Exploring What Works

The Cares Family launches second Building Connection report

Posted by The Cares Family on 12th June 2023

Today we’re delighted to be sharing our new report that sets out 10 techniques to build meaningful connection between people from different generations and backgrounds.

Building Connection: Exploring What Works explains the ten techniques that have helped The Cares Family charities bring together 26,000 older and younger people in London, Liverpool and Manchester over the past 12 years. It outlines why it takes time, skill, focus and intention to build meaningful social connection.

The ten techniques

The 10 techniques all fall within two principles that underpin our work and lie at the heart of meaningful connection. These are authenticity and reciprocity. By authenticity we mean ‘bringing one's true self’ to an interaction with another person. This enable people to feel seen and is more likely to build genuine connection. By reciprocity we mean everyone must benefit from engaging with each other. The ten techniques are as follows:


1. Go out and find disconnection: be where people are, stay curious and open minded, look around and say hello: disconnection hides in plain sight.

2. Take your time and keep your word: connection requires trust, which can’t be rushed. Invest your time, be consistent, stay in contact and do what you say you will.

3. Create spaces intended for connection: positioning your spaces as primarily for connection makes people more ready to connect.

4. Curate the space: design comfortable and welcoming spaces putting people at ease and encouraging conversation.

5. Inspire self-expression: be yourself and create safe environments in which people feel they can be themselves.

6. Embrace storytelling as your superpower: draw on peoples’ stories to motivate, inspire and deepen understanding of others’ experiences.


7. Encourage people to engage as equals: dispel the impression that older people are ‘recipients’ of ‘help’ from younger people.

8. Make “Come as you are” your only requirement: don’t allow skillset to become a barrier. Promote unity through trying and sometimes failing together.

9. Lean on the power of place: centre places for their shared meaning helping to build a sense of belonging.

10. Nurture people’s agency: support people to realise their own value noticing and emphasising the contribution they make and the qualities they bring.

The bigger picture

Last month the US surgeon general released an Advisory highlighting how improved social connection can decrease the risk of developing and worsening heart disease, anxiety, dementia and diabetes. In the UK, 31% of people in reported feeling lonelier ‘now’ than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic and only 45% of younger people feel as though they belong within their neighbourhood.

“There are deep divides across age, race and class in the UK. The pandemic exposed this. The work of The Cares Family and other community-based initiatives to bring people together across division shows that we have the will and the know-how to be more united. Building social connection is vital for everyone that wants to see a healthier, safer and more prosperous society.”

Jon Yates, Founder, National Citizen Service (NCS) programme and author of ‘Fractured’

The Cares Family is part of a much bigger ecosystem of organisations that are working to build connection in a variety of innovative ways. Exploring What Works is centred on what we know to work, and we hope it will add to the growing evidence base on the most effective ways to build connection. It also draws on the expertise of the UK’s leading civic innovators such as Ivo Gormley, founder and CEO of Good Gym, and Ruth Ibegbuna founder of the RECLAIM Project and The Roots Programme.

The effects of social disconnection are having a profound impact on the physical, mental and social health of individuals and communities across the UK. There is a fundamental need for us to look at the ways we support meaningful social connection. Reports like this by The Cares Family show that we already have the knowledge, expertise and experience out there in communities to help bring us together, support each other, bridge divides and find common ground.”

Kim Leadbeater, MP for Batley and Spen

The Building Connection series

Exploring What Works is the second report in our Building Connection series. The first, Building Connection: The Promise of a Strategy for Community Spaces and Relationships, explored the role government could play in supporting the development of social infrastructure by working with successful civic innovators.

Later this year, we will publish Building Connection: A Manifesto – a third and final paper drawing together the policy thinking that we have undertaken in recent years.