge 5:
    • Entrepreneur: Teach your partner in crime how to use the InterGenChallenge platform
    • Elderly: Use from now on the InterGenChallenge platform on a regular basis 
  • Challenge 10:
    • Entrepreneur: Share your biggest mistake with your partner in crime and see how s/he would have reacted in the same situation
    • Elderly: Choose to share your biggest mistake with your partner in crime.  

It will possibly be most effective to give teams the option to choose a certain number of challenges from a predetermined list, as the more power is given to the entrepreneurs, it will make them even more unaware of the true motives of the platform. In other words, the more they think they are completing challenges to compete for a startup prize, the better, as it is assumed that this will keep them motivated for a longer period of time and will lead to possible higher level of inspiration.   
The End + The next Steps
Once all challenges are completed, and winners are announced, all participants are later invited to share their InterGenStories and experiences with the hope that the recap of these stories might ultimately lead to inspire the young to keep the spirit of InterGenChallenges alive in whatever way they chose to do so, while assuring them support in case they want to start something on their own at whatever point in time. 


Join the conversation:

Photo of Meena Kadri

Nice one, Tino. Do you have thoughts on a lightweight experiment to test assumptions on your idea? Exciting potential!

Photo of Tino Elgner

Thanks Meena; love the positivity around this place. Ill write something up, once I got some more time. Got something in mind that might be feasible.