You are the founder of Cirkel, which promotes intergenerational networking through cultural events. How did you come up with this idea?
Cirkel as a concept was something I was thinking through for about a year before the first event ever took place. I had been living with my parents for four years after graduating from college and established a totally new relationship with them as basically adult roommates.
We had a lot of important discussions about my career, navigating the work place for the first time, and cool references from old films that I could use in my job within creative advertising. At the same time, I would go to work every day working for and with young people below the age of 35. It became clear to me that I was getting the best of both worlds—the experienced professionals and the young, new trendsetters—and that this duality would be beneficial to everyone, at every age. No one else had created an intergenerational connector that would be culturally relevant enough to entice people like my friends or my parents, so I created CIRKEL.
How does Cirkel work?
Cirkel is both a membership club for two-way mentorship and an event series. We’re based in New York, so most events are here, though we have plans for San Francisco and Los Angeles soon. People connect mainly in person through events that feature expert speakers representing different generations and a multigenerational audience. Every presentation is followed by a networking exercise that facilitates cross-generational introductions and conversations. The venue changes from event to event and usually reflects the event’s focus. For example, the tech event was hosted by Betaworks Studios, which is a membership club for tech builders. The fashion event was hosted by Prabal Gurung. Entry is ticketed. After the event, guests are welcome to join the Cirkel group on LinkedIn to follow up with new people they may have met at the event.
For people looking for a more focused and curated introduction to someone from a different generation, Cirkel Up (our members club) creates personalized, cross-generational matches every month. The idea is that each member meets different people on a regular basis who complement their skillset. Members who click with each other are welcome to stay in touch and add them to their proverbial “personal advisory board.” There are perks for members like a free round of drinks on Cirkel when they meet up in person and members-only parties.
What is your vision for Cirkel?
My plan for Cirkel is to become much more than an event series, but really the intergenerational brand for personal and professional development. Events are essentially how people discover Cirkel and have their perceptions shifted to understand the value in connecting across generations. A lot of people actually leave Cirkel events saying they “get it” and definitely want a friend or mentor from a different age group.
On September 1st, we’ll be launching the first round of cross-generational introductions and matches for an even more direct way for generations to connect (check out membership options here: https://www.cirkel.world/cirkel-up). Based on each person’s skills and goals, they will be matched with someone from a different age group who can help them succeed and vice versa. Unlike a typical mentorship, this is a two-way street where you get back as much as you give. We’ve already launched in the NY region (apply here: https://www.cirkel.world/membership-application).
What are some examples of groups/events you’ve attended or seen in action and what did you notice?
Growing up with two parents working in the art world, I went to a lot of art openings from a young age. These art gatherings are a major inspiration for CIRKEL, because people from all across the art world hierarchy come—both the older gallery owners and the young administrators, both the art collectors and the young art students. With cocktails and interesting content (the art on the walls) to inspire conversation over a shared interest, you can easily meet someone from a different age group. CIRKEL events have all of those same ingredients, except the content changes from topic to topic.
When it comes to Cirkel events, I see young people walk away with a new desire to find a friend or mentor who is decades older than them. I also have heard stories of the older speakers bumping into audience members their own age and being thanked, because their story inspired the audience member to embrace their age and continue developing themselves, both personally and professionally. And most importantly, I’ve seen a room light up with conversation across generations in a way that has sadly become rare. I’m hoping these cross-generational events, conversations, and friendships become the new normal.
What resources do you recommend on the subject of connection across generations?
How to Live Forever: The Enduring Power of Connecting the Generations by Marc Freedman
This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism by Ashton Applewhite who also did a great TED talk, “Let’s End Ageism”
Wisdom at Work: The Making of a Modern Elder by Chip Conley – it’s more geared to reframing older workers’ mentality about learning as much as they are teaching in the modern workplace, but I agree with everything Chip says and love his experience at AirBnb.
Planet Money’s “Here We Grow Again” episode was a big inspiration for Cirkel. It shows how the US is experiencing a labor shortage due to ageism in the workplace. The hosts of the show, however, failed to realize that those older workers should be brought back into the workplace instead of being replaced by immigrants, robots, or new economies.
The Intern movie is becoming a cliché within the aging space, but it does a good job of demonstrating the power of a multigenerational workplace.
New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World–and How to Make It Work for You by Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans really changed how I see influence in the age of social media. If we want to create cultural change, we need to bring communities into that movement rather than hoarding
This New York Times article “The New 50s: Far From Retirement” by Marci Alboher (shameless plug since I’m featured in it and Marci is a mentor to me and advisor to CIRKEL, but it showcases some other great changemakers in it)
AGEIST editorial website has some amazing storytelling about incredible people over 50. David Harry Stewart, the Co-founder and CEO is an older friend and we’re working on a podcast together!
Connect with Charlotte Japp
Newsletter signup: https://www.cirkel.world/sign-up
Membership sign up: https://www.cirkel.world/membership-application